That is, the community.
If you’re looking for a steamy exposé on what can go wrong when a bunch of creative strangers start an organization, I’ll have to disappoint you here. But you might pry it out of me over a drink offline.
Instead I want to share the Big Gotchas that derailed us, in hopes that the knowledge can help someone else. I’m sure much of it will sound familiar to other organizers and leaders.
There’s no funds or funny stuff required. Visit Helsinki has arranged a contest where contestants’ photos are displayed in a Facebook media album and all you need to do is Like those of your favorite participant. In this instance, me.
And in case you need further motivation, as I noted in the previous post here I’m working on a book about maker communities. One of the coauthors, Jarkko Moilanen, works in Helsinki and I’d like a chance to get with him face-to-face for a bit. I also hope to interview former Maemo/MeeGo community members (now with Jolla) to get their perspective on collaborative communities.
I have many friends in Finland and several of them have jumped in to help. But so far it’s not nearly enough– I’m being beaten pretty soundly by another contestant and could use all the assistance I can muster.
All of this has been a lot of work, especially in my very conservative locale. Every time I hit some sort of social or functional wall, I think, someone should write a maker community how-to book.
And when a common political rant emerged on the hackerspaces.org general discussion list on that very subject, it all came together for me: *I* should write that book.
I’ve urged the Windows Developers in my outreach areas to enter their apps into Microsoft’s Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes on numerous occasions… but I haven’t really gone into just what that is.
The contest of course rewards a few randomly-selected developers and their community leaders each month for app submissions. There’s a lot more to Tech Affiliate, however, than monthly cash prizes.
I’m behind on publishing some content but an opportunity has come up that trumps just about everything else. Except beer and pizza. First the background.
Many of you know that for several years now I’ve been supporting creative communities, both on and offline. If I really want to date myself then this activity goes back further than I’ll usually admit, to a stint as a writing forum moderator in the heyday of America Online. Don’t judge: it meant free dial-up.
As you can see on LinkedIn, my more recent history has gone from Maemo to MeeGo to Windows Phone plus local Makers. An interesting mix of communities that has helped me understand myriad arguments for and against various platforms and preferences, as well as learn to socialize with creative types from all walks of life. This understanding has pushed my thinking above and away from the sort of religious dogma that can cripple a project, and in turn helped me (I think) be a really good all-around community leader. And even as I’ve helped Nokia’s efforts to pull in Windows Phone developers, I’ve kept a watchful eye on Jolla and kept fairly current with Qt developments. I even assisted Tuukka Ahoniemi with Qt outreach in Dallas (although other activities got in the way, something I would fix if I got this role).
Which leads me back to the opportunity.
Against all odds, I will be interviewing with Digia soon for an Online Community Manager position. Exciting! I think I’m the ideal candidate, and so do a few others who have already spoken on my behalf. But landing this position will take some serious effort: they really want someone situated in Norway, Finland or Berlin. I have to prove that I can do even better than someone in close proximity.
Now, I’ve done the remote working thing both voluntarily for the aforementioned communities and professionally for Nokia. I know I can perform this role with the same success. Heck, I’ve always said I can work from Antarctica as long as I had Internet. I just need to convince Digia.
To that end, I’m looking to the communities I serve for advice. What should I emphasize? In what areas do I still require polish? Feel free to add comments here. Be critical if you feel led. Or contact me privately, too.
I had a similar opportunity with Scarlet Motors at one point, and touched on that in an article about keeping a childlike aspect in communities, but unfortunately they lacked the means at the time to make it a paid position. The Digia role will be full time, and involves work I love and have been preparing for. I relish the opportunity to take lessons learned from other communities and see where it will support Qt’s desire for broader adoption.
I really, really want this job. Your feedback will help, and perhaps so will lobbying Digia. Make sure to hit Qt Project and Qt by Digia on twitter, as well as their Facebook page. After all, a good online community manager should mobilize Internet citizens, right?
In the last community update I included one upcoming hackathon and omitted some promotions. Time to rectify the latter and expand on the former!
Unity has a new contest going for Windows platforms. Big prizes involved! From their website:
Unity and Microsoft are inviting Unity developers to enter a new contest by submitting beautifully crafted, high-quality new or existing games or content for the upcoming Windows Store Apps and Windows Phone 8 platforms. Over $100,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to a number of talented and lucky winners.
Deadline is September 30, 2013. Get your game on now!
Finally, I missed that Microsoft Tech Affiliate had restarted the great APPortunity sweepstakes. Submit your apps for August ASAP.
Nothing to report yet– let me know if you discover any! In addition to online events, those in any region I cover will be promoted here.
