The Lost Openmoko Community: Official newsletter?

Alex Osborne ato at
Mon Oct 6 10:11:20 CEST 2008

Steve Mosher wrote:
> Question: what functions do you see a community 
> manager performing. Write his job spec.
As I see it there's two main points that Risto and others have usually brought up on this topic, communication and leadership.


This is the big point that everyone always mentions.  You can't have
leadership without first a way to communicate effectively.  In my
opinion, the wiki is being covered pretty well now and is becoming a
really good _reference_.  So what is missing?

News!  News!  News!  The engineering updates are excellent once you've
discovered them.  The community updates by Steve leading up to the
release of the FreeRunner were also good.  The planet, as several people
have mentioned is a mixed bag, now and then there's good blog posts by
various people but there's too much off topic or personal stuff that
shouldn't be there and it's in desperate need of a way to filter by
language.  Sadsammy also pointed out in a reply to Risto's "Lost
Openmoko Community" blog post that these guys are doing fantastic job:

But they're not even in the planet!  (I just filed a bug to
admin-trac).  There's also not enough stuff from within Openmoko itself
in the planet, it should be a central place to look for news.

How is news handled elsewhere?  For small specialised projects a mailing
list and the lead developer's blog is fine.  But the Openmoko community
is extremely diverse covering lots and lots of different bases and is
rapidly growing in size.  It's not just a single software package, heck
it's not even a single distro!  So lets look to the big diverse
communities.  For general Linux stuff there is the absolutely fantastic
Linux Weekly News [1].  In addition to that, virtually all the large
community-style projects have their own newsletters, either weekly,
bi-weekly or monthly: Debian [2], Gentoo [3], Ubuntu [4], Fedora [5],
Mozilla [6] and so on. GNOME [7] and KDE [8] have a continuous
planet-style news rather than a newsletter, but they are edited by real
humans and serve much the same purpose and have recurring feature articles.

Lets look at what they have in common:

 * Visibility: If not directly on the front page, then a big fat link at
the start of the navbar "News".  Not hidden away in some mailing list
(although usually mirrored or announced on lists).

 * Well edited: Typically they have one *human* editor who puts
everything together in a consistent easy to read way and filters out the

 * Sections: The details vary a bit between the projects but in some
form they usually have the following.  Theses don't have to be
particularly long.  A paragraph or two on each section would do.

   -  Table of contents with highlights of the most important stuff from
the other sections.

   -  "Corporate" news:  What's happening in the core company (Mozilla),
council (Gentoo) or core developers (Linux kernel).  These decisions
have been taken.  This is the new policy for X.  We're opening a new
t-shirt store.  We're looking to hire a community manager and two kernel
hackers.  We will be having an IRC or real-life meeting to discuss issue
X at this time and place.  John Smith has moved to the Foobar team will
now be working on X.  This should help a little to give a voice to the
company, what are its interests and where it is going.

   -  Special features:  Two or three more in-depth articles on a
particular topic.  This could be a review of a new program, discussion
on a debate about a particularly tricky technical problem or a round-up
from a recent conference or event with a few photos.  It would be good
to have maybe one or two by the newsletter's editor and then some
good-quality articles by guest authors.  If there's a good article on
some random person's blog, ask them whether you can include it. 
Offering some incentives (merchandise, gear or even a small sum of money
like LWN) could help encourage people to submit good articles.

   -  Development news:  Digest of the more interesting commits to the
repositories of core projects.  Bug tracker statistics (list of fixed
bugs, how many news ones etc).  LWN has the mailing list quote of the
week, which often mixes a few funnies (whatever creative way Linus has
told someone their code stinks this week) with rather interesting
mailing list threads worth reading.

   -  Software release notices:  Generally submitted from the community,
but edited, or at least with a policy of how they should look to be
accepted.  Kept short and to the point.  One sentence description of
what the project is (maybe a little longer if its a new project), list
of big changes, link to the project's website or install instructions.

   -  Community events/announcements:  OpenMoko community get-together
in Sydney.  Upcoming mobile computing conference in Denmark.  New users
group in Italy looking for members.

   -  Tips and tricks:  This is not so general, but something I noticed
in Gentoo's newsletter and may be useful at this stage where we don't
have obvious GUI methods for doing everything.  We get useful hints on
how to do stuff all the time in the mailing list.  Just aggregate some
of the good ones with an attribution.  This could also be a could
oppurtunity to add them to the wiki as well for later reference.

This might be completely different to what you were thinking, but in my
opinion we need more of an editor than a "manager".




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