The Art of Community

Posted on Jan 26, 2011
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It feels like reading has become my spare-time activity #1. Every time I come home or have a minute to relax (i.e. not coding or playing Battlefield) I try to spend it with a book (which should also explain the plethora of reviews recently). And since Christmas I had the chance - again thanks to O’Reilly’s Blogger Review program - to read Jono Bacon’s The Art of Community, a great book if you want to learn about community building but in my opinion with perhaps a bit too much focus on Ubuntu and larger opensource communities in general. Still definitely worth reading if you want to somehow help with organising a community.

First things first: I’m not really a community leader or manager but I’m currently trying to help get a small local Python community to get start. That is also what got me interested in this book, and it didn’t disappoint. From what I can tell it is full of a great plan on how to create/improve communities, what is important not to forget and what to avoid.

The progression through the chapters feels absolutely understandable with starting with why people actually want to get involved with a community, over creating a strategy and workflows for the community to solving conflicts and organising events. Everything is explained with tons of good examples, mostly from the perspective of the author himself but sometimes also from other people in various communities.

While the author in the first chapters tries to keep everything as generally applicable with regards to the kinds of communities, later the focus nearly exclusively becomes opensource communities in general or Ubuntu in specific. Most later examples are taken from Jono Bacon’s experience as community manager of Ubuntu. The “theoretical” discussions on the other hand still feel generic enough (in a positive way) that they should be applicable for mostly any community. One highlight for me in this regard was the chapter about conflict management: Full of great tips on how to handle and prevent them as well as a discussion about why they might come up in the first place.

It also helps that first chapters open very emotionally and you feel that the author is 100% behind what he is doing and really wants to help you creating and improving your community. In general it is a great read also thanks to Jono Bacon’s writing style, which is exactly like you want a community to be: friendly and inviting and without any pomp but to the point.

All in all I can absolutely recommend this book as long as you don’t mind that it is a bit more focused on opensource communities and Ubuntu than the title might indicate. I learnt really a lot about some of the theory behind organising a community and I definitely hope I could apply some of what is taught in this book in the future. It is simply a good read :-)

4/5

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