Hi, I'm Jan König 👋. I'm one of the founders of Jovo, 28 years old, and live in Berlin. < Go back to learn more.

5 Insights from Building an Open-Source Community

As some of you may know, Jovo is an open-source framework (you can find the code here). This means it's free of charge and heavily relies on a supportive community of contributors.

Building a community can be difficult. We're still at the very beginning, but we're happy to have an active community who is excited about pushing Jovo forward, for example:

  • There's now a Udemy course about Jovo
  • Our main repo has 34 contributors, of which several contributed hundreds, even up to 2000 lines of code
  • A Slack group with >300 people who help each other and share tips
  • Other companies are building add-ons to Jovo, like this one: Jargon SDK

Below are a few things I learned over the last few months. And giving away t-shirts isn't one of them (we're in the process of printing some though, so stay tuned 😜).
 

1) Set an example

Of course, having a tool people actually want/need to use is the first step. However, what we noticed over the last few months is something maybe even almost as important: content. Many open source communities disregard this and don't count "writing docs" as real contributions.

There are now a lot of other similar libraries out there, however, they don't have as many contributors (and presumably users). I believe one of the reasons for this is that they didn't invest as much time in docs and tutorials as we did.

The more your community notices that you care about making it as easy as possible for them, the more they want to contribute. I even noticed that the frequency of tutorials I published to our Youtube channel correlated with the number of contributions we got from our community.
 

2) Make it easy to contribute

It doesn't help how willing people are to contribute if they don't know what to do. Some people even reached out, asking us how they can help.

Here's how we're trying to fix this:

  • We created a page with potential contributions
  • We made our courses and tutorials open-source as well, anyone can write one: github.com/jovotech/learn-jovo
  • v2 of the framework will be more modular and way easier to extend. This way, people can make contributions without touching the core code
     

3) Be reliable

We try to react to contributions extremely fast and merge them quickly. Right now, our main repository doesn't have a single open pull request. This encourages potential contributors that the time investment is actually worth it.
 

4) Show recognition

We're extremely happy about every single contribution from our community and try to show as many public praise as possible. However, we can really improve here and show what great things our members are doing. Here's what we're planning:
  • A members page on our website that shows profiles of our active contributors
  • More visible profiles added to the tutorials and docs (who worked on what?)
  • Swag? Still working on ideas here
 

5) Just ask

This might sound too simple, but I realized how happy people are to help if you just plainly ask them. A slight nudge can really help sometimes.

For example, the comment thread from the screenshot above turned into a full page of docs in just a matter of days (Thanks, Matthew!)

 

Summary

Working together with many smart people is very exciting, and I encourage anyone to not downgrade terms like "community management." It's the core of many businesses and shouldn't be underestimated.

Anything else that I missed?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughs,
Jan


PS: I finally managed to launch my personal website (= newsletter archive): https://jan-koenig.com/. Started working on this almost 2 years ago, as mentioned in this episode of the newsletter.

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