Caring about the developer community

One of my fellow GWB bloggers recently posed the question “Do you care about your developer community?” and offered some interesting ideas for user groups to adopt to help foster more community spirit. Hopefully whatever troubles D’Arcy is having will straighten themselves out, but the questions he asks and one of the responses got me thinking.

I have always tried to be active in my local developer community and in the larger online community. I was active online far longer than I have been active “off-line”, but over the last year I have become very involved in the local community as well.

As was pointed out in one of the comments, building a local community is hard, but getting people to contribute to that community is even harder. This problem exists for both up-and-coming communities and established communities. The reasons pointed out are:

  • People suffer from a fear of speaking, even to a small group of peers.
  • Too many people feel, “I have nothing to contribute.”

While both of those are very valid reasons for a lack of eager contributors, it can also go beyond that. People sometimes want to contribute but don’t know how they can help or who to contact. Sometimes, it’s up to the community to help encourage these contributors by asking for specific activities and not putting out a general cry for volunteers.

In other cases, people want to contribute by presenting but don’t know how to present. These are the first time speakers who need not just encouragement but practice and guidance.

Unfortunately, the problems also extend to business as well. There are both real and imagined business concerns about employees contributing to the community. I think most of these are either imagined or exaggerated concerns, but they can have a major influence on a businesses decision to allow employees to contribute at all or on the amount of time available for them to contribute.

Running an active user group and participating in the community can be challenging and time-consuming, but they can also be extremely rewarding and gratifying as well. There are so many different positive things that can happen as a result of that involvement, no matter how small or large, that it does make it worthwhile.