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CLS West – A Community Cabal

Posted by sunahouston on January 11, 2010 at 9:49 PM PST




CLS WEST Logo

I had the opportunity to attend the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) West Event (wiki, attendee photo gallery, eventbrite registration site, CLS session notes page, etc) this last weekend (Jan 9th, 2010) at the Devry campus in Daly City. It was an unconference event.  Lots of Community Leaders from different Tech Companies were there which was interesting to me working for Sun--it was a sort of a Community Cabal. STATS: 31 un-conference sessions. (8) classrooms utilized.  80+ people were in attendance, lots of familiar faces from other Bay Area community events. My Notes on the "Communities Go Global" are below as well as a graphical representation which Bay Area Tech Companies and Communities that participated or programs that were discussed.

Here was the Agenda... well sorta..it's an un-conference.. check the CLS Session notes for details

9:00am Attendees Sign In at DeVry

10:00am Un-Conference Begins

12:00pm Lunch

5:00pm Un-Conference Ends at DeVry

I didn't know what the sessions were until they were posted up on the board after the initial welcome pep-talk by the organizers who explained the conference format and ground rules.

Briefing by CLS Organizers

 Open Session w/CLS West Organizer

 

Here's a snapshot of the Agenda board with all of the sessions posted.

CLS West Agenda Board

 

A Community Leader's Cabal

What was interesting, to me, about CLS West was that there was an extraordinary concentration of Community Organizers/Facilitators from the San Francisco area who were much like myself.  These “community” folks were doing similar things I've been doing, but at other Bay Area Tech companies. After the event, I thought (at great length) about all the folks I met and read about...trying to get my mind wrapped around what had taken place... so, I came up with the graphic below. It displays a sort of Who's Who of SF Bay Area Communities...folks (programs represented) who either signed up or attended the CLS West event. Many of whom, I had a chance to talk to... I know of many others that could be placed onto the grid (Disclaimer: the graphic only represents my view on things)

Community Cabal

Sessions  I Attended

I attended the following sessions.

  • Community Video with Deirdre Straughan (A Sun person from Colorado involved in the OpenSolaris Program)

  • Community Goes Global with Rachel Luxemburg (Adobe User Grp Programs) and Teresa Giacomini (OpenSolaris User Groups...another Sun person)

  • Community Building Over Time - with Su Rya

  • Community Metrics with Ray Gans (Ahh, yet another ex-Sun guy – the former OpenJDK community mgr at java.net)

And so, I tried to record some notes...I am willing to donate this content back to the CLS wiki – as soon I can get a hold of “Van” to tell me how... For this BLOG Entry I am only going to cover (1) of the (4) sessions I attended and that is...

Un-Conference Session: Community Goes Global  (my NOTES)

 

Community Goes Global

 

{I got in after things started...this is where I started picking things up...this captures some of the discussions we had in this session}

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] …..I do want to address the issue of local and organic versus Corporate and Remote... Community Program Resources versus the dynamics of a large company. People in the Field (Field Sales Personnel) whose motivations are completely different than that of the people trying to run the Community Program …..Field Sales people are all about: “ I gotta make my comp plan and if [community stuff] doesn't get me sales, then I don't really care about it...”

[Matt Thompson – former Sun Technology Outreach Director now w/Microsoft Developer Communities] …..And I think, one of the learning points we came up with, was aligning the community by what was going to drive them. One of the challenges for us was educating the local communities [ie Java User Groups] was The local community groups really wanted to reach out locally to the corporate field offices. So, there is a classic example we saw in Greece... The guy that running the Greek Java User Group was telling US [the corporate Community Program Mgr]...and kept sending us email: “Your guys in the local field office suck, they don't know what community is, they don't want to help us...etc...” So we told them stop talking to them and work with the corporate community program coordinator/manager. We're [at corporate] here we'll listen...Alignment of what the community wants and what the corporate program goal tends to be the critical piece... What I am interested is in how others have handled it... Microsoft has a different approach in which MS has incentives for the field office to care which leads to interesting behavior...Yes, it is nice working for a company with money that can do that.........One of the things that Sun did was put all of their Community People, all of their technology evangelists at a corporate level and those people then reported to the Software Product/Technology Teams at some level. At Microsoft, they put all of these Community people in the field....entirely different approach. That causes a lot of different behavior....that means that I have a lot of Evangelists who in the back of their mind care about sales...that's interesting... [but it does nothing for the ultimate goal of technology/product adoption or the level of market share/developer share]...[Rachel commented: There's nothing wrong with that....]...Yes, it is just different....SO there are different ways in which you can divide this up...THE REAL QUESTION is not where the corporate entity puts the Evangelists or Community Liaisons, but HOW the COMMUNITY perceives or reacts to these people...that becomes the important piece... [there is a trust factor with your community]... And that is one of the reasons why I am here today... the first thing, I heard when I walked into CLS West today was “What's Microsoft doing here?”... Like Wow, obviously I have some work to do....

