The Lost Openmoko Community ( what's a community manager to do?)

Stroller stroller at
Tue Oct 7 09:47:43 CEST 2008

On 6 Oct 2008, at 22:19, Steve Mosher wrote:
> Stroller wrote:
>> One of the things that Risto was complaining about was the number  
>> of distros for the Freerunner, and "they're all incomplete!!"
>> His words "why don't the developers feel ok to contribute directly  
>> to 2007.x and 2008.x but 'fork' their own distros?" echo my own  
>> complaints a couple of months ago in my message "Community  
>> contributions to core apps & features" 9 weeks ago.
> ...
> It was clear that this too would cause division. I guess you could say
> we embraced fragmentation, well aware of the pitfalls.

I think that it's easy for people to complain about the "pitfalls"  
without seeing - at the moment - how successful the "forks" are. The  
common complaint is "duplication" of effort - which then leads to a  
desire for "one true" distro - but considering how much the situation  
has improved in only a few weeks this doesn't seem to be a problem.

When you start thinking about "one true" distro you naturally start  
thinking that it's Openmoko's responsibility to manage it, and  
"democratic" (or "consensus" based) community contributions, and I  
think this is 1/3 of what Risto was complaining about (bugs /  
distros / information).

>> So the only answer to this IS to have more distros. And really,  
>> anyone complaining about the state of the current software stacks  
>> should have been here 3 months ago. Back then it was "Openmoko  
>> shouldn't have shipped broken hardware with this GPS bug!" Isn't  
>> that now all fixed in the kernel drivers? No-one who sees how much  
>> the situation has improved is complaining now.
>  We actually like the fact that there are competing distros. The one  
> unique thing we offer is the freedom to choose your distro and  
> choose your carrier.

Yes, indeed! And thank goodness! Otherwise we'd all be stuck with  
Sean's blue-sky vision. Thank goodness it's an unpopular one  ;)   
since it has lead to all these other great distros!

>> Build the product and the community will come to you!
>> It already has, it's just a little too early for everyone to see  
>> the fruits of this.
>  yes. my question is can we optimize the effort. Again, open question.
>  negative feedback is as welcome ( in due course) as positive  
> feedback.not to pat you
>  on the back stroller, but when Sean and I talk we almost invariably
>  discuss your perspective on things.

I'll be glad to bill you for my time.  ;)

>> We already have Michael Shiloh providing weekly community updates  
>> (ahem) - IMO a "community manager" would just be a distraction from  
>> Openmoko's real business. You should be concentrating on the  
>> hardware, and if you're employing an additional member of staff  
>> then make it a kernel programmer, so that your hardware runs more  
>> smoothly for the distros that evolve around it. Or get FSO complete  
>> sooner, so that (again) all the distros benefit.
>  Well engineering hiring continues day in and day out. As VP of  
> marketing it's part of my job to find ways to make use of this
> wonderful asset, the community> I'll give you an example. At linux
> world I faced a huge problem. Two booths. and a marketing staff of  
> two.
> me and michael. And a sales staff of two. Whats missing? somebody with
> technical knowledge at the booth. Should I ask for an engineer to  
> attend the trade show? Nope, I asked the community to step forward  
> and man the booths with us. When the press came to talk to me, I  
> pointed them at the
> community member who gave them the unvarnished truth. At first PR  
> thought I was insane, later they changed their minds. Now, for  
> example,
> I cant coordinate this kind of effort all the time for every show  
> around the world. Is that a job for a full time trade show manager  
> or a community manager? I don't know, I'm at the stage of kicking  
> around ideas. Some of them should get kicked in the head, others in  
> the butt.
> But its not a distraction. me dragging engineers off of projects to  
> support trade shows is a distraction, to use a concrete example.

 From outside it's obviously difficult to appreciate how busy you are.  
I always assumed you spent your days drinking lattes & playing  
fussball in the trendy corporate offices.  ;)

I don't know that this example - better co-ordination of PR &  
marketing - actually resolves Risto's complaints. There definitely IS  
a place for users like him to report bugs and test daily builds, and I  
don't see how to make him - or others like him - see that if they  
can't already appreciate that from what's already out there.

He asks "I don't know what's the development status of the software or  
what's the general direction the community and/or Openmoko is heading  
to?" - well, the answer to that is surely "improving the software",  
and it's happening the same way that it happens in every other open- 
source product. People are writing their own little apps, porting  
others, writing blog posts and HOWTOs, answering questions on the  
mailing list.

The community is like an avalanche - it may at the moment not be so  
huge, but it already has momentum, and it's growing all the time. If  
the naysayers can't see the community yet, then they surely will soon!


More information about the community mailing list