Building Your Community

The Crowd Supply Guide: Building Your Open Source Community

It takes a village...

A strong community is what makes open source projects thrive. Build and give to the community, and it will give back in spades. The power of the crowd can fuel much more than just funding. You will find people who want to help with any and all aspects of your project, from documentation to sourcing. Better still, an open source approach builds trust and confidence in your project.

However, building a community is not the same as marketing (although when it’s done right it can have the same effect). It’s similar in that it can increase exposure and interest in your project. It’s different in that it’s a two-way street; you’re not just hanging up a billboard. Building a community means you and your team will want to dedicate some time to it. Fortunately, most of it is fun to do anyway.

How to build an open source community forum

You can choose to join one of a myriad of existing community forums, or you can build a forum of your own using one of the many popular open source projects such as Discourse, phpBB, or NodeBB. Whether you’re building a forum of your own from scratch or joining an existing community, you’ll want to carefully consider the following issues.

Ease of Access: there are tons of existing forums already, not to mention tons of choices if you want to set up and host your own. Make sure that whatever route you choose, joining your community is convenient and easy while respecting user privacy.

Degree of openness: make sure there’s easy access from your community forum to your documentation, repos, etc. Make anything you want to be open a topic open for discussion. Need help with UX/UI, documentation, sourcing? Make a channel for each one.

Quality of moderation: Never let your forum’s discussions stray from their general topic. There are plenty of places on the internet to discuss emacs versus vim, the Oxford comma, pineapple on pizza, and so on. Your, say, SDR forum is not the place for that.

Create a sense of Ownership: Cultivate and reward those who are most active/helpful/present/engaged by giving them mod privileges or other responsibilities. A sense of ownership will help them feel valued and will help the forum police itself.

Stay on topic: Avoid the temptation to have an “off-topic” room or channel. Of course we encourage civic and civil conversation, but all it can do in your forum is serve as a distraction. Generally, it’s best to encourage private conversations between members, but don’t provide a public resource.

Hopefully needless to say, you should have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of personal or ad hominem attack. Apply the ban boot swiftly and without mercy!

Other Tools

Online forums are only one tool available for community building. Here are some others to consider.

Question not answered here? Contact us to see how we can help.

The Crowd Supply Guide: Table of Contents

For Everyone

For Backers

For Creators

Getting Started

Before Your Campaign Launches

During Your Campaign

After Your Campaign Concludes

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