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What works well for community projects – wikis, blogs, forums, cms, IRC

I guess in any project – open software, hardware, content –  there are established working models and processes, that develop over time and help everyone involved to get things done.  Those processes need to be explained and communicated to newbies taking time and adding overhead to volunteer projects. Tasks not everyone is interested in as experience also shows that not all newbies stick with projects. So, what to do? 

A way to reduce overhead explaining newbies how to involve is to stick to established channels, standard collaboration tools and work processes. Forums, wikis, content management systems, IRC channels, mailing lists are all great tools, but when does a wiki make sense for a project? When do forums, IRC and mailing lists all make sense?

Generally saying my experience is that projects that are more focused on technology and with lots of developers tend to do good with mailing lists, IRC and sometimes forums. Wikis and website documentation works much better, if you have people who can actually invest time in creating and updating content. Documentation is a weak point of many software projects as it is not always fun and takes time. For most developers it is much cooler to develop a new feature, than to write a document about it, but if you have people who would like to support other areas, but cannot code, then go for it. Maybe even start a documentation team.

Project blogs work well if the project team is not too big, as people seem to be somehow feel attached to a project to blog. It works well for projects with real “core people” and are small or midsized. On the other hand if the project is very big, the question arises who has the right to write on the blog? Or, who will actually write something, if the community is diverse and dispersed?

Of course there could be projects where things are different, but the above is how it works in my experience.

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