thoughts on 6a68’s thoughts on open product development

jared wrote really interesting posts about open product development and building a community of contributors around test pilot. through emailing him some long rambly thoughts in response, i actually got to think through some ideas i’ve been mulling over around

  • the overlap between grassroots organizing spaces and open source software
  • infrastructure for communities of contributors that enables them continue to grow and learn and build together
  • how to mitigate burnout & other problems

so. ramblings below.

“some things the open product dev piece brought up for me:

– it seems like your “generating and discussing…” section assumes that the test pilot community contains/is made up of people with skill sets that mirror staff mozilla product teams: roughly, ux/ur & dev. so my first question is: is that true? if not, an issue becomes how to improve the pipeline to the test pilot community so that it becomes true. another issue is what if the ratios are off? more ux than devs or vice versa? how can people plug in with different skill sets? or is the test pilot target audience people who can either do user research or dev?

– another thing i’ve seen play out in activist organizing spaces, which actually feel structurally similar to what i’ve seen in open source in some ways, is that people tend to fall into roles. one person always does logistics, one person always writes press releases, the rest of the people always wait to be assigned something, etc. in open source, i wonder if this would play out like: a few people always come up with new product ideas, a few other people always do research stuff, etc. how do you feel about this? should there be an effort for people to try out other roles and build other skill sets? i think there are pros and cons to trying new roles AND really building ONE skill set, so i’m just putting out the question. related: seems like another thing i’m getting at is a power law distribution of labor and credit for contributions. is that sustainable/how will that play out over time? will it lead to burnout in open source in the way it often leads to burnout in activist spaces? if so, is it important to mitigate in some way?

– one last thing! i am not really familiar with different ways mozilla volunteers plug in or how they build community, so take this next part with that grain of salt. in my experience building community IRL, it seems that different kinds of gathering/communicating structures bring different kinds of people together. so i guess i wonder whether discourse forums/forums in general being the primary mode of collaboration means that certain kinds of people will be drawn to or put off by participating? i think you, john, and/or wil actually already brought this up. maybe marketing can help with pitching the collaboration in different ways to different audiences and providing additional/alternative ways to plug in. for example, maybe IRL test pilot hackathons could be a way of reaching folks and bringing people together in a way that the forum wouldn’t.”

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