Tag: Community

How involved should partners be in a vendor’s community?

There are people all over the world doing amazing things in the Alfresco community and that includes partners, but I often feel that partners are under-represented in our community. A small example is going to a city that has multiple partners headquartered there only to have one or two of them participate in a meetup. This is frustrating to me but should it be? Maybe my expectations are skewed by my open source/collaborative world view? Why should a partner, who earns revenue by selling time, spend time participating in the community for free?

First, some background on software vendor partnerships

Every software vendor or project has a community regardless of their business model or their license or whether or not they choose to invest in that community. And most software vendors have partners. These are firms who install, configure, customize, and extend the vendor’s software. The partnership formalizes the business relationship between the partner and the vendor.

To understand whether or not it is realistic to expect partners to participate in a community, it helps to understand the makeup of the partner ecosystem. I’d be shunning my consulting heritage if I didn’t use a two-by-two matrix to illustrate this:

Partners can be grouped in a 2x2 matrix of size and relationship

The first axis in the matrix is the size of the partner. You might measure size by revenue, the number of billable consultants, or the number of vendors the firm partners with. It doesn’t really matter for this discussion. The second axis describes the nature of the partnership–is the partnership strategic or tactical for that partner?

A strategic partnership is just that–it is strategic to the partner’s business. A strategic partner actively works to improve their relationship with the vendor. They jointly close deals. They get their consultants trained up or certified on the technology. They might spend marketing dollars on events or campaigns that help promote their work with the software. If the software vendor goes away, or the partnership deteriorates, it adversely impacts a significant chunk of the partner’s revenue.

A tactical partnership is not strategic at all, it’s transactional, often opportunistic. A common way for these partnerships to happen is when a firm sees a potential project on Technology XYZ. Maybe they’ve done something with XYZ and maybe they haven’t, but they need to tick a box, so they do the bare minimum necessary to say they are a partner and then try to win the project. A partnership that starts out as tactical could grow into a strategic relationship over time. Or the firm may move on after one project, never getting any real traction with that vendor.

Every partner ecosystem has partners in these four quadrants. (Notice I do not make any mention of partner tiers. Software vendors often use tiers (Diamond, Platinum, Double-Dutch Chocolate) to help differentiate partners. It’s one way of helping customers figure out where a partner might be on the matrix. But I think the matrix does a better job for this discussion.)

What should a vendor’s community expect from each partner type?

I think it is safe to expect nothing from the partners in the tactical categories, regardless of their size. For this group, the community serves a purpose, but it is almost entirely one-way. These partners will read blog posts, tutorials, sample code, and wiki pages. They might even ask a few questions in the forums as they get up to speed on the platform, but it is unrealistic to expect much more.

Where I think the opportunity lies is in the strategic partners, but what the community offers the partner and what the partner is willing to invest is much different between small and large strategic partners.

Small, Strategic Partners

Let’s look at small, strategic partners first. The number one concern of a small partner is utilization and cash flow. A small, strategic partner needs lots of “at bats” and a reputation for getting on base and scoring runs. Small partners need visibility and credibility. Spending time in the community can help with that. The challenge for a small partner is that resources are super constrained. Often, the same individual is doing billable work and closing the next deal. It leaves little time to give to the community.

For partners in this group I think it is fair to expect contributions to the community that can be done it smaller chunks of off-peak time. Blogging, wiki cleanup, hosting or organizing meetups, and participating in the forums in a fairly ad hoc manner are some things that will help the community tremendously and in turn helps the partner with name recognition and credibility.

Large, Strategic Partners

Of course large partners still care about utilization and cash flow. But there are a few things about large firms that allow them to invest more in their vendor communities: they have a deeper bench (more consultants), they have access to more capital, and often, they have more negotiating power with their clients.

Let’s look at this bench advantage. When a firm has many consultants they can smooth out the inevitable ups-and-downs of utlization (assuming they also have lots of projects).  It also means that compared to smaller firms, they have more bench time to invest in the community. Let’s say there are 2000 potentially billable hours in a year. If you’ve got 30 consultants, there are 60,000 hours you could bill. Assuming a generous utilization rate of 90%, that leaves 6,000 hours of down time, spread across all of the consultants, throughout the year.

