The Value of Community


Let’s Talk Community

Today I’d like to talk at a high level about community: reasons for joining them, what value they provide to their members, and how they might evolve from a simple hangout to a group of people with a positive mission.

Since this is the System Crafters community I’m looking particularly at what our community means for us, but also at the broader communities we’re a part of: free software, Emacs, Guix, Lisp/Scheme, Linux, etc.

I don’t have all the answers here! I am also looking for your ideas and experience about how communities should operate and what they can accomplish.

Why join a community?

  • To get help with a problem
  • To help other people with problems
  • To geek out about things they’re interested in
  • To contribute to a mission that is personally meaningful
  • Because you think it sounds cool or you see nice people there
  • To do something productive with your time that you actually want to do
  • To mentor or to be mentored and learn more than you could on your own
  • To keep up with news in a particular area
  • To quickly ramp up in a complex topic area (like Emacs)
  • To socialize with people outside of their local area
  • To share what you’ve been working on in case others would be interested
  • To find people to collaborate with on your projects (or at least get feedback on them)
  • To find people who understand your weird topical humor
  • To be exposed to views that you are not as familiar with

Generally, to connect with other people!

What does it mean to “join” a community?

  • Join the social mediums for the community (IRC/Matrix, mailing lists, etc)
  • Start contributing to projects

How do we make it easier for people to join a community?

  • Provide a good “onboarding experience”
  • Point them to where they should go to find everyone
  • Make it easy to find projects to contribute to / collaborate on
  • Pointing out easy starting points for contributing (easy issues, documentation, etc)
  • Promote a welcoming atmosphere so that someone doesn’t lurk for a long time before joining
  • Members of the community actively helping new people will help them decide to stick around
  • Organizing events like code jams, game jams, etc might attract new people and help them join
  • Being open-minded and not too tied to the commonly used tools or ideas

Why stay in a community long term?

  • Friendships or collaborators
  • You believe in the principles or mission, shared vision
  • It’s fun!
  • You enjoy helping people there
  • You get a lot of value out of the projects or communication
  • You continue to learn while participating
  • To see others grow as well

What value does a community provide for us?

  • Gives purpose
  • Learning
  • An outlet for creativity or motivation
  • A way to meet new people, especially collaborators
  • To learn best practices that you would not have figured out yourself

How does a community give its members a feeling of shared ownership?

  • Asking for and listening to their feedback
  • Encouraging them to contribute to projects (code, websites, content, artwork, etc)
  • Having a “democratic” process for accepting and deciding on anyone’s ideas
  • “Promoting” long-time members to also help with bigger things
  • Giving them a place to thrive

What do we want to accomplish together?

  • Make it easier for new people to get started with Emacs and Guix (tutorials, Crafted Emacs, Crafted Guix, etc)
  • Help people learn how to program (even if it’s just Emacs Lisp)
  • Build the most well-organized learning resource for the tools we use plus the wider sphere of using Linux and free software tools
  • Empower people to take ownership of their computing environment
  • Create a bunch of useful Emacs packages, Guix packages/services, and other cool tools for others to use

Examples of great communities?

What is great? Friendly, effective, organized, fun, a pleasure to be a part of

  • Debian: super well organized, effective
  • Doom Emacs
  • nushell
  • Guix
  • OCaml
  • Neovim
  • Gentoo
  • Clojure
  • Many functional programming communities
  • Julia Lang
  • ziglang
  • SerenityOS
  • golang
  • Spritely
  • Elixir
  • plaintextaccounting
  • Stardew Valley on Reddit
  • Fitness communities on reddit
  • DIY mechanical keyboard communities
Subscribe to the System Crafters Newsletter!
Stay up to date with the latest System Crafters news and updates! Read the Newsletter page for more information.
Name (optional)
Email Address