I was very happy to see that there’s a plan to revise and improve community
involvement by the NEM project leaders. As I have hoped and tried, unsuccessfully , to become involved in NEM, I thought I’d share my views constructively. I’ll take the blame for failing to contribute to NEM as I had hoped, others have managed to do it (@gevs for example). However, with what is in my view the abysmal involvement of the community in the project, I think there’s a problem though. I would be happy if humbly sharing my opinion could help things progress.
Let me first share what in my view is community involvement. For me it is not having a proposal developed in secret and dropped, by surprise, all at once, in its final version for a vote by the community. How can people feel involved if all they can do is raise their voice once in a while, generally too late as changing one part of a proposal will have a rippling effect on other parts?
For me, community involvement is enabled by transparency, openness and responsivity.
Transparency: to feel involved in a project, people need to know what happens in that project so that they can participate if they so wish. Not everything can be handled in the open though. Some matters require confidentiality or discretion. But maybe the default should be to handle things in public and openly, with exceptions applied where warranted. This means development in the open from the start (eg for the mobile wallet), more public discussions about development, marketing initiatives, developers outreach, etc
Openness: there’s no point to be transparent if any and all proposal coming from non-core community member is rejected. Note my choice of words: I say non-core community member, in opposition to core-team community member. Why? Because the core team itself is part of the community! With a special role, specific decision power, unusual weight attached to their opinion of course. But for a community to be successful, they need to be involved in the community. They need to be present and be open. Of course that takes some time, but I think it’s worth it. The core team has built tremendous software, but what’s that if’s not used to its full potential?
Responsivity: People interested to get involved in the community, will probably come to the forum with a simple question. Often times, such a post stayed without reaction for days. That’s sadly enough for a newly interested person to loose interest and redirect his/her focus on on something else, possibly thinking it’s impossible to rely on a project where you have to wait for days to get an answer to simple questions.
A lively forum is also a great way for everyone in the community to learn. Look at this thread where @gevs rapidly answers, generating an interesting exchange. How great is that?
Building a community is hard and takes time. In the start, you feel like you work alone, doing everything yourself anyway as before when you worked in private, and just share the info for no purpose, that it’s a burden for no return. But just as end users can’t impose anything to developers, developers can’t force community members to get involved. You can’t force a tree to grow tall. You can only put in place the environment that’s beneficial for it to grow. Same applies to building a community.
Having an active community does not mean no one’s responsible, or that all decisions are collegial, or that decisions have to be justified endlessly. Sometimes people will not agree and possibly be angry. But things can be accepted more easily when these decisions are taken and defended by people respected in the community. And I think there are enough people from the core team having earned respect for their achievements that their leadership would
be accepted by most if not all members of the community. But they should be visible and assume responsibility. Open source projects sometimes refer to the project initiator and leader as the Benevolent Dictator For Life. My feeling is that the core team didn’t want to take that role, but delegating to a NEM Foundation which is not the driving force of the project failed twice. It’s time for the people setting the direction of the project to step up. This can
only be beneficial to the NEM project.
And later on, who knows, maybe new leaders will emerge based on their achievements, bringing new and fresh energy to the project.
As for every change, there’s no guarantee of success. And some difficulties may arise (problematic community member, noisy but unproductive people, trolls, etc). But with a strong community, all this is manageable.
I’m looking forward to being part of a lively community. And I’m sure I’m not alone!