It’s not fair to expect all of those hours to go to the community. Consultants need bench time to train, work on internal projects, and help sell new business. But I do think a significant chunk of that time can be invested in the community. Imagine what a huge difference it would make if just 20% of the down time mentioned above was invested in the community. Now multiply that times the number of large, strategic partners in a vendor’s ecosystem and it is huge.

What is the incentive for a large, strategic partner to invest that time in the community? They will benefit from name recognition and credibility benefits that a smaller partner seeks, but larger firms have marketing dollars so that may be less important to them.

I mentioned that larger partners often have more negotiating power with their clients. This can allow them to turn some of their client work into open source projects (like add-ons or extensions) or even into full business solutions. These will have their own communities. Investing in the vendor’s community can help bootstrap these solutions and the communities around those.

There is a bigger picture reason large, strategic partners should invest in the community. It is the “rising tide raises all boats” argument. When the software vendor succeeds, the strategic partners succeed. So anything the partner can do to make the vendor successful will return dividends. I saw this at Optaros, Alfresco’s first platinum partner. Optaros gave me time to blog and to write tutorials and even a book. These helped thousands of people get ramped up on the platform, including customers and competing partners. We were helping the tide rise. Optaros didn’t stay in the Alfresco business long enough to see the full return on those investments, but I know from the success of similarly-sized partners around at that time that they were there to be had.

Free Riders

Clearly, there are partners, small and large, who believe it is important to participate in the community. There are those, however, who will reap the benefits of a healthy community without participating at all. They lock up their best practices, tips & tricks, code snippets, and know-how behind walled gardens, or, worse, they simply don’t share them at all. There is not much a community can do about this other than to try to educate these firms on the benefits of participating and encourage customers to buy services from those who are willing to demonstrate and share their expertise in public, for the benefit of the entire community.


A strategic partnership is just that–it is strategic to both the partner and the vendor. The community is a huge part of the success of the software vendor (open source or proprietary), so strategic partners ought to invest and participate in the community. Their ability to do that and the types of investments they make differ, primarily due to resource constraints. It is unreasonable to expect more than what the partner can give, but for a strategic partnership to be truly successful, they must be a visible and frequent presence in the community.

Thoughts on the Alfresco forums

Back in 2009 I wrote a post called, “The Alfresco forums need your help.” It was about how I happened to come across the “unanswered posts” page in the Alfresco forums and noticed, to my horror, that it was 40 pages long. I later realized that the site is configured to show no more than 40 pages so it was likely longer.

Now that I’m on the inside I’ve got access to the data. As it turns out, as of earlier this month, in the English forums we had a little over 1100 topics created over the past year that never got a reply. That represents about 27% of all topics created for that period.

Last year I ran a Community Survey that reported that 55% of people have received responses that were somewhat helpful, exactly what they were looking for, or exceeding expectations. A little over 10% received a response that wasn’t helpful. About 34% said they never saw a response. If you look at the actual numbers for the year leading up to the survey, there were about 1500 topics created that never got a reply, which is again about 28% of all topics created for the same period.

That day in 2009 I suggested we start doing “Forum Fridays” to encourage everyone to spend a little time, once a week, helping out in the forums. I kept it up for a while. The important thing for me was that even if I didn’t check in every Friday, I did form a more regular forum habit. It felt good to see my “points” start to climb (you can see everyone’s points on the member list) and I started to feel guilty when I went too long without checking in.

Since joining Alfresco I’ve been in the forums more regularly. In fact, this month, I decided to make February a month for focusing on forums. I spent a significant amount of time in the forums each day with a goal of making a dent in unanswered posts. I also wanted to see if I could understand why posts go unanswered.

Some topics I came across were unanswered because they were poorly-worded, vague, or otherwise indecipherable. I’d say 5% fit this category. More often were the questions that were either going to require significant time reproducing and debugging or were in highly-specialized or niche areas of the platform that just don’t see a lot of use. I’d say 20% fit this category. These are questions that maybe only a handful of people know the answer to. But at least 50% or maybe more were questions a person with even a year or two of experience could answer in 15 minutes or less.

