Building Open Source Communities During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Jacqueline Salinas
Director of Ecosystem & Community

The CD Foundation (CDF) is an open-source community improving the world’s ability to deliver software with security and speed.

The foundation’s goal is to help you figure out your best DevOps path to being a high-performing team and how to use open source to get there. BUT how exactly are we able to execute this mission in 2020? Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when face-to-face interactions were prohibited?

Join this session to learn more about how I, Jacqueline Salinas, Director of Ecosystem & Community Development, and the CDF community worked to figure out how to transition our community and outreach activities from in-person to virtual.

This session will cover various case studies from the CDF community and practical approaches implemented to ensure engagement and growth from the comfort and safety of all of our homes. Walk away with the knowledge that is transferable to any community to ensure you are creating safe, inclusive, and diverse communities.

Video Transcript

Hi, welcome to SwampUP 2021. My name is Jacqueline Salinas and I am presenting on behalf of the continuous delivery foundation. Our session today is building open source community during the COVID pandemic. Okay. So like I mentioned, I want to welcome you to SwampUP 2021. The agenda for today is an introduction to the continuous delivery foundation.

 Meet your speaker, the importance of community best practices for how to build an open and transparent community, and also create the space and they will come. And then we’ll again, we’ll jump into some best practices for psychological safety, inclusivity and diversity.

 It takes a village, the strategic programs and results the CDF launched during 2020. And just some closing thoughts on five key takeaways for creating a healthy open source community. So the continuous delivery foundation for those of you who are not familiar with the CD Foundation, the goal of the CD foundation is that we are here to help improve the world’s capacity to deliver software with security and speed. And so some of you might be wondering, Well, what the what does that mean?

 You know, the organization is here to help establish best practices of software delivery and automation.

From the standpoint of people processes and technology. We are also here to help propel the education and adoption of continuous delivery tools throughout industries across the globe for both traditional and modern architecture. And lastly, we are here to help facilitate cross pollination across emerging technologies in order to improve the world’s capacity to produce products to help progress software updates with security and speed. So the CDF is led by a group of accomplished professionals that are passionate about delivering beautiful software, swiftly and simply. And we’re doing this by growing a worldwide user first collaborative ecosystem with the vision for the future.

 We serve as the home to new and mature projects dedicated to the CD model. We are creating a cohesive body of educational materials for practitioners, excuse me, for practitioners of all levels. And lastly, we are also helping establish governing bodies we govern with fairness and integrity and intention. So why would you want to join the CD foundation?

Well, whether you’re using selling or creating CD technologies, your membership at the foundation grants you unfettered access to proven methodologies, real time innovation, and a seat at the table to steer the conversation. So now, a little bit more about myself.

 I’m Jacqueline Salinas, Director of ecosystem and community development for the CDF. So as I mentioned, I am you probably have seen me around I usually am recruiting ambassadors.

 I am the host of the pipeline, our podcast, and also I do a lot of coordination for our events, and other strategic programs that we’ll cover here in this session today. So a little bit about my background.

 You know, I am based out of the land of enchantment, also known as New Mexico. And pre pandemic times, I actually lived on the west coast of the United States, mainly out of Seattle and Silicon Valley. I have been doing marketing and strategic programs for a long time now, I worked for Intel and AWS prior to joining the CDW foundation. Everything that I’ve worked on has been very developer marketing focused. I am new to open source, I love to travel, cook and eat. And I have way too many pets and I have been with the CD foundation since some some very early days. And like I mentioned, I also enjoy being the podcast host. So let’s jump into the importance of community. And I just want to open up this with an African proverb that I think about quite often when I’m working on these strategic programs. So if you want to go quickly go alone if you want to go far go together and I think this is a perfect representation of how community can really Be a powerful vehicle to your business. So what does community mean?

 I wanted to open up this session with a little bit of just defining what community is. And I will, you’ll understand this as we go throughout the session, why it’s important to keep that definition of community in your head. So as Merriam Webster tells us, a group of living people, excuse me, a group of people living in the same place or having a common characteristic.

Another similar definition is a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals, the sense of community that organized religion can provide and this is, like I mentioned, just an example of some of the definitions of what community is. But I want to challenge this because I feel like it just didn’t really cover what open source community means. I think it is a group of people, I think we have a common goal. But it just was missing something for me. So I will show you how, in my role as director of ecosystem and community, what community ended up meaning to me and how I was able to also shape the CDF community with some of the already inherited communities that the CDF had from it’s incubating projects. So one of the other things I want to recommend for those of you who are starting out as community managers, or who are interested in building your own community, whether it be for your brand, for your, you know, employer for an open source, or, you know, if you’re starting a meetup for whatever type of community, take a look at Jonno, Bacon’s book called People Powered, it is a great template for those who are new to building communities.

