The importance of a community focussed on contribution

This is a translation of a Dutch post I wrote with the Ubuntu NL LoCo in mind, but I would like to share this message with the whole community.

In addition to my post earlier today, The importance of an accessible community (Dutch), I would like to share the following with you. Maybe I exaggerate or simplify sometimes somewhere, but in those cases that it mostly to illustrate my point.

When a community is not focussed on contributing to the project around which it resolves, but on the talking about it, you get a completely different community than when the community is focussed on contributing to the project around which it resolves.

When a community is mostly preoccupied with talking about something and the asking and answering of questions about something you get a much more passive community, in which the talking (on the forums) gets the most attention, that’s around which everything resolves. People who want to become a part of the community spend their time hanging around at the forums and chat there.

We all know it is harder to just by text bring over exactly what you want to say. It is harder to understand the nuance and irony of someone without seeing their face or hearing their voice. When people, who might be a bit bored and are looking for something to do, hang around at the forums the whole day chances are that somewhere a misunderstanding occurs, resulting in an argument. That is bad for the atmosphere.

There will always be people who complain, no matter how perfect you do something. Consequently there also will be people on the forums who will complain; about Ubuntu, about Ubuntu NL, about the forums, about me, about you, about the colour of the grass, etc, etc, etc. Everyone always knows it better, the best steersman are indeed always on shore and never on the bridge. [And that, ladies and gentleman, is a Dutch proverb.] People who don’t agree [with the criticism] will rise up and react. Then you easily have an argument.

The two issues mentioned above naturally don’t have to occur everywhere a lot. However, when your community mostly seems to be a talk group [literally ‘support group’, but that would take away the focus on the talking] you quickly get people starting to look for things to talk about — because joining the discussion [about Ubuntu and Ubuntu NL] isn’t possible — en then those issues become a lot more visible and of frequent occurrence.

This is all because there isn’t much to talk about. People are bored and don’t have anything different to talk about or discuss.

When a community is mostly preoccupied with contributing to a project — in our case Ubuntu and Ubuntu NL itself — you get a much more active community, in which working on contributions gets the most attention, that’s around which everything resolves. People who want to become a part of the community spend their time contributing to Ubuntu and Ubuntu NL and that’s what’s being talked about on the discussion places.

You’ll always have people who complain, whine or are searching for something to do and start windbagging for a lack of something better to do. But if it’s mostly about contributing to a project in a community the talking will be mostly about that.

The passive whining of the first part of this piece gives a community in which negativity pervails. This isn’t pleasant, discourages people and scares them away.

The positive focus on contribution in the second part of this peice gives community in which it is about sharing and cooperating. This causes a much more pleasant atmosphere and attracts people, to the contrary. The focus on contributing encourages people to do something themselves, because only then you’re really a part [of the community].

Instead of the biggest whiners being the most important people of the community, the people who contribute the most are the most important. And that is much nicer.

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