Alfresco is lucky. Our Engineering team spends significant time in the forums. The top posters of all time–Mike Hatfield, Mark Rogers, Kevin Roast, Gavin Cornwell, Andy Hind, David Caruana, Derek Hulley–are the guys that built the platform. Somehow they manage to do that and consistently put up impressive forum numbers. We also have non-Alfrescans that spend a lot of time in the forums racking up significant points. Users such as zaizi, Loftux, OpenPj, savic.prvoslav, and jpfi, just to name a few, are totally crushing it. It isn’t fair or reasonable for me to ask either of these groups to simply spend more time in the forums. And, while I have sincerely enjoyed Focus on Forums February, I’m not a scalable solution. Instead, I’d like to mobilize the rest of you to help.

I think if we put our minds to it, we should be able to address every unanswered post:

  • Questions that are essentially “bad questions” need a reply with friendly suggestions on how to ask a better question.
  • Time-consuming questions need at least an initial reply that suggests where on docs.alfresco.com, the wiki, other forum posts, or blogs the person might look to learn more, or even a reply that just says, “What you’re asking can’t easily be answered in a reasonable amount of time because…”. People new to our platform don’t know what is a big deal and what isn’t, so let’s explain it.
  • Highly-specialized or niche questions should be assigned to someone for follow-up. If you read a question and your first thought is, “Great question, I have absolutely no idea,” your next thought should be, “Who do I know that would?”. Rather than answering the question your job becomes finding the person that does know the answer. Shoot them a link to the thread via email or twitter or IRC. Some commercial open source companies I’ve spoken to about this topic actually assign unanswered posts to Jira tickets. That’s food for thought.
  • Relatively easy questions have to be answered. Our volume is manageable. We tend to get about 400 new topics each month with 100 remaining unanswered, on average. With a company of our size, with a partner network as big as we have, with as many community members as there are in this world, I see no good reason for questions of easy to medium difficulty to go without a reply.

So here are some ideas I’ve had to improve the unanswered posts problem:

  • Push to get additional Alfrescans involved in the forums, including departments other than Engineering.
  • Continue to encourage our top posters and points-earners to keep doing what they are doing.
  • Identify community members to become moderators. Task moderators with ownership of the unanswered post problem for the forums they moderate. This doesn’t mean they have to answer every question–but it does mean if they see a post that is going unanswered they should own finding someone who can.
  • Continue to refine and enhance forums reporting. I can post whatever forums metrics and measures would help you, the community, identify areas that need the most help or that motivate you to level up your forums involvement. Just let me know what those are.

What are your thoughts on these ideas? What am I missing? Please give me your ideas in the comments.

By the way, while I’m on the subject, I want to congratulate and thank the Top 10 Forum Users by Number of Posts for January of this year:

1. mrogers* 74
2. amandaluniz_z 36
3. MikeH* 30
4. jpotts* 25
5. fuad_gafarov 22
6. zomurn 21
7. Andy* 19
8. RodrigoA 16
9. ddraper* 16
10. mitpatoliya 16

As noted by the asterisk (*) half of January’s Top 10 are Alfresco employees.

And if you are looking for specific forums that need the most help in terms of unanswered posts, here are the Top 10 Forums by Current Unanswered Post Count (as of 2/16):

1. Alfresco Share 210
2. Configuration 169
3. Alfresco Discussion 89
4. Alfresco Share Development 85
5. Installation 82
6. Repository Services 54
7. Workflow 47
8. Development Environment 44
9. Web Scripts 44
10. Alfresco Explorer 40

I’ll post the February numbers next week, and will continue to do so each month if you find them helpful or inspiring.

9 Things You Must Do to Have a Good Meetup

I spend a fair amount of time encouraging the formation of local community meetups around Alfresco and, when I can, attending many of these in all parts of the world. Alfresco meetups are especially fun because I get to meet people I’ve previously only known through the forums, IRC, or twitter.

I’ve started to identify characteristics of successful meetup groups. I thought I’d share them here and maybe others will add their ideas to the list.

Set an (interesting, relevant) agenda

Some meetups are staunchly anti-agenda. They exist because it is fun for people in the same or similar profession to get together to socialize. These have their place. For Alfresco meetups, however, I think it makes more sense to have a set agenda for each meeting. Sure, the agenda can have a “socializing” item on it, but I don’t think an Alfresco meetup that is based purely on socializing will last.