I wish I had found this book much earlier in my journey into developing a community for the CDF, because it has some really great frameworks, some really great templates that you can leverage to get started. So don’t forget about this, you know, one of the things that he talks about is the bacon method. And these are really great.

 Just, you know, like I said, templatized features and ideas on community building that will really, really help you when when starting out. So I also recommend to take a look at open source communities, other open source communities, you know, one of the things that was very helpful when starting this journey for me was having a mentor in the cncf community that said, Hey, take a look at everything already that has, that we’ve created, you can reuse it, take you know, and that’s totally fine, because that’s the goal of open source is to share these best practices, and to share these templates.

 Because it doesn’t have to be that complicated to create a healthy community. And I also make, you know, the other recommendation I will make is to check out other brand ambassador programs, private labels have created communities that are super powerful, and that have kept their fans and their community members engage. So I also that’s another recommendation and tip that I want to give folks. So let me give you a little bit of background into the journey that I went through when I was creating the CDs ecosystem.

 You know, one of the things that was very unique about the CD Foundation was that we were inheriting for projects already that had established communities all were in different maturity points of their of their lifecycle journey, which was okay. And like I said, it was also very helpful to already have a network to tap into, and to ask for help and to figure out, you know, what, how they engage their community and what they did to really keep that interest. So, one of the things that we did, three strategies were kicked off in parallel in 2019 to 2020. So we have in person events in 2019, and had plans to also execute our big annual inaugural, and then CD con in person. And we also had defined channels of communication and education.

 We kicked off the creation of the ambassador program. Now 2020 happens COVID-19 hits the world. And this resulted in us having to do a hard left shift in a new direction. So a lot of the programs that were launched, we had to modify them a little bit. And we had to adjust them to the pandemic.

 Now, one of the things that we didn’t have in 2019 was the podcast, the webcast and virtual events. And that is what changed in 2020, for us is that we realized that we needed to be digital that we needed to be easily digestible and accessible to our communities. So like I mentioned, the difference. And the unique situation that I found myself in is that I was inheriting already some communities. But I also had the support of the governing board, which was, you know, sometimes that’s the hardest thing to, to achieve.

 One of the things that they did was that they already had designed nine strategic goals that they wanted to focus on in 2012, in 2019, and 2020. So I had a, as already a plan that I can start to figure out how to create strategic programs to support those nine strategic goals and to be able to reach them. So that’s also one of the things that I want to discuss with folks and that I want to emphasize very clearly in this session is you need a plan, you need a plan, you need a plan. And if you do not, you know, stick to that plan, sometimes creating a sometimes creating a community could be very challenging. So some advice on community building, from you know, like I mentioned, the method, bacon, the bacon method, and some key learnings from the john bacon book, People Powered communities are very, very powerful for powerful vehicle for you, they can help supercharge your business, your brand, and your teams, this session, and also the method from john Oh, bacon is not a silver bullet, it this recipe might not work for you. So just something that to keep in mind. And that you might have to do a lot of modification depending on who your audience is. But you know, also don’t fret, you know, we are sharing what worked for us. And we’re sharing our experience and hopefully this can inspire you to create your own plan, and to modify it to fit your needs. And like I mentioned, this is a template, but it’s a starting point for you.

 It is not, for example, like I said, the recipe that you have to follow step by step, you can take whatever works for you. Building a community is a marathon, it is not a sprint, it’s going to take several iterations of continuous modifications to improve and grow your community to a healthy, thriving state. Understand the psychology of people and how they engage with each other.

This is very challenging, and this is why it’s going to take several iterations because it’s a lot of, you know, trial and error and some testing and research. And also, I really, really want to recommend people to get to know their community, you need to build those relationships with them.

 You need to earn their trust, and you also, you know, leverage them and reach out to them. So for me, 2020, going remote, being in a quarantine led to some very unhappy times with a lot of questions.

 Some of the questions that I kept asking myself was, how do I build a community during a pandemic? and virtual?

What does a community need during a pennant the times of a pandemic? And what do we do to keep people engaged. So here are some tips and tricks from the bacon method. And this is this is some of the value that you are going to get out of building a community for yourself, for your company, etc.

 Customer and user engagement. So the communities are a great vessel for building relationships between a business and a customer. AKA brand loyalty easy way to start creating brand loyalty, awareness, marketing, and customer or user success.

