Protecting communities against entitlement


(Shreyas) #1

I was watching this video of Jono Bacon talking at edX and one of the things he spoke was about was how community members, mostly in open source and tech communities, develop of a sense of entitlement over time and that decreasing their productivity. I’d like to know if you had any instances of this in your community and what you did to overcome that.

How does this look like in a community? I think this is also related to the Old Guard, New guard system.


(Sarah Hawk) #2

What does productivity refer to?
Their level of engagement in the community / commitment to the OS codebase?


(Shreyas) #3

Oh, I was quoting Jono there. But if I had to say, I’d probably go with their level of engagement in the community. I’ve seen entitlement become an issue mostly in open source communities. Specifically in instances where the same set of community members get more speaking opportunities, invites to events etc. even if they aren’t actively contributing to projects anymore.

I was wondering if someone here experienced this in some form in their communities and would love to know how they dealt with it.


(Jay Pfaffman) #4

Well, I haven’t seen the talk, but my gut reaction is that those activities are as important as the code itself. Unlike diamonds, software is more valuable when more people have it. Evangelizing and bringing attention to the software and getting people excited about it is important work. For example, if one could spend a couple days at a conference and attract 10 people to contribute code, it’d better for the community than sitting at home writing code for those same 2 days. Arguably, the set of skills needed to be a good programmer are, at best, orthogonal to those needed to be a decent speaker.


(Shreyas) #5

Absolutely! I think the problem statement here is the same set of volunteers being presented with the opportunity. This makes it difficult for new contributors to come in even though they possess the required skills.


(Richard Millington) #6

I can’t speak directly for the open source community. But I think what Jono is referring to is that once members feel they have made it on the popularity scale, they contribute less to open source projects which is the main goal of the community.

We used to see this a lot in the video gaming sector. Once players had made it to the top level they wouldn’t tend to stay there for long. They lost their hunger to work hard. It turns out that at some point most people stopped working for love of the project or intrinsic reasons and instead sought to increase their fame and status.

I don’t have an easy solution other than to prevent the old guard from silencing the voices or activities of the new breed.


(Shreyas) #7

I’m fairly ignorant about gaming communities but I’d like to know if that because they get a sense of gratification and there’s nothing more to gain/do in the community? In most open source communities, I’ve noticed that there’s a focus on contributor-centered participation experience, by exploring what drives people to contribute to open source projects and to gain a better understanding of their experiences.

Yes! This is a problem in communities outside of gaming, as well.

Perhaps the community could be stuctured in such a way that the old guard mentors/hand holds new members- giving them a sense of responsibility(just thinking out loud). Keeping the old guard engaged and showing them the value is an interesting problem for community managers to solve.


(Delfin Vassallo) #8

As mentioned entitlement could be a real pain in the neck, overall when the old guard starts to clash with the new gens pushing boundaries. It’s not just a “community problem” but a human problem.

Back in the days when I was managing the Nokia Communities we had some issues, the old guard was too used to get free phones too often as a perk. Some members became excessively demanding.

We opted to arrange Skype calls with the top 10-15 to take it more personal and direct, and it seemed to work when talking to the group, but in private conversations, it was still there, high demands and even blackmailing-type of things, all that peppered with politics and the overall corporate situation.

I guess it’s much more about human psychology and how to handle.


(Shreyas) #9

This is indeed a problem on so many levels. When the project is at a nascent stage, it makes sense for the org to invest in rewarding contributors. But as it scales, it’s just not feasible to do that.
At one point, the old guards stop contributing because they don’t get new stuff any more and the new members are under the impression that no matter what they do, only the old guards get stuffs from the organization. In efffect, no one contributes. [quote=“Delfin_Vassallo, post:8, topic:4501”]
We opted to arrange Skype calls with the top 10-15 to take it more personal and direct, and it seemed to work when talking to the group, but in private conversations, it was still there, high demands and even blackmailing-type of things, all that peppered with politics and the overall corporate situation.
[/quote]

Love that you had 1-1 conversations. I think that really helps on some level. But as you have mentioned, there’s nothing you can do to control private conversations.