It’s also important that the agenda be interesting and relevant to your local community. I can’t tell you what that agenda is. You as a local community organizer should know. If you don’t, ask your attendees. Your attendees might be mostly technical. If so, you may have a code-filled agenda. Or, you might be completely non-technical so your agenda will be about end-user issues and solving business problems with Alfresco. I’ve been to some meetups that have a mix of both, so they start with a general interest topic and then split into technical and non-technical breakouts. The key is to know your group and what is going to work for them.

It shouldn’t be up to you to set the agenda for every meeting anyway. Make it a group effort. Or maybe rotate the responsibility.

Share responsibility

Speaking of that, find ways to get more people involved. A lot of these groups start out because one person is particularly passionate about a topic. That’s fine in the beginning, but look for ways to get others involved. It’s less work and it forms a stronger nucleus when others share the burden of the work that goes into consistently providing a quality meetup on a regular basis.

Provide food and drinks

It’s an easy win. A lot of times these meetings happen over lunch or dinner. Providing something to eat and drink helps people make the decision to come to your meetup when they are torn between their usual lunch spot and your meetup. Plus, pizza and beer are cheap crowd pleasers. Of course not everyone drinks beer so it’s a good idea to have something else on-hand, but you get the point.

In small groups, depending on the makeup, you might rotate refreshment duties. Or, try to get someone to sponsor your group and let them pick up the bill.

Foster connections

One of your roles as a community organizer is to act as a connector. You have a unique insight into each of your attendees’ motivation for attending the meetup so when you see two or more people that can help each other meet their goals make that introduction. The more connections you can make the more likely it is those people will return.

You might also consider setting up a channel for collaboration that can happen between meetings.

Publicize your meetup

Once you’ve set a time and a place for your meetup, you’ve got to get the word out. Many local Alfresco communities use meetup.com but there are alternatives. Regardless of where you host information about your meetup, make sure you are listed on the Local Communities wiki page.

If you are a partner and you are hosting or helping organize the meetup, contact your clients that are in the area and give them a personal invitation. You might even follow up on the day of the meetup to make sure they are coming.

If you let me know about your meetup I can help get the word out by inserting a blurb about it into Alfresco’s “Event Roundup” that goes out each month. I can also tweet about your meetup on my account and Alfresco’s.

I think sending out tweets a week prior, the day before, and the day of works pretty well.

Prohibit hard sales/recruiting pitches

If it turns out that your meetup is just an excuse to sell people your products or services, or people are descended upon by packs of rabid recruiters the minute they walk in the door, you’ll kill any chance you have of building something cool and long-term. No one wants to take time out of their personal schedule to hear a sales pitch. If you are a partner hosting the meetup, pay particular attention to this. People may walk in the door skeptical–you don’t want to confirm their fears with a hard sell.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t mention who donated the space or who paid for the sandwiches. If you want to keep getting free space and sandwiches you’ve got to do that. Just be cool about it. I think giving a sponsor two minutes to talk about what they do while everyone is grabbing a drink is reasonable.

As the meetup organizer it is your job to work with the rest of the group to establish ground rules about acceptable behavior and to swiftly (but professionally) deal with people who act outside the norms of your group.

Pick a central location

I live in Dallas, which isn’t just a city, it’s a “Metroplex”, which, roughly translated means, “No matter where you decide to have your meetup, someone’s going to drive an hour or more to get there.” That can make picking a meetup spot tough.

Especially when you are starting out, look at who’s coming and where they are coming from and try to pick a central location. You can try a different location for each meeting, but I’ve found that you will end up just getting a different set of attendees each time based on where the meeting is. There’s no easy answer. The best advice is to pick a central location, near main arteries and mass transit, make sure your start time comprehends traffic patterns at that time of the day, and make your agenda compelling enough that someone will want to make the journey.

Welcome everyone

It is important that everyone feel welcome at our meetups. This idea of inclusiveness is comprehensive. It covers everything from your relationship with Alfresco (Enterprise customer, Community user, partner, employee) to your demography (age, race, religion, sex, orientation). Everyone shares in the responsibility of fostering a welcoming atmosphere and raising the issue with the group its leaders if something is out-of-line.

Have fun!

