The transition from “them” to “we”

August 6, 2011

While a lot of large Free Software projects do have some sort of formal “membership” structure (e.g. for GNOME there is the foundation), in reality being part of a project is more about your mindset. It’s easy for anyone to complain from the outside about something – and then the project is “they”.

I think many people, even ones who have been in the FOSS community for a long time, forget that it’s often not that hard to transition to “we”. As long as you can point to some sort of contribution (that could be any of code, marketing, documentation, art), even just periodically. By contributing even in a small way, you make a fundamental shift from “they” to “we”. From consuming to producing.

One common problem though is that of those who do propose changes, is to start out with a controversial change. This is not the right way to do it – while you may succeed, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Start by contributing non-controversial things – in the mindset of many people working on a FOSS project, this builds up karma or goodwill. And it makes it far more likely the people involved in the project will listen to your concerns.

It’s pretty basic stuff really – but easy to forget apparently.

One Response to “The transition from “them” to “we””

  1. Ole Laursen Says:

    Not that I disagree, but keep in mind that the corollary of what you point out is that people don’t listen unless you’re “in”. Which perhaps mean that the way from “they” to “we” can be a bit longer than the core group of people would like to think.đŸ™‚

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