Why it’s important for your business...

Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of PHP, speaking at an eZ community event Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of PHP, speaking at an eZ community event

So, a few weeks ago, I ended my discussions with my panel of community managers (jump to the beginning of this series of post if you want to be introduced to them) with a very simple—but very important—question about the importance of the community management role for their business:

If your company was bought and you had to explain to your new boss why community management is important (and had only 1 sentence to save your job), what would it be?

Nicolas’s opinion is clearly related to the Open Source development model. In short, if you’re open source, you need it:

“Open-source and Community Management are Siamese twins: the one cannot live without the other. Eschewing this common-sense principle inevitably makes one wither, and so will the other, eventually.”

James think it speaks by itself, no need for much comment:

“A healthy community got us to where we are today, and you don't really want to fire 65,000 free evangelists and contributors do you?”

And, Laurent wisely provides some reminders of projects that went in the wrong direction:

'Don't take your community lightly, listen to them or you'll share the fate of OpenOffice and Hudson.'

When it comes to Tjeerd, the question is not necessarily applicable as he doesn’t have to save his position, but he also sees the community management effort as a must have:

“Community management is an integral part of our product and it is what makes our company competitive, so in the end the success of our community can make or break us.”

Seems like a very clear message from all, which leaves me with very little to add! But before closing the roundtable I asked for any additional information that might be worth a mention, and here are their parting words:

“Listen, energize, empower.”

These are the 3 strong words of Nicolas from eZ Systems.

Laurent encourages others to set-up a Q&A collaborative platform:

“The last community tool we setup, answers.nuxeo.com, is working really well. :) It's our own stackoverflow, running thanks to OSQA. It's also open source. We try as much as possible to use open source software, because that matters!”

James sees several community efforts, among the various things they do, that are even more noteworthy:

  • 100 PaperCuts: Finding and fixing low-hanging fruit in Liferay

  • BugSquad: Public usability testing and finding bugs before release

  • Community Leadership Team: Finding natural community leaders and giving them a voice

  • User Groups: Getting local groups together to talk about Liferay and make connections

  • Community Projects: Pure, open source projects (related to Liferay)

  • Translation Team - a team of close to 100 volunteers who are actively translating Liferay

And, Tjeerd, mentions the value of following the rules of an existing foundation, in this case the Apache Software Foundation, and the power of the mantra that they also use at Hippo:

“People above code”

This journey with this happy bunch of community people was really interesting. I'll have to think about all that to make my ideas clear about the discipline but no doubt it's good insight that I got. Stay tuned for more community management insights and discussions!