Last, your meetup has got to be fun. We all sit in mind-numbing meetings as part of our day job. Why would we want to spend  personal time in yet another one? Part of this is about encouraging interactivity. Don’t just have presentation after presentation. Ask the attendees to share short stories about their projects or implementations. Maybe set a common goal to develop an add-on for the community and challenge another local community to do the same.

If you are organizing local community groups around Alfresco and you haven’t yet introduced yourself to me, please do so. I can also hook you into our community of community organizers, which we call Team LoCo (I stole the name from Jono Bacon). And, if you have additional thoughts on what makes a great meetup, please share them in the comments.

Worldwide Alfresco 4.0 Community Release Party

You have probably heard that Alfresco 4.0 (formerly known by its codename, “Swift”) will be officially released in the Community edition at the end of September. I’ve been playing with the latest Community code sitting in subversion and I have to tell you that, although there are still plenty of issues to resolve, I’m getting pretty excited about the release.

I know I’m not the only one that’s been looking at 4.0 with building anticipation toward an official release. So here’s what I think we should do. Let’s celebrate. This year, the week of October 10 shall be known as the Week of Worldwide Alfresco 4.0 Community Release Party Meetups! Wherever you are in the world, pick a day that week and get together with 1, 10, or 100 other people and share why you’re excited about 4.0. It doesn’t have to be formal and you don’t have to go to a lot of trouble. Grab Community 4.0 from the download page when it becomes available (or use one of the nightly builds or build it yourself), install it, and give a demo. Or just get a conversation going about favorite new features, when/how you plan to upgrade, or how you are using Alfresco today. Exactly what you talk about doesn’t really matter–the point is to celebrate this major release.

I’ve already spoken to several of the local community organizers around the world and they are totally into it. Madrid, Paris, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Jakarta, The Netherlands, and Southern California are all likely to have events going on the week of October 10 to celebrate. I believe Germany will be doing some virtual meetups online. To help you find these and others that will hopefully be inspired to spring up, refer to this wiki page that lists new or still-forming meetup groups. If you don’t see one there, go to Alfresco Meetups Everywhere and sign up. When another person in your area signs up you can organize a time and a place to meet.

I really want to see this happen. And I know the way to an Alfresco Geek’s heart is through his or her stomach. So if you promote your plan to have a meetup the week of October 10 via Twitter, and then you post pictures of the event on Flickr tagged with “Alfresco”, you can submit your food receipt to me and I’ll reimburse you up to $100. If you plan to take advantage of this you must register your interest with me two weeks prior to your meetup date so I can get you the details. Just shoot an email to jpotts at alfresco dot com with your plans.

I’ll also try to get a “What’s New in Alfresco 4.0” presentation posted, maybe with some screencasts as well, to help with the content.

There you go: A major release of the software to the community, free food, and starter content. The only key ingredients remaining are you, your laptop, and a friend or two. What do you say? Are you in?

What the hell do I do all day: The bucket model of community leadership

I am at the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) in Portland this weekend where hundreds of people whose jobs it is to lead communities have come together to collaborate on a wide variety of community-related topics.

One of the talks I attended yesterday was “What the Hell Do We Do Everyday?” by Evan Hamilton. The goal was to compare notes on how community leaders spend their time day-to-day. As part of the discussion, I roughed out a “Bucket Model” that groups the types of tasks that seem to me to be part of the job. Many people seemed to like it so I thought I’d post it here.

Although I’ve been active in the Alfresco community for a long time, it didn’t become my full-time job until a few months ago. When that happened, the first thing I did was think about what the community needed from me. I wrote down all kinds of things, from tactical stuff like, “Answer questions in the forum” to more strategic stuff like, “Make the community more vibrant”. As I looked at my list I realized that there were buckets of things I needed to do that probably wouldn’t change much over time. Because I’m part of the Marketing organization, I also realized that my buckets should all start with the same letter. And maybe if my buckets were one word action verbs, they’d stick in the minds of my team and the community. So here are the 3 E’s of Community Leadership: Engage, Enable, and Expose.


Engage is about engaging community members, regardless of skill set or role in the community, to participate more deeply. This encompasses tasks like connecting community members with community initiatives, speaking at local community events, or facilitating a community advisory board or some other type of discussion. Engage is really about being an active and present part of the community.


