Picked this video from Slashdot coverage. http://video.google.nl/videoplay?docid=-4216011961522818645. This was a talk done by 2 Subversion developers. They explain how to manage OSS and get rid of annoying people in your OSS project.
Having run in this situation many many times I was curious to hear what they had to say. I think they cover the "volunteer OSS" angle very well. I found myself smilling at many of the examples they gave as we found many similar examples at JBoss.org.
I thought, however, that their coverage lacked the dimension of"Professional" OSS (POSS)management. Some things that seemed to puzzle these guys were dealt in a straightforward manner in POSS.
They talk about the irrelevance of some discussions of details. When the topic was mostly a matter of taste (emacs vs vi, windows vs linux, red vs blue!) people would quickly degenerate in religious debate because there was no right answer for it. These discussions can suck a lot of time and are, by definition, without end. It is better to ignore them early on. Having a business focus in your community was always helpful in that way.
The importance of compensation: the guys in the video seem very "non-profit" in how they manage the community, they mention that the subversion community was all volunteers. Their experience is very limited when it comes to managing a professional community where money is involved. They focus more on how to "get rid" of people rather than "attracting" them. I found that to be a little arrogant given their "non-profit" nature. I know better about the dynamics of OSS than to pretend people bang on your door wanting to give YOU their work for FREE! The couple of cases where you have to rid of someone are a luxury.
At JBoss, there was always a money dimension, first you would do training and then consulting and then become part of the equity. That, I found, was the biggest thing in managing your community. It is a big part of how things get done,why they get done. We got shit done because it was our job. It is a big part of the problem too. At JBoss most the "annoying people" came from "equity discontent". Money changes everything and specifically the dynamics of a previously non-profit group. Some things are streamlined, others more complicated. The subversion guys don't seem to have hit that point yet?
The guys have hit on a holy grail however: if you want to contribute then shut up and code. You can argue all you want: he who codes wins. They mention this in passing but it really was a corner stone for me personally. People have little time to actually review, code but will spend time writing their opinions on mailing lists! In other words, if you didn''t code, we would not pay attention to you. We just couldn't afford it.
They seem to take pride in their "politeness" only to describe minutes later a very scheeming, political and hypocritical way of getting rid of a guy who would suck too much of their time by asking too many questions as he tried to help. This was a weak point in what they presented imho: with 40 or so projects at JBoss.org we were upfront about the "you are on your own" factor.
They mention in passing the problem of "annoying users". We called this the "suck my D888" moment (or SMD moment) at JBoss. Everyone in a succesful project goes through the SMD moment when a pestering user keeps asking, in the most annoying possible way, for HELP RIGHT NOW AND FOR FREE! Dealing with these guys had its own policy at JBoss.
See, OSS is free, at least the software is and lots of people generalize this to the people, the software developers themselves, as well, as in "free help". There is a lot of free help being dished out on the forums for sure but drawing the line between "getting you going" and "doing your work for you for free" is always tricky.
Even sales had their SMD moment. One of our guys in partner sales had summarized it this way "when I read the word synergy in a partner email, I know they are trying to get a steep discount on our partner programs, so when I read the words "extreme synergies" in a email this morning, I knew it was time to run"
Since they didn't cover the SMD moment, am I to understand that their project is not that widely used? In any case I recommend listening to that presentation. It is good even though they miss the whole POSS angle.