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Whether it's a favorite sports team, a school, or just a group of friends, there is something about human nature that seems to drive many of us to display our affiliation.

We do this, typically, by displaying plumage that is synchronized. If I am a fan or a particular team, and I see someone wearing a matching jersey, then I can identify with that person in some way, even if it's the first time I have met them.

In open source communities, the same forces are very much at play. If you use Fedora or CentOS and really like it, then many people want to show it off. So community members seek out stickers and apparel to display their software preference and enforce their sense of belonging.

As a community manager, you should be cognizant of this desire and if and when you join events, have something to share. T-shirts have been traditionally the go-to swag for many communities, but quite a few of us in the Open Source and Standards team are moving away from them because they are extremely bulky to ship and distribute; they can often turn your event booth into a retail outlet trying to hand out the right sizes; and unfortunately some shirts are made cheaply using less-than-optimal factories and working conditions.

So what should you get? Ideally, something small (thus transportable), useful, and unique.

"It should also be something you are willing to look at for at least two years," my colleague Amye Scavarda shared. The cable organizer swag she obtained for Gluster when she first joined that community is still being distributed and is in high demand.

Stickers are a good fall-back, but spend a little time talking to community members to see what swag they might like to have and share.

Image by Brian Proffitt.

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About the author

Brian Proffitt is a Manager within Red Hat's Open Source Program Office, focusing on content generation, community metrics, and special projects. Brian's experience with community management includes knowledge of community onboarding, community health, and business alignment. Prior to joining Red Hat in 2014, he was a technology journalist with a focus on Linux and open source, and the author of 22 consumer technology books.