Enable is a bucket of tasks around making sure the community has the tools they need to meet their goals. This is not only removing hurdles and resolving conflict, but also providing technical tools and infrastructure like wikis, forums, IRC channels, etc. If your community is technical, it could also mean providing examples, tutorials, and code snippets.


Expose consists of tasks that are about exposing the greatness already existing in the community, both community projects and individuals. The goal here is to really be the amplifier around the good things going on in the community. This helps increase community awareness, but it also helps reinforce and model the behavior that you want to encourage from the rest of the community.

The tasks in the “3 E’s” buckets are all about moving forward toward achieving the community vision. But there are also a set of “run-and-maintain” tasks that are really about keeping the wheels from falling off. Maybe this ought to be a fourth “E” bucket called “Execute“. These tasks fall into sub-buckets like:

Monitor. As community leaders, we have all sorts of channels we’re wired into: Email, Social, IRC, Forums, Wiki, Blogs, etc. Part of execution is monitoring and responding to these channels. As one of the attendees pointed out, if you aren’t careful, this one can suck the life out of you if you don’t manage it properly.

Measure. Putting measures in place and keeping track of those measures is an important way to figure out if you’re making progress against your plan. The specific measures are different for each community but they might be things like survey results, downloads, installs, registered forum/wiki users, forum points awarded, etc.

Report. Report is about getting reports from your team and reporting status to the rest of the community.

Plan. This bucket is about periodically reviewing and refining your plan.

I’ve spun up projects/initiatives that slot into each of these buckets. So, on any given day, I’m either personally working on tasks that fall into these buckets, or I’m working with team mates and other members of the community who are doing the same.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what Alfresco’s Chief Community Officer does, now you know. And if you’re also a community leader, I’d love to see how this maps up to what you do. What did I miss?

Getting involved with a local Alfresco community

Even though there are still two weeks to go in this year’s Alfresco Community Survey, I couldn’t help but start to review the 1200 or so responses we’ve received so far. There are some great insights and suggestions coming through, but there’s one I wanted to jump on right away: It’s clear that a significant portion of the Community would like to see more local, Alfresco-focused, non-marketing,  gatherings (aka, meetups). And I’m right there with you. I think it is extremely important that local groups of people interested in Alfresco are able to get together regularly to share tips and tricks, to network, and to have fun. In this post I want to outline my perspective on events, my plan for local meetups, and some ideas on how to get involved with a local Alfresco community.

Alfresco Community Meetups are different from other events

Alfresco drives many types of events worldwide, including presence at third-party conferences, lunch-and-learns, training, and webinars. We also do an annual developer’s conference called Alfresco DevCon. Last year DevCon was in New York and Paris. We’re starting to plan for this year’s DevCon. We’re still finalizing cities and dates and I’ll let you know when that happens.

The events I’ve listed so far are completely driven by Alfresco. But there are several groups around the world that get together and talk about Alfresco on their own. These are grassroots, locally-organized meetups. Some meet more regularly than others. Some are a handful of people getting together for an informal happy hour while others are large groups with formal agendas, name tags, and everything.

In addition to these locally-run meetups, in the past, Alfresco has conducted “Community Meetups” that were really more like mini-conferences that happened in multiple geographies. These were fun and informative events, but they can’t happen with the frequency and scale that locally-driven meetups can.

Going forward, I’d like you, the community, to drive local meetups. And I’d like to see these happening more frequently, in more parts of the globe, for technical and non-technical audiences regardless of the Alfresco product they use. I want more people to feel that sense of family that I feel when I walk into a room full of people who share the same hopes, joys, and frustrations with Alfresco.

Local Alfresco communities should be driven by the local community

In short, I don’t want Alfresco to own, control, or constrain local Alfresco communities in any way. Ideally, anywhere there are two or more people that care about Alfresco, a local meet-up would form and those people would get together fairly regularly and, hopefully, grow to include others over time.

