What Linus can do inside Linux community and you can’t do in yours

Linux kernel community has long been considered the greatest of all the open source communities. Linus Torvalds and his team has set the ground for open source development, defined processes and tools adopted and shared by other successful projects. The Linux kernel mailing list with its public review of patches and git, the tool to manage the incredible flow of code among thousands of people in tens of different branches laid the ground for many other open source projects. Even OpenStack doesn’t get close to those number (although OpenStack is only a three years old toddler and the kernel is old enough to vote and drink.) Linus has built an incredible community and an impressive culture around it. A culture where technology rules everything and also profanity and insults are common. And the results are clear: it worked for Linux kernel.

This doesn’t mean that any community can live and prosper like the Linux kernel with the same culture of harsh criticisms, middle fingers or what Linus calls management by perkele. In fact, I think nobody else can afford managing open source communities the way Linus does. Torvalds can get away saying things like “trying to come up with some ‘code of conduct’ that says that people should be ‘respectful’ and ‘polite’ is just so much crap and bullshit”. I certainly can’t and chances are you can’t either.

Now if you ask me if Torvalds should change his attitude my answer is: no, he is what he is and he’s made what he’s made because (or despite, who cares: results matter) of what he is. Should his lieutenants be assholes too? Of course not, and that’s why the kernel is still one of the most successful open source projects out there.

via Linus Torvalds defends his right to shame Linux kernel developers | Ars Technica.

Social Currency as a tool for community managers

I see a world of games, competitions, fun to be added to online communities using social currency platforms.

Social currency is shared information that encourages further social encounters. It’s not a new concept, but the social web increases its prevalence. In the web-based collaboration software platform called Rypple, a simple act of thanking someone on a team and using a badge as a way to show your gratitude is a form of social currency. A platform called Badgeville promises to add virtual rewards to your digital media property through leaderboards and virtual “badges” that act as reinforcements to reward certain behaviors and encourage others.

via Serious Play: The Business of Social Currency – David Armano – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review.

Turn your next marketing campaign an “expression campaign”

A very good piece of advice from Coca-Cola’s Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer, shifting from measuring consumer’s expressions instead of impressions.

  • Accept that consumers can generate more messages than you ever could
  • Develop content that is “Liquid and Linked”
  • Accept that you don’t own your brands; your consumers do
  • Build a process that shares successes and failures quickly throughout your company
  • Be a facilitator who manages communities, not a director who tries to control them
  • Speak up to set the record straight, but give your fans a chance to do so first

With the ambitious objective to double its business by 2020, Coca-Cola’s leaders know that they can only reach it leveraging its powerful community.

I wouldn’t work as community manager for Coca-Cola but if you have ambitious business and marketing objectives this is the way to go.

Read the full Coca-Cola Marketing Shifts from Impressions to Expressions – Joe Tripodi – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review.

Why FLOSS projects may gain from Community Managers

A discussion on identi.ca started by Bradley Kuhn when he said

I am becoming increasingly convinced that if your #FLOSS project needs a “Community Manager” or similar position, it’s in trouble.

The conversation that followed on identi.ca  doesn’t seem to consider two things: FLOSS projects are often the effort of for-profit (or simply revenue seeking, as you prefer) organizations and that there is lots of interesting projects out there. Putting aside the objectives to raise funds, the competition between FLOSS projects is what’s interesting most. As a community manager I have learned that projects compete for attention of contributing developers. Attention is rare and to find it is a full time job.

A good community manager focuses on getting the attention from developers, so they chose to contribute to your project instead of going to another one. While others in the organization can focus on developing software, finding sources of revenue, assuring quality and the rest of the stuff, the community manager must focus on grabbing attention.

I think that when FLOSS projects outgrow the basement where they start they need somebody inside the group that can look outside, to users and contributors.

