Introducing money in communities

(Shreyas) #1

Last Friday, I put together a meetup for community managers in Bangalore(India). It was really exciting to know that there were other community managers who wanted to share their learnings and experience. We had around 28 people in the room from various backgrounds :relaxed: - they were either full-time community managers or product managers/developers who were planning on starting a community. We had some interesting discussions about dealing with burnout and also about how communities should address internal dissent. Most of the discussions were around offline communities.

One of the things that people had different opinions was about introducing money into communities. This was a really intense and interesting discussion given the background of the attendees. Some were of the opinion that communities should be kept free from money because they feel that it dissolves the feeling of community. Others argued that to keep and sustain a community, you need to have a model and institution in place. For putting that in place, you need money.

I’m interested in hearing all your thought on this.

(Piper_Wilson) #2

Can you give more detail? I’m afraid I don’t understand.

(Shreyas) #3

So here are two arguments-

  1. Made by people from FOSS community background, who had the ideology that community was all about sharing knowledge, information and advocating for something that they’re passionate about.
  2. Made by people who ran informal communities like barcamps and then realized that there needs to be an institutional structure in place. For barcamps, they didn’t have any structure. However, the founder of my company observed that this lack of structure meant that they were losing out on institutional learning because of the churn in community members. So he started our company and now we make money out of that. So his argument is that money, when introduced to communities, is not always a bad thing, but it’s usually the way it’s executed.

Does that make sense @Piper_Wilson?

(Piper_Wilson) #4

I think so… the discussion revolves around whether or not free communities should convert to a paid community, yes?

(Shreyas) #5

Yes. That’s right! More on the lines of how can you build a sustainable model.

(Piper_Wilson) #6

Maybe I’m idealistic, but here goes…

I think communities need “love” in order to survive and that can be from time devoted or from money. I don’t have a lot of experience but I picture it like parenting. You look at your child and try to figure out what is best for them. Sometimes it’s private school and sometimes it’s public. And then there are times when you think private school would be best but you can’t afford it, so you come up with something else to support their needs.

For example, both of my children are on the autism spectrum. I would have loved to put them in a private school that specialized in their needs but it would have taken up half my income. So, instead, I moved to a neighborhood served by one of the best school districts in the state. I paid a lot of money for a mediocre apartment, but their needs were served as best as possible.

Eventually though, that didn’t really pan out well enough, so I let them go live with their father and his wife. They had the ability to home school. Now both children are no longer children and they can function quite well in society.

Point being, folks find a way.

(Sarah Hawk) #7

That must have been a really tough decision to make @Piper_Wilson – good on you for having the courage to do it.

Regarding financing communities – I think that it’s certainly possible to strike it lucky and build a community around the perfect concept without huge difficulty, but if it becomes a real success it will need funding to manage. It’ll become a full time job for someone, and that needs funding. It will probably require technology to some degree, and that will require funding.

I don’t think that the community needs to be monetised in order to do that, but it has to prove its value to some wider organisation that is prepared to fork out cash. If not, then I’d say yes, it would definitely need to generate income to be self-sustaining.

(Graham Perrin) #8

Maybe of interest (not high profile, but involving highly respectable open source):

[OmniOS-discuss] The Future of OmniOS – discussion span off to

(Shreyas) #9

THIS! I can’t think of a better example. In fact, during the meetup, we also discussed “transfer of ownership” in communities. This example was brought up- when the community is your baby, it’s hard to let go or trust they would be safe in someone else’s hands.

Yes, this is another important point. When the community gets to a level where you need someone with accountability to manage it, that requires them being compensated for their time.

Just read through this. Alteast they’re not shutting down the communication channels like mailing lists. Sometime in the future if there’s someone who wants to take this up, there’s still scope.
Thanks for sharing this @graham_perrin!

Thanks everyone for your inputs!