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As mentioned, last week was not a super-happy fun time for many residents in my area of the country. Things are certainly better now, which is great, and we are all enjoying the sunny and dry weather.
There's nothing like a calamity to take pre-conceived notions and shove them into your face. Seeing a community in action through the unpleasant times gives you insight into how communities should act in the more quiescent times.
Watching our city mayor through all of this was one such example.
Being the mayor of a small-ish city is not exactly a glamorous gig. You'd think it's all handing out keys to the city and getting to meet celebrities when they come to town. In reality, it's a lot of day-to-day grunt work. A recent profile of our mayor in Politico puts the job in sharp relief:
"Little of this work is ideological, at least by the definition traditionally deployed in Washington. Nor is it glamorous. 'They are not calling to ask about Syria or abortion,' Buttigieg says of his constituents. 'They want to know if I can get the dead possum out of the road.'"
Politics aside, that one statement resonates with me greatly when it comes to community management, too. There are quite a few people around the open source community who feel that their roles in community governance and leadership is purely visionary. A high-level strategic path to take their community towards a larger goal. This is not just at the top, too. Maintainers and committee organizers take this approach as well. And while it is not wrong to think about strategic goals, it is a problem when that's all you think about.
It's all well and good when you make a plan to increase community diversity. But if you're shorthanded and not pitching in to update content on the website, locating groups to whom to outreach, or making other tactical tasks happen towards that goal, then are you really leading?
I get it... it's kind of nice to sit around and blue-sky plans for the future. It stretches us and can enable us approach problems in creative ways. But at the end of the day, you need to be the person who can put that aside and actually moderate the mailing lists, order the swag for the next event, or make the slides about your project's next release.
Glamorous? Hardly. But governing a community means being a part of that community. You don't have to do everything, but you should be willing to do something. You will be a stronger leader for it.
Image by O'Reilly Events. Used with permission. And irony.
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.