[Steve – from the Audience] – I am slightly confused by the term “Community”.... How do you define or break-down a community...

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] In the OpenSolaris Community, it is a group of technology people who are contributing to its development, So when Matt talks about Community....people like me who are sitting inside Sun [a corporate entity], who talks to [OpenSolaris] User Groups all over the world who need resources, speakers, giveaways, product release information, infrastructure for their mailing lists, points-of-contact in the engineering/development team, processes of how to contribute code/bug fixes/plug-ins, etc These people are out in “the community” and they come and ask me for these things, and I try to help them get what they need... So I am a “Community Person”

[Aaron Houston – Sun Java User Group Community] – I also like the terms “Facilitator”...and “people connector”... I am a “Community Person” as well... I work for the Community... I am at Sun's corporate level talking to all of the various product teams or technology evangelists that I can reach out and plug-in the User Groups into the conversation.

[Justin Kestelyn – Oracle Technical Network OTN] – At Oracle, the community leaders and the developer program people are like a Router...between people who are actually interested in technology and those who are developing/creating the technology...

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] Even at Adobe, granted it is not open source, you still have that same sort of community... You still have those groups of people coming together and who want to connect to the company... commercial software user groups...

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] There are some User Groups that are truly users of the software and then there are developer communities who are building things for a larger community of users...and the Oracle User Groups are primarily end-users of the product with some developer tools groups as well..

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] ..[for Adobe].. it tends to split up between the developers and the designers. The Flex User Groups, obviously, tend to be Flex developers...whereas a Photoshop Users Group, is primarily end-users... not developing Photoshop...

[From the audience] – what about the global nature of communities... to get back on track...

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] So yeah, there is this issue of Remote and Corporate... so one tactic we've been adopting is regional coordinators... who are community people [non-Adobe employees] who are volunteers who are self-organizing events/groups in the community... We've had success in South America with community leaders working with a regional coordinator … and who is a relay point for the corporate community program manager... the person is bi-lingual which also a big help...because the varying levels of language fluency across South America... Spanish... Portuguese...etc. The Regional Coordinator is a volunteer and we gave that person a conference pass to Adobe Max...which is our annual developer conference... and that's pretty much it for compensation.

[From the audience] Two Questions [directed at Rachel Adobe]
#1 How many employees do you have globally to support these communities? Do you have an employee in each region?

#2 If your community people are volunteers what is their motivation for doing this work for free?

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] [Answer] They love the product and they really love the company. I know that sounds corny, but it is amazing how many of them are out there...

[Matt Thompson – Microsoft] There are number of “Champions” programs out there... Microsoft has their MVP program.. Sun has their Java Champions program... There are a number of ways to do this...

The other thing I have seen happen... is coordination across local communities whether they be around a particular product or and Open Source project.... they start creating links within other communities elsewhere globally... and it usually comes down to a person... I was looking at this model in regards to the Apache Foundation on how they build local communities around Apache technology in different places around the world... What I realized, what they really were doing.. is just picking somebody in another country... and saying “ You are now the Champion “ for this project... and ends up exactly looking like what you would do at a corporate level program... so the motivation again is... they are in the center of knowledge and “in the know”

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] But that doesn't exactly work in Asian companies or India... There are challenges in China and Japan... for example...and we run into that quite frequently... The cultural expectations are quite different than in the West or in Europe...