 This is these people are going to help you create buzz and awareness about your product or service.

 Here are your ground troops, education and support.

 These folks will tend to be very enthusiastic users and will help you produce content content I can’t emphasize how important it is, in order to just generate that brand awareness in order to educate people about what your product or service, you know, how it works, how, how to get people started, it’s the first what some of the first things you need to produce to just get people into your funnel. So aka, like I said, content and storytelling, these people are going to be able to tell your story in the way that you want to as long as you’re helping, you know, given them those key messaging, also helping them produce that content, how do you make it easy for them to, to submit content to you, etc. And then product and tech development, you know, the magic of open source is attracting new contributors, who can produce new features, who can help you with bug fixes and security. And then again, business capabilities, you know, these folks can eventually be employees for you, they can also produce a ton of, you know, user experience information and insights. And they are just a powerful resource for helping you lead, do some lead generation and networking. So some best practices on how to build an open and transparent community, which is something that will help you create healthy engagement, and, you know, create a space for individuals who you know, are going to are going to have fun and help you with in your, in your business journey, for example. So I took this diagram from people powered, and I thought it was a very simple way of figuring out, how do we engage? And how do we retain our community members. So first, you have to make your community accessible.

 That means creating channels of communication. Also figuring out how to make them contribute, collaborating easy, how do people contribute to to your community, for example, how, you know, GitHub is a great tool for documentation, etc, you know, submitting a bug, fix that kind of stuff? And also, how do we ensure that we respect each other? And also how do we collaborate with dignity?

 You know, what kind of impact and belonging all these things are very key to figuring out how do we retain community members. So it like I said, it’s a social experiment, it’s a lot of relationship building, to try to keep that in mind when you’re building a community. So for us, one of the things that we did was just to ensure that we have several channels, where our community can interact with each other and can interact with us. So you know, these are different types of channels that you can create so that people can communicate with you or with each other email setting up a dedicated email account, whether it be for just random questions, or, you know, very specific, like, if the website is down, or they can’t collaborate, or they can’t contribute, you know, making sure that there is a some sort of service desk is important.

 We, for instant communication, we use Slack, other communities use Discord.

 Like I said, whatever platform you choose to use, just making sure that there is a way for individuals to communicate with you, instantly, social media, you know, again, figuring out what are the platforms where your audience hangs out is important, whether it’s a Reddit whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. And like I said, service desk, also known as an issue tracking system, whether it’s GitHub Trello, Monday, it doesn’t matter.

 Just setting that up and letting people know how to create an account how to, you know, submit an issue, all of that is very important. And we’ll also covering documentation.

 The next is a blog. You know, for us, we had five communities, we have grown to six now, where there’s a lot of information on how to get started on new feature releases, you know, community information that needs to get disseminated to everybody and having a blog.

 Sometimes it’s the same people, you know, leadership might want to just write, like that feature announcement in a blog format. And that’s also an easy way for people to always have a channel to reference and understand and know where to get education material from.

 You know, for us, I knew that people were going to be home. And for me, it was important to create content that was digital and easily, you know, digestible. That’s why I decided to go with the podcast and webcast format. So these were two programs as well, where, you know, the strategy when we’re creating content for these two channels is our can we can we teach something in under an hour, preferably, sometimes under 30 minutes, even better. So that’s what drives that content in their tutorial calendar for those programs, meetups meetups went from in person to virtual, you know, we leverage soom, to host online meetups as well. And then virtual events, this was where we had to have a hard pivot. Because, you know, part of our business model is to host in person conferences. Well, we couldn’t do that last year, we really can’t even do that this year. This is why we’re here at swamp up 2021. Again, right. So we too, decided to launch our inaugural event CD con, as a virtual event. And that also permitted us to have just a larger reach in individuals.

 We still, you know, in the back of our minds want to have in person events, obviously, that is not going to happen until restrictions change. But that is also another way for you to reach your audience and surveys, you know, you get try to get a pulse of how people are feeling about your community.

 One of the things I recommend, and this is again, because we are an open source model is creating some sort some sort of org chart so that people understand what that hierarchy of leadership looks like, what are the governing bodies, who are the governing bodies, so that they also understand how to interact and how and the proper way of escalation as an example, as well. So for the CD Foundation, we have a governing board that is made up of our premier members. And then we have the technical Oversight Committee, and then the outreach committee.

 These are the three major governing bodies of the CD foundation. And underneath them, we have several subgroups as well. So that’s also a model that you that you can follow, for example.

