The 90-9-1 rule and building an open source community

Jakob Nielsen talks about the 90-9-1 rule in his latest Alertbox newsletter: "Participation inequality: encouraging more users to contribute". Simply put, the rule states that in a typical online community, 90% of the users are lurkers, 9% are occasional contributors, and only 1% are active contributors. This should be interesting for people trying to build and grow open source projects. Nielsen has some suggestions to offer on how to overcome this "participation inequality". Read the article for his suggestions.

Here are some of my own observations and lessons learned from various open source efforts I've been part of (many of them are things I've tried to do on the Pybots project):

How to build an open source community

* Blog, blog, blog
* Send messages to mailing lists related to the area of your project
* Write extensive documentation, make it easy for people to join
* Create a project repository (Google Code)
* Get help from early adopters, involve them in the project

How to sustain and grow an open source community

* Blog, blog, blog
* Send messages to individuals who might be interested in contributing
* Acknowledge contributions
* Respond quickly to issues on mailing list
* Demonstrate usefulness of the project, both to contributors, and to any organizations involved (e.g. the PSF)
* Market/promote/evangelize the project tirelessly
* Recommended reading: "Fearless change: Patterns for introducing new ideas" by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising

Comments about your own experience in building an open source community are much appreciated.


Fuzzyman said…
Smaller projects can be reassured though.

If you have a project with a few vocal users and one or two contributors, then there are probably about thirty or forty *real* users out there. :-)
Chad Whitacre said…
Noticed this $500 tutorial contest, and thought it would make a good addition to your list here.
Grig Gheorghiu said…
Yeah, offering $$$ is always a good thing to build anything, including open source software/communities.

Thanks for the comment and for the link, Chad!

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