What I learned at the Community Leadership Summit

Written by | 01 August 2011 | Published in 2011 August
I (along with Sandra Warren from the Community Leadership Team) was given the distinct privilege to represent the Joomla! project at this year's Community Leadership Summit in Portland, Oregon on July 23rd and 24th. It was a great opportunity to meet other people from around the world who are all passionate about serving their open source communities and learn from their experiences.  

In his introductory remarks, conference founder Jono Bacon remarked that when people get together and collaborate, it's amazing what they can accomplish. The entire two day conference schedule was conducted in an "unconference" format, meaning that the conference participants themselves were responsible for both coming up with the ideas for each of the sessions as well as leading all of the sessions. With up to ten sessions going on at the same time and up to six time slots during each day of this two day conference, it was frequently difficult just to choose which session to go to during a single time slot. 

One of the subjects that is important to me is improving Joomla!'s leadership structure, so I took the opportunity to propose and then lead a session about "Good governance in free open source software projects". I had two totally selfish motives for leading this session: First, I figured I could learn lots about what worked and didn't work from participants of other free open source projects, and second, Jono Bacon said that anyone who led a session could get a free copy of his book "The Art of Community". For the first selfish motive, participants joined my session from many different projects including Drupal, Mozilla, OpenSUSE, Typo3, event.org, and the Octo project. One of the things I learned in this session was that Joomla! is really rare (if not unique) among large global free open source software projects in that we have no paid staff. It struck me that some of the challenges we face in the Joomla! project could be overcome by having paid staff. But at the same time, there's something pretty special about such a big project being completely staffed by volunteer contributors.

I also learned that some other open source projects face challenges similar to ours in terms of relating to and communicating and interacting with our communities. In a way it was encouraging to find out that our struggles aren't unique. A lot of ideas were shared about what people have found that works and doesn't work.

Another challenge that came up frequently was how to work together effectively with volunteers who are spread out all over the world and who speak different languages. I think the Joomla! project is doing a good job of trying to improve our support of non-English speaking communities on joomla.org.

I sat in on other sessions on subjects such as what should a free open source non-profit foundation be doing, the structure of your non-profit, advancing the community management profession, internationalization, working in a complex community, the zen of conflict, and meta community management. I learned something in each of these sessions.

This conference was characterized by some of the best qualities of free open source software communities: friendliness, openness, diversity, inclusion, empowerment, sharing, and learning. I was proud to represent the Joomla! project at this conference. I would highly recommend this conference to anyone who is interested in learning more about community management and community leadership. To learn more about this conference, go to http://communityleadershipsummit.com.

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Paul Orwig

Paul Orwig

Paul is a freelance web solutions provider based in Parker, Colorado, USA. He is the President of the board of directors for Open Source Matters, a former member of the Joomla! Community Leadership Team, a former Webmaster for the Joomla! community portal, and he was the founding Lead Editor for the Joomla! Community Magazine.