Open Source Participation: fulfilling motivations

Documentation: Dropbox Paper

By ‘open source’ I mean a wide range of commons projects - free software, open source hardware, open education, open data, and also project-based communities like Edgeryders.

by ‘participation’, I don’t just mean writing code or engineering - rather I mean everything from advising to promotion to documentation to giving feedback, translating, coordinating… anyone who is part of a community and who works in some way to improve and grow an open source project.

by ‘motivation’ I mean non-monetary motivations - people contribute to open source for many reasons: self-improvement, being part of a community, helping others, solving a specific need/problem they may have, some use their open source contributions as a portfolio, to show their range of abilities and history of quality work, etc, etc, etc…

There are already many existing studies on motivations in the open source world, both software and hardware, and we can draw upon these in this session.

But what I am primarily interested in is:

- how we can optimise our communities and projects with these motivations in mind - what are the ideal conditions to produce these desired effects?

- how we can promote these benefits to others to encourage more participation in the commons.

This is not a ‘how can I trick people into working for free?’ session, it’s more ‘how can I understand the motivations and goals of potential and current contributors and find where my project’s goals can align with them?’

Who is this session for?

Primarily for people who help coordinate and manage communities of volunteers and contributors around commons projects, but it’s a chance for anybody involved in commons-based projects to share their experience and take back ideas to spread around their community.

What should we aim to get out of it:

-a deeper understanding of what motivates contributors and how we can help provide that motivation.

-specific strategies for 3-4 case studies

in regards to contributor motivation,

what can be improved?

what new techniques can be tried?

what are some guidelines to keep in mind?

Basic Format:

  1. short introduction
  2. guided group discussion
  3. separate into groups to focus on case studies
  4. reconvene

(Hand image designed by Stephen Borengasser from the Noun Project.)

Date: 2014-10-24 12:30:00 - 2014-10-24 12:30:00, Europe/Berlin Time.


Motivation hacks?

You might encourage people to share their own experiences of trying to hack open source project architecture so that people stay motivated. Questions like measurements can be quite intimidating per se, but people are always willing to share hacks and trade war stories – and a compilation of motivation hacks would be a valuable resource for future stewardship.

And I guess this is itself a sort of motivation hack :slight_smile:

I know a bit about behavioural economics – I could recommend Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow as providing a realistic model of how then human brain actually makes assessment and decisions. I can also represent that bit of literature in the discussion.

Maybe a workshop designing engagement models

…and calls for participation for different, existing projects. Then pushing them out and testing them?

We could perhaps pick 4 projects, very different ones, and split into groups that work on developing the engagement model and call to action for each one. Actually we could start a bit before the event with selecting the case studies, and maybe asking them some questions. I would for obvious reasons like it if Edgeryders were amongst the ones we picked. But maybe have a look at the other ones on that page?

@mariabyck has been involved in that cae study tour too so I think she may have some suggestions about which of the case studies to pick?

happy to make some suggestions

If we decide to go this direction.

Curation? This fits right in

@teirdes and me have the job of curating the digital assets sessions of LOTE4. See here for a writeup with some guidelines we set up. But don’t change anything, your session fits perfectly – because a main point of interest for this track is the inner workings of the “economic of free / gratis stuff”.

Re. your question of what you can “produce” in this session, @Nadia’s proposal of a workshop designing engagement models seems good. Just that these models do not exist in isolation, but are used together, and interact with the other models. Which makes them apt to be captured as design patterns (see the writeup about that term if you’re not familiar with it, or just ask). I’m not sure that going into measuring the quality of these engagement models is the best thing to do, at this time; IMHO a science develops from tinkering to artisanship to engineering (incl. sharing best practices in pattern shape, see above) and only then to quantified sciences.

great input, thanks!

after a looooong delay I have finally updated the session plan, and incorporated your feedback.

@Alberto, yes, motivational hacks is a great way to talk about it, and you’re right, measuring is tricky and not necessarily the most important issue. I’ve started reading ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ but I’m only a 10th of the way through so if you’d like to introduce the themes and ideas in the session it would be very welcome indeed.

@Nadia and @mariabyck, I’m also keen on case studies, though I’ve left it a bit late to do much preparation, I will talk to LOTE4 attendees tomorrow and see if anyone is interested in putting their project forward, and other suggestions are welcome. Edgeryders is in, of course.

@Matthias I think I get the design patterns idea but I will ask you to explain it again in person, to make sure I’m on the right track,

recommended reading:

Factors Influencing Participant Satisfaction with Free/Libre Open Source Software by Brenda Chawner