Legacy is good, but change can be hard

The new Funambol Forge opened registration to new members. It’s based on Collabnet, as other big free software projects like OpenOffice.org, NetBeans.org, java.net and eBay Dev. I feel comfortable and in good company 🙂

Funambol has a very big community with lots of people that contributed to the project over its many years of life. Its legacy is vast, made of 3 mailing lists spread in 2 SourceForge projects and one Yahoo! Group, one main project on OW2, many other contributed projects in the most disparate places (SF, GCode, self hosted), web pages of the free/libre version on the .com site and much more. All this deserves to be in one place. In a binary world things should be easy: move from point A to point B, delete duplicates and you’re done. But real life is harder because of one commandment of community management:

thou shalt not upset your community members

Changing a website can be very upsetting. You must give your users a good reason to change because it’s not just a matter of updating bookmarks. Your community members will have to register into a new system, change their habits, learn a new user interface, adapt their email filters.

I believe that the new discussion services on Collabnet are a fairly good reason, as will be the use of subversion (expected in July). Be delicate, be gentle and involve your community in the process.

Three projects have already decided to move in the new Forge: the SoGO Connector, the Google Connector and the Jajah Connector have a new house. I hope that more will join us in the next weeks.

My income online: it’s bad management

I’ve read many comments about the publication of income tax reports by Italian government, the last act of past government. I don’t know if giving my income statement to my neighbors (and to the rest of the world) is good or bad. What really made me angry was the justification by former minister, Visco. He said “it’s a matter of transparency”. Right, this country needs transparency but why is it always the citizens that have to be transparent while the government can be opaque? Where are the 10 millions? How come nobody can know why italia.it costed so much? Or, saying it with the WSJ: why does the state need to consume 48% of the country’s GDP?

Italians are not used to be transparent, the national culture is of suspect and jealousy. If you want to change that you need to educate and, most importantly, give examples. You can’t imagine that simply passing a law and pushing it down the citizens’ throat will do anything but make everybody angry. That’s bad management, awful, more than an issue of privacy. Cultural changes need strong leadership, a clear path to follow and examples. Do you still wonder why past government lasted only 2 years and its parties were wiped out of the Parliament at last elections?

Business schools should teach micro-management

I had a laugh today reading an article about Steve Jobs management style from Leander Kahney.

As a business school student the article made me think of all the different management styles existing. Jobs is a control freak, a micro-manager, almost a maniac. Will Eisner praised micro-management too at last World Business Forum in Milan. Micro-management from Richard Stallman was a also running joke at FSF. Is there a pattern here? 🙂 I wonder what my colleagues students think.

How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong

News flash: Managing a non-profit organization is real business

After many years of working in a non-profit organization I became convinced that the main difference between for-profit business and non-profit business is in the availability (or lack thereof) of dividends. Plus for-profit companies prefer not to pay dividends and markets pressure corporations to act in stakeholder’s interests (not just shareholder’s) … I leave the math to you.
Given these premises I’m not surprised that Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla Foundation, was paid good money in 2006 (see Mozilla Financial FAQ for a breakdown of her $500,000 salary). Charity Navigator’s FAQ (a site that helps US-based donors evaluate non-profit organizations) comment on non-profit’s CEO salaries:

it is important to consider that it takes a certain level of professionalism to effectively run a charity and charities must offer a competitive salary if they want to attract and retain that level of leadership.

And that’s the important bit. According to Charity Navigator, average salary for a charity CEO is $145,000 per year. That’s peanuts, compared to the $14 million compensation received by the average CEO of a S&P company.

Of course, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, as my father-in-law says, and you don’t want monkeys running your charity. Mitchell has done a good job at Mozilla Foundation and she deserves recognition and an incentive to keep it up. Not only I don’t see a problem but I hope salaries for non-profit CEOs will get higher to attract the best managers.

The problems start if non-profit CEOs compensation is very high compared to total expenses. Peter Brown, FSF’s Executive Director, received about $70k in 2006 (9% of expenses) while Shari Steele, EFF’s Executive Director, received about $150k in 2005 (5% of expenses). Salaries are proportional to the size of the organization: EFF’s income is $2.7 million, compared to a mere $800k for FSF.

Unfortunately this level of transparency is non-existent in comparable non-profit organizations in Europe. I don’t feel comfortable donating without knowing exactly how my money will be spent in detail, especially regarding compensation for the executives.