Building an amazing application is... hard.
Even if you've got mad programming chops, building a high-quality piece of software can be a major challenge. And then what do you do once you've finished programming? Who handles support? Testing? Documentation? Design? Do you have a server admin to keep things running when your server gets slammed? How about marketing and press?
Doing all of this on your own is less than ideal.
Now, imagine doing this for an entire Linux Distro, with thousands of software packages that need to be updated, packaged, tested, served up and supported. Not exactly a walk in the park.
But, let's say you're crazy enough to want to start your own Linux Distro. How do you go about it so that you can actually create something...good?
You're going to need a community. A community of dedicated volunteers who work together in a structured (or semi-structured) way – all working towards a common goal.
Sounds great! But...how? How on Earth does someone manage to actually build a vibrant community that can sustain a large project like that? It seems an almost impossibly steep hill to climb.
Luckily, it's been done. And, even more luckily, it's been heavily documented in the book "The Art of Community" (also available on Kindle), written by none other than the Community Manager for Ubuntu Jono Bacon. If anyone is going to know how to organize a rag-tag group of Linux-loving nerds, it's this guy.
I'll be completely honest: When I first heard about this book, I thought it sounded dreadfully boring. "The Art of Community"? Sounds like a self-help book. And it seemed about as exciting as "701 More Ways To Organize Your To-Do Lists." (Which should totally be a real book.)
But, being as it was written by Jono Bacon, I had to give it a shot. You see, Jono is (or was) in a heavy metal band – and is not often known for being "dreadfully dull." And, you know what? The book wasn't boring. It was actually pretty damned helpful.
The book walks you through the steps required to set goals for building up your awesome new community, how to get started, tips for getting the word out and generating hype, tools and approaches for tracking progress and individual contributions, managing difficult contributors and a bunch of other tips and trips.
And it conveyed all of this information to me without making me want to stab myself in the face with a spoon, which is a pretty huge accomplishment for an "IT Management"-esque book.
Plus, Jono includes interviews on the topic with some pretty awesome folks. Linus Torvalds (you may have heard of him), Tim O'Reilly (I think he writes books about black-and-white animal photography or something), Jimmy Wales (writer of Farscape fan fiction) and...Mike Shinoda (he plays music and stuff).
Reading what these folks think about the topic of building, organizing, growing and maintaining communities is worth it alone. Before you jump in and start building the next big Linux distro, do yourself a favor and read this over.
But, honestly, if you have no involvement in any online communities...this isn't the book for you.
Then again, if you have no involvement in any online communities, why on Earth did you read this article?