Subject: Re: Nessus 3.0's failed community
From: Michael Bernstein <>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 12:22:27 -0800

On Tue, 2005-11-29 at 12:23 -0500, Marshall W. Van Alstyne wrote:
> So, it raises a great question: What inducements, credit, benefits, 
> licensing terms etc. should firms provide to the broader developer 
> community to encourage their participation?  Beyond openness, what levers 
> do firms really have?

Three that I can think of: Visibility, Engagement, and Responsiveness.

Visibility: Is it obvious how the community is expected to participate?
Is there a bug/issue tracker? Mailing list? IRC channel? A wiki? A
weblog? Version control? Are these community venues easily discoverable?
Can a technical user easily do an anonymous checkout of the code?

Engagement: Do the core developers (your employees) participate
regularly in the various public venues like mailing lists and/or IRC
channels? Are there core committers who are not employees of the
company? Is community feedback solicited and incorporated into the
future direction of the project?

Responsiveness: When a member of the community (loosely defined as a
user who tries to participate in the community sphere) posts a question,
bug-report, feature-request, etc., do they get a prompt response, or
does it go into some kind of black-hole? The rest of the community can
try to help with some of these (this is the main way the community
engages the project), but some items really require the attention of a
core developer, and if that is slow in coming, your best community
members will get the hint and stop helping quite as much.

Here is a lever that affects both engagement and responsiveness: Are
employees discouraged (directly or indirectly) from participating in the
community on company time? Note that depending on your corporate
culture, 'not encouraging' may be equivalent to 'discouraging'. Also,
under those circumstances, every time you hire someone from the
community you'll be diminishing the public sphere, and the effect will
be noted very quickly. 

- Michael Bernstein