What Is an Open Source Community Manager?

In this latest installment of our ongoing Life in Tech series, we look more closely at the role of open source community manager.

What Does a Community Manager Do?

A community manager can fill many traditional software and product development roles for an open source community, says Dave Neary. And community managers have “an opportunity to define their role and areas of focus based on their skills and interests, and on the specific needs of their community,” he writes, including the areas of:

  • Marketing
  • Partner/ecosystem development
  • Developer enablement
  • Product/release management
  • Product strategy

For example, a community manager can be a “liaison between an organization and its audience,” according to HubSpot. “They act as the voice, tone, and moderator of the brand through community support, content distribution, and digital engagement to build brand presence and trust, both online and in-person.”

In this role, says Jason Blais, community managers may be responsible for any of the following tasks:

  • Moderating, engaging, and supporting users in online forums
  • Celebrating community successes, sending swag, and recognizing top contributors
  • Creating and managing new community programs
  • Organizing meetups, events, and other engagements
  • Coordinating with other departments—such as product, engineering, and content marketing—to support community initiatives

According to Jono Bacon Consulting, open source community management can also include: 

  • Strategy and execution: Gathering company goals and creating a clear open source community strategy
  • Infrastructure and communication: Establishing a clear, productive, and cost-effective infrastructure for community participation and collaboration
  • Effective workflow: Building a workflow that makes participation productive and simple across the entire scope of community roles
  • Retention: Building and executing an overall strategy focusing on significant and sustained participation and strong retention

Skills and Attributes

Building and sustaining the many elements of a successful open source community strategy involves various attributes and abilities, says Florian Effenberger. He notes that the role of community manager may also include board or committee membership, which requires additional leadership skills and effective communication to ensure success. 

Effenberger describes 10 key aspects in greater detail in the article:

  1. Cooperation: Cooperating and working together with others is key to success. Joining forces is not only easier but also much more fun than working alone.
  2. Commitment: Be ready to put in the necessary time and effort.
  3. Variety: Be willing to learn in many areas and to have a rather high tolerance for frustration.
  4. Delegation: If you primarily need to focus on strategy and the mission at large, be prepared to delegate tasks to others.
  5. Responsibility: Accept responsibility to oversee and coordinate the work and ensure obligations are met.
  6. Social: Build rapport and communicate frequently.
  7. Diversity: Ensure diversity in any board, committee, or group.
  8. Coordination: Facilitate effective communication across time zones, cultures, etc.
  9. Trust: Take time to build trust.
  10. Reward: Appreciate the long-term rewards of building a community along with valuable skills.

If you’re interested in learning more about the broad role of open source community manager, check out the articles mentioned in the article as well as the related resources below.

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