 For us, it was also important to communicate what those benefits are when you join as a community member, whether you’re a paying member that supports the CD foundation or contributor of a of one of the child projects that the seamy foundation manages. And for us, you know, one of the things why we exist is because we want to show industry leadership, right, we want to be thought leaders, we want to be able to create content that positions us and our members as thought leaders, because we are very, you know, one of the driving goals for us is that we do want to drive the future of what software delivery looks like.

 The second is, you know, we want to help our members, increased brand awareness of their of their products and services, and also be able to just drive that recognition to them.

 We also want to help engage our technical communities, and we want to be able to connect them connect our members and our projects and and our contributors. And we just want to help facilitate the network with with a with within the open source community. So some of the things that we did, like I mentioned, we launched some webinars, we launched some podcast, we started hosting community events, whether it was through meetup or virtual or virtual events, we launched the blog and also a monthly newsletter, and also leverage social media platforms to facilitate networking and sharing that news. So again, one of the things that if you’re building a brand new community process process and more process, defining these processes is going to be the first step in your plan, to making sure that you can create a community that is open and transparent. So that’s why documenting what your governance model looks like.

 How to contribute to the channels of communication, all of that is really, really important. And making sure that people, you know, run it through various people have people run through that process, it’s very important.

 Otherwise, you get distracted and you lose sight of your of your goals and your plan just goes out the window. And then it’s really hard to actually hurt the cat.

 So create the space and they will come maybe. So this is for us, again, a little bit of more insight into the story of how I created the ambassador program. So I realized early on in my community building journey that I needed help, that I was not going to be able to do this alone. Yes, I could build things very quickly. But at the same time, I wasn’t going to go very far, if I didn’t have the help and contribution of community members, so I launched the community ambassador program in February of 2020.

 I created a landing page and the GitHub repo.

 Here I outlined what the role requirements would be what some time commitments and expectations would be, what the role and responsibility was and some of the benefits.

 After doing some research and interviewing several community members and meetup organizers, one of the things that I heard was that, you know, these are individuals who are very passionate about community building, they host meetups, they are organizers, they are trying to bring people together and herd the cats, they were investing their own money in swag. So I decided to one of the benefits of becoming a community Ambassador was you would receive this community Ambassador kit, which included a T shirt and stickers to give to your community. Of course, last year was a total bust and being able to distribute any of these stickers because we didn’t have in person events. But it was a really awesome way to recognize these high achievers and these passionate individuals. So we were able to grow the ambassador program to 51 total members. As you can see, this is a snapshot of the community Ambassador page on the CD foundation page. And it has all 51 profile profiles of the community ambassadors for you to check out. So best practices for psychological safety, inclusivity and diversity. So some of the tenants that I went to, that I really believe in when it comes to psychological safety.

 These in the first of all, the term was coined by the Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson. And she defines psychological safety as the belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes. So this is really important when you’re building community because if you don’t have a community where people feel comfortable coming to you making escalations calling out mistakes, you’re not going to have a healthy community. And that’s extremely challenging for us, when you’re working in open source, we have to have those, we have to have that trust, it’s just part of earning it. So some of the recommendations that we make when you are trying to establish psychological safety for your community is work to learn. Let individuals learn from their mistakes.

 You know, failure is part of life failure is a feature it’s not a bug. You know, it’s part of the journey to success. Also acknowledge that we all have flaws. No one is perfect. I’m not perfect, you know, recognize that move on.

 Don’t guilt, somebody, don’t punish somebody because that is a sure way to lose a community member. Be curious, you know, don’t play the blame game, understand what went wrong, document it so that other individuals in the future can learn from that experience can hopefully avoid that mistake and move on from it. Just you know, focus on go into solution mode and find out how to just solve the problem and move on. So a little bit more on diversity and inclusion.

 I think, you know, this goes beyond race and ethnicity and gender. I think we need to understand that in our global community.

 There has been a really big shift in diversity and inclusion. So what diversity nowadays should include. And like I said, it goes beyond just race and ethnicity and gender, sexual orientation.

 But take a look at this list, you know, is your community diverse and race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation, meaning just different types of ages are represented disabilities, personality types, thinking style, all of this is important in order for us to create diversity in our community. And we know that when there are diverse, we know that more diverse communities and inclusive communities tend to be more innovative and thrive. So learn how to build an inclusive environment there. For example, if you go to the Linux Foundation training, there are modules out there that help train and under help you understand how to build an inclusive environment. So education here is very important.

 There’s plenty of white papers out there, and research to help you understand and then help you build that inclusive community. And again, user multiple, use multiple practices and modules, right.

