Community Team Supporter Basics

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The Open Source Toolbox: common problems, uncommon solutions

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Let’s look at some typical examples of challenges that community organizers frequently run into, and how some solutions are more in line with open source methodology than other solutions.

The Gridlock Problem

Gotham is a large town with really terrible traffic, and the group’s one monthly meetup event is organized in the north of town on Wednesday nights because it’s convenient for the main organizers and they have a free venue up north. There are lots of WordPress enthusiasts who can’t make it to this meeting, though, and lots of people are complaining.

Closed Source Solution:

1. Encourage the complainers to start their own group. The community grows fragmented, and one group eventually dying out.

2. Move the event south a couple times a year or organize a second event in the south with the same (north-living) organizers. Eventually the organizers burn out, while the westerners and easterners start complaining too.

Open Source Solution:

Invite those in the south to organize an event series of their own in a location and/or day/time more convenient to them. Get them oriented and add them as a co-organizer on the group. Everyone works less and has more community events to attend.

The Can’t Find A Venue Problem

The Gotham organizing team has been looking for a venue for 3 months now, and can’t find anything that isn’t under construction or really expensive. People in the meetup group keep asking, “When are we having WordCamp?” and the organizers just reply, “When we find a venue.” and change the subject.

The Closed Source Solution:

The organizing team finally goes with the cheapest convention center they can find, but the cost is so high that they can’t afford to spend money on swag, lunch, or all-day beverages. Attendees are disappointed and organizers are exhausted by fundraising.

The Open Source Solution:

The team determines what the list of venue requirements is and publish it to the meetup group, along with a general date (April or May) and the amount they think they can afford to pay. Meetup group members are able to suggest venue options and help with the search. Fortunately, someone finds a location that might be able to give them space for free through the meetup’s network of personal connections.

The “No Designers” Problem

The WordCamp organizing team in Sunnydale is full of great folks — they’ve got a few developers, some bloggers, a social media/PR expert, and even a local accountant! There’s only one problem: they can’t recruit a designer. The developers know just enough CSS to be dangerous and everyone else is a strictly “no code” WordPress user.

The Closed Source Solution:

Someone on the Sunnydale organizing team has a designer friend in Cleveland who is willing to help out. After all, it’s not like she has to be *in* Sunnydale to design a cool California concept for the theme and event collateral.

The Open Source Solution:

The team posts to the event blog and to the local meetup expressing the serious need for a designer (or three) on the WordCamp organizing team. A few people step forward, and while they’re mostly too busy to do anything this year, they’ll be excited about helping out next year.

The team pivots away from fancy badges and a stylized theme. Instead, they use “Hello my name is” sticker badges and a basic cloned theme from another WordCamp that they can customize just enough — and continue to announce at every meetup event and at the WordCamp how the team could really use more design help.

The next year, 3 of the 6 people who said they could help in the future are available, and the WordCamp gets a special design and a lot more designers speak at the event.

Your turn!

In the following quiz, we’ll provide you with some other common problems that face community organizers, and we’ll ask you to propose solutions using our open-source tool kit.