Sunday 30 December 2018

Community Inside

Community inside
Parody of "intel inside®" logo,
a trademark of Intel Corporation.
Image SVG.
"Community inside" is the "intel inside®" of Open Source Software. It's an indicator of quality and long term sustainability.

Why? Because in the digital economy, collaboration out-competes competition!

So prioritise software developed by healthy communities. Look for diverse, supportive, meritocratic, productive, welcoming and inspiring teams. Then engage productively with them.

More ...

Saturday 15 December 2018

Catching the elusive Episodic Volunteer

Fairy catching kit
Understanding the science of volunteer contributions is key to the success of Open Source projects. A comprehensive study of episodic volunteering, which drew upon our OSGeoLive experiences, provides insightful advice for anyone wishing to build sustained and successful Open Source Software:

Contributor Motivation

Findings: Episodic volunteers with intrinsic motives are more likely to intend to remain, compared to episodic volunteers with extrinsic motives.

  1. Lower barriers to entry through:
    • Accepting contributions directly through GitHub,
    • Good documentation,
    • Task–finding dashboard,
    • Simple workspace(s).
  2. Offer guided introductory events to help newcomers get started and to introduce the social element.
  3. Provide opportunities for social interactions, such as:
    • Interactive sites, including localised options,
    • Hosting local meetups.

Social Norms

Findings: Although Open Source episodic volunteers were unlikely to see their participation as influenced by social norms, personal invitation was a common form of recruitment, especially among non-code contributors.

  1. Encourage existing volunteers to talk about their Open Source involvement by:
    • Highlighting the benefits of advocating broadly,
    • Providing digestible information for sharing.

Psychological Sense of Community

Findings: Psychological sense of community is more common among long-term participants;
A policy of inclusion was a commonly mentioned reason for feeling welcomed in the community.

  1. Use a code of conduct to express the community’s intentions, allowing potential episodic volunteers to determine their similarity to the community.
  2. Give potential episodic volunteers the opportunity to identify alignment with the community through awareness of non-coding activities:
    • Collaborate with organisations with a different focus but shared values,
    • Recognise all forms of contribution.
  3. Re-enforce the psychological sense of community by:
    • Hosting local events,
    • Issuing personal invitations to episodic volunteers.


Findings: Satisfaction was most commonly cited as a reason to remain;
Episodic volunteers derive satisfaction from knowing that their work is used, enjoying the work itself, and feeling appreciated.

  1. Encourage satisfaction by increasing feelings of appreciation, by recognising all contributors and their areas of expertise.
  2. Being aware of episodic volunteers’ areas of expertise and requesting their assistance, sparingly, can:
    • Make episodic volunteers feel appreciated,
    • Encourage episodic volunteers to return to the community.

Community Commitment

Findings: Episodic volunteers who talk about their involvement are more inclined to continue participating;
Long-term episodic volunteers often have community commitment;
Community commitment is less common among episodic volunteers with extrinsic motives.

  1. Encourage long-term episodic volunteers to talk about the community to strengthen their commitment to the community and:
    • To utilise Social Norms to recruit friends/family,
    • To recruit from similar organisations through Psychological Sense of Community.
  2. Consider time-based releases for large projects to allow episodic volunteers to plan their return.
  3. Use opt-in platforms to broadcast calls for participation for specific tasks to encourage episodic volunteers to return.

Episodic volunteering

Findings: Episodic volunteering is widespread in Open Source communities, but Open Source communities are often not strategically engaging with episodic volunteers;
Open Source episodic volunteers are often habitual volunteers in other communities.

  1. Evaluate volunteer assets, volunteer availability, and potential assignments to find opportunities for episodic volunteers.
Reference Source: Barcomb, Anne, "Uncovering the Periphery: A Qualitative Survey of Episodic Volunteering in Free/Libre and Open Source Software Communities", 2018. Anne Barcomb is affiliated with the Open Source Research Group at Friedrich Alexander-University Erlangen-Nurnberg, Germany, and Lero, The Irish Software Research Centre at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

See also

Sunday 9 December 2018

Open Government's back slapping report

The Australian Open Government Partnership (OGP) have given themselves a glowing report card. Yes, it is great that Australia is working through OGP goals, but I wish they'd acknowledge the difficulties in achieving the goals so that we can focus on real solutions. I'll pick on just one report item:

  • OGP Commitment 5.2: Enhance public participation in government decision making. 
  • OGP Assessed Progress: Substantial. 
  • My Assessment: Tick the box participation has been achieved, but effective public participation is hard and there is much more to be done
Along with a number of technologist and open source community members, we responded to the OGP's last call for comment with a detailed set of practical recommendations? We are yet to hear if our report was understood, or considered. To be fair, our recommendations are detailed, are contrary to current government practices, and would be difficult to investigate and address. But the potential to become as effective as open communities is huge and worth investigating.
So before claiming "substantial progress" in public participation, please assign someone with sufficient technical capability to understand our report, and sufficient mandate to initiate improvements.

Reiterating our prior recommendations:
  • Acknowledge that the indicators for success are more than just “value for money” and “mitigation of risk”. 
  • Measure and prioritise: 
    • “Effectiveness of collaboration”, 
    • “Sustainability in the face of rapid innovation”, and 
    • “Resilience to monopolistic behaviours”. 
  • Develop an “Open Government Maturity Model” which describes open government goals and the processes required to achieve them.
  • Measure effectiveness at realising open government goals.
  • Arm decision makers with accessible, evidence based research into what works, so they can trust, select and defend collaborative strategies which are often counter-intuitive within traditional hierarchically managed organisations.
  • Use, extend, or create open technologies, in that order:
    1. Use existing open material if it exists;
    2. Otherwise extend and give back;
    3. As a last resort, create your own system.
  • Embrace modular architectures backed by open standards.
  • Prioritise initiatives which can attract and sustain participation from multiple contributors and organisations.
  • Promote collaboration between all levels of government, and between nations.
  • Invest in the communities of the projects you depend upon. Ensure there is funding to maintain a core team. Reduce barriers to entry in order to attract a wide contributor base. Develop indicators for reporting on the success of these investment strategies.
  • Consider strategies to flatten government’s spending cycles, especially for community based projects. 
  • Prioritise agile, iterative development methodologies over “big bang”, “whole of government” purchases.

Saturday 1 December 2018

OSGeoLive in 4 minutes

Here is our OSGeoLive lightning talk, stripped back to 4 minutes, and presented at the FOSS4G-Oceania conference. The OSGeoLive talk starts at 7mins 45secs.
The slide deck and notes are here.