On Github fureigh / get-more-contributors
But I’m here today because at the beginning of last year, I started organizing skill-building meetups in New York as a longtime Drupal developer who wanted to learn more and start contributing to core myself.
This is not a Drupal talk. It’s using the Drupal Ladder as a case study about how structured systems for step-by-step skill-building and engagement can, especially when coupled with a community element, help your project. It can be a secret weapon for getting more people involved and 2) increasing the diversity of the group of people doing (and getting credit for) higher-status tasks.
Offering a structured approach for step-by-step skill-building can combat imposter syndrome and build community, thereby increasing the number and diversity of your project’s contributors.And if this is too long for you to listen, here's my main point:
With great popularity comes great responsibility.
Drupal is the second most popular content management system in the world right now. It runs whitehouse.gov, major media sites like the Economist and the Weather Channel, and nonprofit sites from small community organizations all the way up to the Red Cross and Amnesty International.
But as the number of Drupal sites and users exploded, the pool of core contributors didn’t keep pace. And in 2011, there started to be a lot of public conversation about burnout and burnout prevention.
Drupal-Ladder-specific groups had started in other cities but there wasn’t yet one in New York. I reached out to the designated Drupal Ladder contact person and to the people running New York’s Drupal meetup group and they told me to run with it.
So I arranged a space through New York Drupal Meetup contacts, posted an event to groups.drupal.org, and pitched the Ladder at the first New York Drupal Meetup of the year.
“Is your New Year’s resolution to learn more about Drupal 8? How about to give back to the Drupal community?”
I blatantly capitalized on people’s New Year’s resolutions.
“If you build it, they will come” is a flawed design pattern.I used the following tactics, with a hat tip to community organizing:
Many people have ____.
And people have trauma around learning environments. People have to learn how to learn, not everybody feels equally safe experimenting or not immediately knowing something, and people have different levels of experience and comfort with self-directed learning or charting their own course, pun not intended.
I have bad memories of being made to slowly click through follow-the-bouncing-ball-style computer classes as a kid, so it’s deeply important to me to not bore people. It’s also important to me that people not feel lost.
So the same way I might send an agenda around before a meeting and invite people to propose changes, I tried to make space to ascertain consent. Today I’m thinking we’ll go through lesson X on the screen in the other room for about 45 minutes, then put it into practice for the next hour, then have a quick go-round at the end. How does that sound? Is there anything else someone wants to do? If you get bored, please feel empowered to dive right in or go do something else. Encouraging people to follow their interests.
In the words of the Geek Feminism Wiki:“Impostor syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an impostor or fraud because they think that their accomplishments are nowhere near as good as those of the people around them. Usually, their accomplishments are just as good, and the person is applying an unfairly high standard to themself (and not to others). It's especially common in fields where people's work is constantly under review by talented peers, such as academia or Open Source Software.” People often have internalized stuff about that, which you have to specifically address in recruiting participants and continue to reinforce throughout.
The Drupal Ladder suggests having “learn sprints” and “issue sprints,” but we did half-and-half. Frankly, this was partly because I didn’t want people to show up only for the learn sprints and not the issue sprints.
Even so, sometimes the check-outs would reveal that people were learning a lot but not putting it into practice… at least not for Drupal core, which was ostensibly the goal.
Some of this is about making sure people have clear tasks that they feel are well-matched to them. Some is about smiling and encouraging someone to try it Right Now. And some is about event structure. Having a standup-style “what will you work on for the next hour?” could have been helpful, but mostly it seemed to be about helping people stay focused on Actually Trying A Thing instead of reading more and more about it.
Community organizers [and others?] talk about a “ladder of engagement.” You want to start moving people up right away so when your life takes other turns or you catch a cold or whatever, that doesn’t mean a dozen people don’t get to learn.
This is mostly about individual volunteers, but also include back-up venues, sponsors, and other forms of capacity
Community documentation can help too. Build scaffolding for new leaders.
Have a sign-in sheet so you can know who’s coming regularly, how attendance numbers are doing, what seems to affect attendance. For instance, though people had been saying they wanted to meet every two weeks, at one point there was such a wealth of activities in the New York Drupal community that the Ladder was at the tail end of three weekends of events and attendance plummeted. (It was also the weekend before Passover and some folks had house cleaning to do.) Keeping some sense of the numbers meant I could say, “Hey, we had this many people before and last week only three showed up. [did gently and as non-shamingly as possible survey people about what happened] Let’s change our frequency for a bit and see how that goes.
Take pictures (with consent)! Post write-ups of what you did and what people learned! Post them so people can see how much fun you’re having!
The Ladder model is a way your open source project can build community, combat imposter syndrome and encourage new contributors.
In the Drupal community, there have been more than 2x as many people mentioned in commit messages in Drupal 8 — which is not yet out — as there were in Drupal 7.
A structured approach for step-by-step skill-building can be a secret weapon for 1) getting more people involved and 2) increasing the diversity of the group of people doing (and getting credit for) higher-status tasks. A community element can be helpful for continued motivation, encouragement, learning and networking.
Thanks so much to everyone who’s worked on the Drupal Ladder and other mentoring initiatives to get more people involved in core.