[From the audience] On Volunteers...The challenges from other countries is there no legal binding...and the community leader is not a legal employee...the contract is purely on a volunteer basis... Different countries.. .Different cultures have different motivations to be a volunteer... HOW do you manage them to achieve your Goal?

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] That's why I get so many grey hairs... [audience laughter] It all comes down to personal relationships... It really hard to do this in a one to many format...it comes down to building relationships one at a time... so the community manager understands why they are doing something... and the volunteer community leader understands what they are getting out of it...

[From the audience] Relationships have stability issues. You cannot scale this..

[Matt Thompson – Microsoft] So Sun did an interesting experiment in scalability... around the education space, they built champions at how many universities Teresa?

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] started with 50 and now were over 500...

[Matt Thompson – Microsoft] With a very small headquarters team... and these are students with little or no motivation to do what Sun wanted... other than they love the technology and it is a great resume builder... the resume piece of this, when we went to Asia and it actually work for us.... By distinguishing yourself, by associating yourself with Sun or a Microsoft or Adobe... You do have something else to add next time you want to go talk about what you want to do with your next job.

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] ... intangible yes, intangible compensation is still compensation...to be able to put on your resume that you are the regional coordinator for Sun or Adobe....it does matter...It makes a difference and it helps these people in their businesses... careers...

[Aaron Houston – Sun Java User Groups] So I like to add for the motivation part... for these guys that are remote... it is about personal relationships... a lot times I can pick up the phone and call my User Group Leader or Java Champion in some part of the world... and through my network of technical champions or presentation speakers... I give them information about if a hot speaker is going to be in their area... and then try to connect the parties.. and then, in the end it's a win-win for everyone involved.. including Sun because it's about technology adoption... and Speaker often gets to speak to likeminded people in a different parts of the world...shared experiences... and perhaps business contacts... the User Group leader gets an interesting speaker... it is an opportunistic approach..sometimes greatest things happen out of the contacts we make...

A Community Of Community Organizers – A Multiplier Effect

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] And this is where the motivation factor comes in...because it is now about more than a one-to-one relationship... it is about developing the relationships between others... and that's where you can get into an interesting multiplier effect... If you've got a community of community organizers, then when those people start organizing and starting organizing with each other... Then, that is when things get really interesting... and that's when you become able to overcome the limitations of the small team... back at headquarters... Then, the regional community organizer can then become a self-supporting unit for each other and reinforce what the Corporate Community Manager is doing... THAT is when it gets really interesting...

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] What have people done to develop those community relationships? If people relationships have scalability issues, then if you tell two friends...and they tell two friends...

[audience member] Part of it is what all the open source communities are doing... it is about having the infrastructure... and not just the infrastructure but the empowerment procedures.. what is the process for starting say a French Mailing list...for this particular open source project... And then... How does it become the official French mailing list... Having both the procedure for accessing the infrastructure and the procedure with officially being associated with the Brand...

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] We're dealing with that localization issue right now... How does one anoint the official Adobe User Group in France... An Official User Group manager will present an NDA to the proposed group...and the benefits we provide them... and we have a trial period...

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] For the OpenSolaris User Groups...and I'm pretty sure it is the same for the Java User Groups... Someone sends an a user group request to the advocacy community mailing list on OpenSolaris.org... and a “contributing member” to the list may vote +1 on the mailing list.. and then they are brought into the community... and they get project space, mailing list etc..

[Stephanie Liu – Google Technology User Groups] – How does that +1 happen...

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] It could be because the contributor knows that person submitting the user group request....and the thing is... how much support are they going to get from Sun? Those things will vary depending how active...

[Aaron Houston – Sun Java Users Groups] And... How organize they are....

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] There is always some metric... there..

[Teresa Giacomini – Sun OpenSolaris Community] Partly, because it is an OpenSource community....there are no strings attached... Oracle User Groups are much more formal...