Alfresco’s role is to foster and support these local communities. I think we can add value in the following ways:

  • Alfresco can serve as a “connector”, matching up groups of interested community members with people willing to organize the local community
  • Alfresco can supply presentation content and, in some cases, people to deliver it in-person
  • Alfresco can help promote your meetup and drive attendance
  • Alfresco can support communities with Alfresco-branded giveaways and other small incentives

What we lack is the hyper-local perspective into the topics the local community is most interested in, the ability to know all of the cool projects going on in your area, and the feet on the ground to make every meeting a success. That’s where you come in. Local community events shouldn’t be driven by Alfresco’s Marketing team–they should be driven by you, the community, and Alfresco will do everything we can to support you.

So, as part of this, I’ve been reaching out to various communities around the world. If they haven’t met in a while, I’m encouraging them to get together, even if it is an informal meet-and-greet. If it is a group that was just thinking about getting together, I’m asking them to take that first step. And, if it is a group that has been meeting a while, I’m asking what, if anything, you need from me to keep it going.

How can you get involved?

This wiki page is the master list of existing local communities we know about as well as communities that people are interested in forming. If you are participating in a local community or are interested in forming one and that’s not reflected on the list, please update the wiki page.

Take the first step

If you are lucky enough to live near an established community, sign up and attend. If there isn’t a meeting happening any time soon ask the innocent question, “Why isn’t there a meeting happening any time soon?”. Maybe you’ll be the spark that gets it going again.

If you want to organize a meetup, it’s pretty easy. Decide on a time and a place, then let everyone know about it. You can use sites like Meetup.com or Google Groups to facilitate sign-up and collaboration, but that’s not a requirement.

If there isn’t a meetup already organized near you and you’d like to find out if others are interested, go to http://www.meetup.com/Alfresco, search for your city, and add your name to the list.

Decide where to take it from here

That first meeting doesn’t have to be a big production. It isn’t much work to get together and talk about what you are doing with Alfresco. While you’re talking, you may want to:

  • Set a focus. Is the goal to network, to learn from others, or something more specific? For example, I have been talking to multiple communities about organizing Alfresco-focused hack-a-thons/code sprints that would have a goal of creating new or contributing to existing Alfresco community projects.
  • Decide how often you want to get together. Meet too often and you’ll burn out the group. Don’t meet often enough and your group will lose interest. Somewhere in the neighborhood of monthly or quarterly is probably best.
  • Decide on an agenda for future meetings (or whether to have an agenda at all). You might have an end-user focused group that discusses tips/tricks for using the product and walks through case studies. Or, you might have a more technical group that dives into the details of a different part of the platform each meeting.
  • Establish ground rules. Maybe for your group, the rules are there are no rules. Or maybe a couple of common sense ground rules would help. It depends on the focus you’ve set. For example, you might want to ban blatant sales pitches and recruiters.
  • Pick an organizer. Someone needs to be on point for reminding the group about upcoming meetings. If you’ve decided on a more formal sort of group, that person will also need to facilitate setting the agenda and find people to speak. I’d recommend rotating this responsibility every 3 to 6 months, but you can decide.

Keep me posted

If you get a meetup going I want to know about it so I can support your group in the ways I’ve outlined above. Who knows, maybe I’ll even show up in person at one of your meetings.

Three watershed moments in my career (Hint: One just happened)

I’ve recently made a big shift in the career department. But rather than tell you what it is right off, I want to build up to it. I think it’s kind of a cool story, so if you’ll bear with me, here are the three watershed moments of my career thus far…

Watershed moment #1: Specialization leads to consulting

In 1992, I graduated college and went to work for Texas Instruments working on mainframes. Somehow, I got exposed to Lotus Notes development. I loved it. I dove in deep, eventually leaving for a job where I could be completely focused on Notes. Notes taught me a lot about managing unstructured data and how people collaborate to get work done. I learned that, for me, interesting IT problems are those where humans and systems have to work together to get something done. And it taught me a lot about what a passionate technical community looks like. Ultimately it led to a job at a small, but up-and-coming consulting firm where I would spend the next nine years. That decision to focus on Notes development was a watershed moment.

Watershed moment #2: My blog gets me a job in open source

Fast-forward to 2001. My content management practice was making a shift. Notes was falling out of favor and many of our clients were looking at WCM and DM solutions from large proprietary vendors. We started looking at open source technologies as well, but it was a tough sell to our traditional clients who had never heard of open source, and if they had, were skeptical or even fearful. We started implementing Documentum-based solutions and did that for the next three years, but I continued to dabble in open source. A revolution seemed afoot, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to jump in.