Here’s more info on what’s coming (I will not attend all events and/or all times; more on that as details firm up):
UTD-Microsoft Windows 8 app dev workshop
August 20 9 AM to August 23 5 PM 2013
800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas (University of Texas at Dallas, ECSS 2.412)
UNT Startup Primer
September 6 6:00 PM to September 8 6:00 PM, 2013
Sycamore Hall 119, University of North Texas
307 Ave. B, Denton, TX 76201
UNT Music Hackathon
September 13 6:30 PM to September 15 8:30 PM 2013
1155 Union Circle #305189 Denton, TX (Innovation Greenhouse)
20 over 20 Hackathon
September 19 12:00 PM to September 22 4:00 PM 2013 (team announcement September 18)
315 S. Cesar Chavez Blvd, 2nd Floor, Dallas, TX 75201 (Dialexa)
AIGA DFW Hackathon with Open Dallas
September 21 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM 2013
2919 Commerce St, Dallas , TX,
HackerNest DFW September Tech Social
September 30 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
October 25 7 PM (optional meetup) to October 27 5 PM 2013
650 Griffin Street, Dallas, TX (Convention Center)
HackerNest DFW November Tech Social
November 25 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
Others with no firm dates (more details to follow):
Nokia DVLUP Day DFW
August? September? 2013
UNT Aged Well Hackathon
Mobile Monday DFW – Windows Phone App Showcase
October? November? 2013
UNT Energy Hackathon
Hope to see some of you at one or more of these events! Again, send me any I may have missed.
I’ve been focusing on building various channels for pushing community content, since I don’t want to force people into one that doesn’t suit them. I’ll post more on that later. But what’s kept me from developing this site as I want is a frustrating inability to find a theme that fits my goals.
This needs to be a community-oriented site, supporting the three areas in which I’m involved (Make, Windows Phone, and Qt in no particular order). But I’m unable to find a ready-made WordPress theme, free or premium, that works. I’ve tried several dozen with varying degrees of dissatisfaction.
I don’t have time or skill to develop anything, nor can I afford to pay for custom development, so that limits the possibilities.
Essentially I’ll need management of events, developer resources, contests and communications. I’ve found plugins I believe will support those but I still need a site framework that does.
“I deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to.”
As many of you know, I’ve been a Nokia Developer Champion for a couple of years now. Technically I was one (in deed only) since 2006; Nokia just formalized that with a certificate and a few very nice perks starting in late 2010.
I was brought into the official fold not for coding prowess but rather for Maemo community development. Which was cool, because that’s where I found the bulk of my volunteer efforts going; there were plenty of others fighting on the coding front and too few fretting over community growth and outreach processes. And as I explained to some Nokia developer relations guys after a pre-Nokia World get-together last year, there are champion developers, and developer champions.
While I’ve certainly performed my share of miraculous programming feats, these days I’m more of the latter.
Coders have enough to occupy their time without concerning themselves with outreach and evangelism. Many, I’ve found, have for whatever reason not fully developed the networking skills so necessary to project and product success. I was a late-bloomer myself, so I understand. But someone has to act as liaison between the more exceptional programers and the movers/shakers who can make things happen for their creations.
And as Tom Symkowski in the movie Office Space learned, the “go-between” is an often misunderstood and unappreciated role.
While Maemo looked to have a future, and then the same with its successor MeeGo, my form of “meddling” was at least tolerated and sometimes even embraced by the mostly-European community. Even technical cynics will accept The Devil (aka Marketing) when it’s clear, honest, and useful.
And on that note…
Maemo is gone as a platform. MeeGo survives in a Nokia-customized form on the N9 and N950, but has no future unless Jolla pulls off a miracle. And there is nothing in the Nokia pipeline to replace them.
So I’m left with a choice: follow Symbian champions out of the program, or get behind Windows Phone.
While some of my well-meaning friends in Europe see the choice as easy, it isn’t for me. For one, I’m not so antagonistic toward WP. Would I prefer to keep supporting Maemo or MeeGo? Oh HELL yes. But I’ve been developing for the Windows desktop and server worlds for about two decades now and I’m comfortable there. That said, Windows Phone development is not as open so I do admit to wrestling with that issue. If I am patient enough to stick with MeeGo, then that will be in whatever community may develop around Jolla, and Nokia dev champ membership has no relevance.
But here in the US, there are three mobile platform choices: iOS, Android, or WP.
I don’t intend to get into the first two and I’m not going to get into the reasons here. So that leaves the last (and last place) option.
I’ve helped organize a local (Dallas area) Windows Phone developer group and it’s been steadily growing… so there’s definitely interest. Even if I don’t write a single line of WP code, I can still help this group with support and networking while I’m an active Nokia Developer Champion. I’d love to do the same for Qt, but I’ve had no success with that effort so far.
My NDC term expires in October, and what’s announced at this year’s Nokia World event may well determine whether or not I pursue another one. Of course acceptance is really up to Nokia anyway.
No matter what, my hope is that friends who are opposed to Windows Phone can read this and understand that, although I completely understand and respect their position, I’m hoping they can grit their teeth, hold their noses and at least tolerate mine.
I’m really not sure where I go from here with regards to the mobile landscape. Maybe I’ll abandon it altogether and put volunteer work into 3D printing wholeheartedly. Maybe I’ll see what I can do for friends involved with Scarlet Motors. At this point I’m playing it by ear… and ideas are welcome.