The Welcome Committee

Communities can be beautiful. We thrive on location and/or common interests. Whether we reside in a small town in northern Canada or in a small digital space, we need community. Maybe I just want my small town upbringing to exist online, but I’ve been thinking about how to help people have a better community journey.

Are we open enough to new people and new ideas? Does your community have a welcoming community? Have you built paths to help folks get started?

(Giraffe Center, Nairobi January 2013)

In the past two weeks, I have heard from two separate people about two different communities with a wall of “you don’t know, you aren’t right and you should just figure it out”. I listened intently to both new community member inputs about their experiences. And, in those talks, I referred to David Eaves Django talk about how communities keep people. If you are a community member, a manager or an upcoming leader in an open source world, this is a must listen to understand how we can improve.

Welcoming Committee Components

My parents recently moved into their new home. What they will remember most about this day (besides the joy of a new start), is the neighbour who stopped by to say “Hi” and say, “hey, if you need anything, I’m over here.” What a difference that made to a big change and something new! How can we make these experiences in our digital spaces?

Here are some of the things I’ve implemented:

  • Owner: Community Leader, Manager or Designate: Who is watching for new members?
  • Offer: Give a welcome email, an irc/skype ping introduction with some getting started places
  • Follow-up: Try to followup and watch for their questions
  • Mentor: Ask fellow community members to mentor and support

What about communities that are ad hoc with anonymous users? I think we need to think about how to build those welcoming committees and manage the terse ‘leader’ ‘in the know’ response. Open Source communities need new idea and people. If it is only the usual suspects, how can we be global and grow?

I’m going to keep thinking about the “welcoming committee” idea. No doubt, there is not a cookie cutter formula, but we can and must do better. To the folks who shared their stories, thank you.

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