 There’s mentoring programs, there’s resource groups, you can create, you know, talent manager, management, companies can also help you strategic partnerships that you can leverage, you know, and also, like I mentioned, e learning modules, to train yourself on on what that means to be a diverse and inclusive community. So one of the things that the CD Foundation, you know, early on leadership recognize that diversity and inclusion is a very important thing to the CD foundation and its community members. So one of the ways that we wanted to walk the walk was to ensure that our speaker lineup for the event CD con, and included more female speakers, more people of color, just we ensured that when we were reviewing with the program committee, how to build that speaker lineup. And in program, we that was something that we always had in the back of the mind, does it meet this certain criteria. So one of the big wins for us for CB con 2020 was being recognized by the by the chaos project. And we they were they awarded us with the gold badge for diversity and inclusion because our speaker lineup was made of 40% of diverse candidates, which we are really proud of and worked very hard towards.

 The other thing that we did was we created a group called CDF. And this is a LinkedIn group that initially started out more as a bulletin board for women, we used to share, draw, we share jobs, we share events, speaking opportunities, networking opportunities, and in 2021, we kicked off with an event called level up your DevOps career. And this was an event specifically for women or who are for individuals who identify with a female gender. And this was made up of three of our community members, they came and joined us to talk about basically, you know, what, what are some tips and tricks to get a career in DevOps as from the perspective of a woman, so that was also really another way for us that like I said, we are walking the walk. And again, for us, and something that I want to convey is it takes a village, so you can’t do things alone. It’s, if you can, I don’t want to discourage people from but you will go farther when you and gauge the health of the community. So these are some strategic programs and results from last year.

 As I mentioned, we have a blog. And these this is how this are some of the blog stats from 2020.

 Compared, you know, and how much we grew because of the contribution from the community. So we were able to publish 172 posts for 2019.

 That was a 900% growth.

 We also the blogs drove 33,000 page views 33.7 1000 page views, that’s quite a bit of traffic to our CD foundation site. And people were spending about two and a half minutes reading this. So again, open the channels of communication.

 You know, if it had just been me trying to write blogs, I would not have been able to accomplish 170 172 blogs.

 That was all of the community and without their contribution, it would not have been achieved. Again, I launched the podcast.

All of our guests in the first year were community ambassadors were members from the governing board, where members from the steering committee or outreach committee board. So again, I could not have done this without them.

 We wrapped up the year with over 7500, podcast downloads, again, all things to the community. And we published 25 episodes, and we’re able to launch Season Two at the beginning of January. And here are some examples of those episodes.

 Lastly, the other thing, lead generation, as I mentioned, we were able to grow over 1,000% in leads. And again, we could not have done it if the community had not also been helping me staff virtual event booths, for example, that is, you know, by by the CDF attending several third party events, we were able to, to generate a lot of leads the ambassadors, I leveraged that group to help staff because again, it was really a team of one and see the con.

 You know, when we launched CB con in October 2020, we reached over 1300 people, they registered and we had a 71% attendance rate. So about 900 people showed up to the event.

 We saw people from 84 different countries across six continents, we were also able to engage over 900 different companies in their participation, whether they were sponsors or were their attendees, or speakers. And we were also able to raise $119,000 in sponsorships and you know, meeting about 84% of our sales goal for that event.

 This is our community, we are so proud to have them be part of it. And what the incredible thing was is that for CB con 2021 we were able to grow into just, you know, a massive presence, we are launching a day zero event get up summit. And then we are also hosting Spinnaker summit. And then like I mentioned CD con we have our goal is 3000 registrations. And as of today we are over 2000. And so we’re looking very much forward to just continually growing our community and offering educational resources to them such as CD Cod.

 Again, the speakers are community members from the ambassador program, or from member companies, or from other open source communities, where they’ve been able to come to the CDF and find a home as well. So just some closing thoughts and five key takeaways to creating a healthy and open source community.

 Understand what community means and what it means to you understand how to leverage existing resources to help you define start your community.

 Like I said, look at open source communities. That’s the point of open source is to share.

 If you need to borrow their you know how they set up a governing body or their charter. Feel free to do that. That’s the point. Take a look at Jonno, Bacon’s book People Powered, it’s an excellent template to get you started. Create a plan and stick to it. Just trust me too many distractions. It just won’t work. Define your channels of communication so that you can facilitate that interaction with stakeholders. Document your process and rules of engagement and investigate what motivates your community to stay engage and iterate.

 Thank you so much for joining me today.

 I am Jacqueline Salinas, Director of Community at the CD foundation.

 Thank you.

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