Nurturing an open source community - lessons learned from Plone4Artists


Nate Aune

Track Type

Case Study



Nurturing an open source community takes time and dedication. This talk will discuss the lessons learned in fostering Plone4Artists, a grassroots project to build online artist community portals using Plone, an open source content management system. We will discuss how to attract developers, how to coordinate the efforts of an international team, and how to fundraise and promote your project. In a meritocracy, one is elevated by the value of his or her contributions. The contributions are the currency of the community, whether they come in the form of code, documentation or promotional efforts. Every successful project needs leadership and an open source project is no different. The project needs a champion who will envision where the project is going and provide direction to the others involved. But the leadership that is required of an open source project is less about giving orders, and more about finding talented individuals and then getting out of the way. What attracts developers to open source is the freedom to explore and try out new ideas, so the role of a leader is to provide encouragement and recognize not only those who have contributed significant parts but also those who have made minor bug fixes. The Plone4Artists suite of add-on products provide tools for easily publishing a calendar of events and audio and video files to your Plone-based website. Additional tools for building complete online artist profiles are in development. Since its inception 4 years ago, the Plone4Artists project has attracted over a hundred subscribers to the mailing list and dozens of contributors. Motorola, Oxfam and the Nature Conservancy are a few of the organizations using the Plone4Artists multimedia and calendaring tools. This talk will discuss the challenges of coordinating an international team of developers and best practice ways of organizing the community efforts and delegating responsibilities. Tools such as mailing lists, wikis, issue trackers and IRC channels help to keep everyone on the same page. The project has unfolded in waves of interest and participation. The peaks have been when we have organized a developer sprint to bring coders together from all over the world for an intense multi-day coding session. The purpose of the sprint is to have fun and meet other developers. The goals are to smash bugs, add new features and hopefully make a new release. We've held 5 such sprints in San Francisco, Boston, Austria and Italy. The valleys have been when we have gotten too busy with billable consulting work, and the project has been put on the backburner. How do you balance the passion for your open source project with the need to make money? We will also explore various funding strategies that we have tried with Plone4Artists, such as taking on consulting work which indirectly funds the project, organizing sprints and attracting sponsors to fund these events, and most recently reaching out to individual users asking them to contribute financial micropledges. This talk is for anyone who is thinking about open sourcing their software and eager to learn about how to nurture a community, or those who are struggling to keep an open source community healthy and seeking tips for effectively managing the team and recruiting new talent.


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