Incubating New User Groups

[Aaron Houston – Sun Java Users Groups] So I would like to say something about the Incubation process mentioned... I work with the JUG communities on java.net...and there is an “incubated” project status available for new JUG project request...but the JUG has to tell me more or write information on his project page about the JUG: How to contact the JUG leader? How to join the mailing list? When the meeting take place? When the meetings might take place? And then any additional information about any meeting they have already been doing... when this happens they move out of the incubated status and are listed geographically on the java.net

[I am adding this post-session]... if new JUG leaders join the JUG leader's mailing list, then there are community JUG leaders active on the list who can then place them on a much nicer google JUG map which plots all of the active JUGs on java.net... thereby helping others find their JUG... as the JUG coordinator... I point people to this map and I email new JUG leaders when they request.. We also have JUG leaders who are the community leaders doing this map updating + project approvals...the process is not perfect and it has its rough spots...but we have over 400 JUGs on java.net and 170 JUG Leaders on the mailing list that I correspond with...so from the 170 JUG leaders I can reach over 100,000 JUG members... so it does scale...

Multiple User Groups in the Same City/Region

[Anon] So what about Global politics?.. How involved should the corporate community manager be? For Example... (2) Guys each starting User Groups in Kiev in the Ukraine...they don't get along... they broke off and started their own groups... Even though I didn't want to see the split groups... and they are still are squabbling..So I am curious to see how other communities handle that.. How involved do you get in micro-managing it?

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] We think that having multiple groups in the same location is confusing to the community...We don't want (2) Flex User Groups in the same area... We take the stance that we only recognize only ONE Official group... but if there unofficial groups...Well, we're not going to stop you...

[Anon #2] Why not let them Duke it out as (2) independent groups and see who wins?

[Aaron Houston – Sun Java Users Groups] We haven't seen that issue [needing to pick an official group]... I've got a perfect example.. We have (2) User Groups in New York City... they each have a different focus..**We recognize them both**... and if there were other user groups in the same location we would recognize them as well... But, again... it is how well they organize themselves that ultimately wins the day...and additional support... and whether not they can coordinate and let us know if we bring a speaker to their area...can they accommodate?... if not, then maybe next time around... Our Developers often belong to more than One Java User Group and they attend multiple meetings depending on who has the most interesting speakers...

[Matt Thompson – Microsoft] I think the health of the community has a lot to do with it... We're looking at this from the point of Silverlight... So we have a lot of folks in the media space that are interested in this.. I was down in Los Angeles just the other day... talking to a bunch of people who want to start Silverlight Users Groups.. So I've got FIVE separate people wanting to start Silverlight User Groups all within 10 miles of Hollywood... Same problem.. And they all don't like each other...Umm not because they all don't like each other personally... it is because they all work for different competing media companies... One of the things we are taking away from this.. And what I learned from Aaron on this...The local community will naturally fall into 1 or 2 Groups... FIVE won't survive.. So the question is... Can you as a company or a community program manager give it enough time for things to settle out... So Ukraine.[referring to Anon #1's question] for example...can you allow those groups to evolve... and see what happens... One will likely give in (I've been to Kiev once..) and one will likely die off on its own... because it is just not going to get enough support..

[Rachel Luxemburg – Adobe] So what about in your case? Are you really going to allow (5) groups to exist?

[Matt Thompson – Microsoft] Yes... all 5 are being incubated... all 5 are getting attention...One of the advantages of working for a company like Microsoft is that we can do that... We can support (5) for 6 to 10 months and see how the situation evolves... What we've asked them to do though.. is to coordinate their individual schedules so when we send speakers to their area... that speaker can hit 2 or 3 of those user groups on one trip.. in a week.. NOT.. one this week...another the following week... etc...

************************************END OF MY NOTES*******************************************************************************************

 Couple of Blog Entries from other Folks:

Community Leadership Summit West: A Family Success
 

Couple of shout outs to a couple of community folks whom I've worked with in the past...and was happy to see them at the CLS West Event...

Janice Campbell -- Adobe (formerly w/Sun's NetBeans Localization team)

Janice Campbell Software South America Localization Guru

To our JUG Partners at O'Reilly User Groups -- Marsee Henon -- Thanks Again. for all the support over the years... Your books are getting out there to the Java User Groups via Sun's JUG carepackages... We also partner with other publisher's supporting Java Users Groups.

Marsee Henon -- O'Reilly User Groups Program

 Lastly... A book I need to get a hold of... The Art of Community... among others...

 The Art of Community

 

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