I started blogging in 2001, stopped, then started again in 2002. My rationale was simple: Writing helped me learn. And, for virtually no added cost, I could multiply the benefit by sharing what I learned–particularly with coworkers, but if others got value out of it, that was okay too. The idea that if my writing helped enough people it might help the open source movement in some tiny way was a romantic notion, but seemed remote.

Then I came across Alfresco. In October of 2005 I wrote my first Alfresco-related blog post. It said simply, “Alfresco is an open source enterprise content management solution founded by one of the co-founders of Documentum,” and then included a lengthy excerpt from a Gilbane post on Alfresco’s release candidate. A month later I published a more detailed review of the product. After three or four years of blogging, I was starting to find my voice. Little did I know that I had also found a passion.

By 2006, my firm had been acquired and Alfresco was starting to look like it had legs. I looked back on my past Documentum projects and realized that Alfresco was a viable alternative as the underlying repository in every case. Open source had been around for years but it had been sneaking quietly in the back doors of my clients in the form of operating systems, developer libraries, databases, and tooling. Alfresco, and other commercial open source companies, were poised to crash through the front door with business-facing open source applications. I wanted in. I left my firm to join Optaros, an open source consultancy I had discovered through fellow content management blogger and then Optaros employee, Seth Gottlieb. My blog had gotten me a job working with a technology I loved. That was the second watershed moment.

Watershed moment #3: Wait for it…

My four years at Optaros gave me the opportunity to focus on Alfresco full-time. Not just implementing projects, although there were many. Just as important, I was able to fully-engage with the Alfresco community. I wrote blog posts and tutorials. I created add-ons and integrations and released those as open source projects. I wrote a book. I conducted code camps. I attended every event Alfresco ever put on and gave talks at most of those. I didn’t set out to be an evangelist, but that’s what I became. Did it benefit me, Optaros, and later, my own start-up, Metaversant? Of course it did. But, here’s the kicker: Acting in my own self-interest turned out to be a huge benefit to the greater Alfresco community. And I’m not alone. Many people all around the world are participating in the community in all kinds of ways to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Which brings us to the next watershed moment: Alfresco has hired me as their new Chief Community Officer. My mission is essentially to make the Alfresco community an example for all other commercial open source companies to follow. It’s a significant challenge, and I’m going to need your help. Alfresco may sign my check, but I work for the community. Therefore, you’ve got to tell me where we should take this thing. We have our ideas but yours are critical.

What this means

I’ll give specifics on how you can help in a future post. I expect that the specific strategies we undertake together will fall roughly into these buckets:

  • Motivating community members, regardless of skill set or relationship to Alfresco to engage more deeply in the community
  • Enabling the community with tools, resources, and product enhancements that leverage community contributions
  • Exposing the greatness already existing in the community, whether that’s in the form of contributions that have been made that people just don’t know about or shining a light on community contributors doing awesome things

And, of course I get to continue to work on my own community contributions like my work with Apache Chemistry, my Google Code projects, the blog, and new stuff I haven’t even thought of yet.

It was a tough decision to put the growth of my content management-focused consulting firm, Metaversant, on hold, but when Alfresco approached me about this opportunity, I had to take it. My career and my passion are already dovetailed. I do what I love, and for that I am very lucky. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to make that an even tighter fit?

I am very excited about what this means for the community and the importance Alfresco places on its growth and well-being. I hope you are excited too. Actually, “hope” is the wrong word–I need you to be excited. Who’s with me? Ready to pitch in?

The Alfresco forums need your help

I was looking at the “unanswered posts” view in the Alfresco Forums today and was surprised to see it was 40 pages long. I know the growing list of unanswered posts has been a problem for quite a while because Nancy Garrity has mentioned it multiple times and I don’t know what the high water mark is for unanswered posts but 40 pages seems bad.

I admit that I haven’t been answering questions in the forums as often as I’d like and that’s bad too. So I took some time today to answer a few. You should do the same. Why should Russ Danner (503 posts) have all the fun?

Maybe instead of “follow fridays” on Twitter we should encourage “forum fridays” amongst the Alfresco community.