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In a previous post on the Red Hat Blog's community channel, we shared how The Open Source Way guidebook could answer your community management questions and provided a preview of the guidebook’s chapters. Now the full release of "The Open Source Way 2.0," the guidebook to community management best practices, is available. Let’s take a look at each of the 18 chapters in this new release.

Exploring The Open Source Way

The guidebook’s main principle about creating and sustaining an open source project can be summed up as: Focus on enabling and growing your user base, and make sure when people interested in contributing arrive, that your project is inclusive and welcoming. The core idea is that participants and contributors tend to arise naturally from the user base. The larger your user base is, the greater your pool of potential contributors.

Presenting the open source way

The guidebook has six sections, going from creating to sustaining an open source community. "Presenting The Open Source Way," the opening section, is an introduction to the methods in the guidebook. It focuses on the assumptions and structure of the material.

The section on "Getting Started" presents key concepts, helping to establish a shared vocabulary with the reader. The chapter "Community 101: Understanding, Joining, or Forming a New Community" is an explanation of what an open source community is, and how participating in and creating one works. 

You can use the "New Project Checklist" when starting up a new open source project to make sure it is ready for users and contributors. Going beyond the basic checklist, the next chapter walks you through "Creating an Open Source Product Strategy" for your open source project.

Attracting users

After your project is created and ready to reach out to the identified audience, the section on "Attracting Users" provides practices for engaging with your users and forming a sense of community. Establishing "Communication Norms in Open Source Software Projects" is the central way you’ll get everything done, and fix things when they get undone. 

Just as good communication helps make a good community, the chapter "To Build Diverse Open Source Communities, Make Them Inclusive First" focuses on the key practices open source projects can do to make themselves inclusive and welcoming to all.

As some of your users become more curious about the inner workings of your project, having a focus on "Guiding Participants" is important. As you work with this group of people, it is useful to understand "Why Do People Participate in Open Source Communities?" This understanding can help you prepare your project by connecting participants’ intrinsic motivations to your contribution ladder, a concept that we also explain in the guidebook.

Growing contributors

With the inevitable arrival of curious and interested contributors comes the challenging part of sustaining an open source community, which is covered in the section on "Growing Contributors." This section—the longest—contains these chapters:

  • "From Users to Contributors" teaches the reasons and means to make accepting contributions as easy as possible.

  • "What Is a Contribution?" introduces the idea of contributions beyond code and provides a list of examples.

  • "Essentials of Building a Community" is a broad overview of building out an open source community.

  • "Onboarding" takes you through understanding, designing, and implementing a plan to bring new contributors into your community.

  • "Creating a Culture of Mentorship" covers mentoring in open source communities, from conceiving to cultivating mentoring in all places and at all levels.

  • "Project and Community Governance" is a thorough exploration of governance for open source project communities.

  • "Community Roles" expands on the idea of open source contributions coming from many directions, detailing the experience and project work of a variety of roles such as: documentation, steering committees, translation, systems operations/administration, fundraising, marketing, outreach, community architecture and management, and other project management and technical roles.

  • "Community Manager Self-Care" addresses the need for community managers and others whose role is to care for a community to be taken care of and be given room to focus on their own health and wellbeing too.

Measuring success

The final section, "Measuring Success," helps you begin the process of understanding and measuring how your community is doing in comparison to its goals. "Defining Healthy Communities" provides two ways to see an open source project’s health: from the aspect of the world looking in, and from the inside of a community looking at itself. That chapter closes with a series of community elements that can go wrong and become unhealthy, and provides ideas of how to refocus attention toward keeping or regaining health.

"Understanding Community Metrics" is a more comprehensive explanation of the importance of a metric-driven approach to building and sustaining an open source community. After an outline of community health factors to assess, the chapter finishes with examples of community success metrics you could track or be inspired by.

This 2.0 version of the guidebook finishes with a detailed method for conducting an open source software project release in "Announcing Software Releases."

Whether you read this guidebook from cover to cover, or dip into it for some specific and timely advice, we hope you find guidance you can turn into action. Along the way, if you find an error, see something you particularly like, or come up with an idea you’d like to see in the 2.1 version of the guide, join the discussion with us or file an issue in our project tracker.


About the author

Working in the Open Source Program Office as part of the Office of the CTO providing a range of services and support to help Red Hat's open source projects become wildly successful.