The biggest thing with open source work is that it can be pretty thankless. There is a lot more that goes into a open source project then just some lines of code, there is events, documentation, API documentation, PR material, more documentation, websites, build setups, etc. It’s quite easy to just look at a project on GitHub, check out the graphs and see the top contributors and never think about it again. Because the code is all that matters right?
All hail Jürgen and Nyall!
Getting back to the point. There is a lot of stuff that goes into an open source project that can go unnoticed and under appreciated. Stuff that isn’t code is hard to track. Do you know who maintains the QGIS website? What about who translates the UI? What about who ran the last dev meetings? These projects are non code related but are normally things that go unnoticed or under appreciated simply because it’s not a fancy chart in GitHub. Making people feel welcome and appreciated in a project normally leads to a higher retention rate and a better overall feel for the project. I remember when I was first thanked for the work I added to QGIS and how it made me feel, still here doing the same thing so it must have worked pretty well.
At PyCon AU 2015 Katie McLaughlin gave a talk about welcoming contributions to a project and being generally being nice to people. Not just being nice but actively thanking people for what they do and how it makes you feel. People generally put a lot of time into the projects they involve themselves in knowing you are appreciated makes you feel good.
Katie got the idea for the project from the talk and post titled A Place to Hang Your Hat by Leslie Hawthorn. It seems like a silly title but read it and it will all make sense.
Her sub text makes the perfect summary:
On getting many good things done. And no one knows you’re doing any of it.
I’m not going to copy the post here but I will steal her tl;dr part:
- If someone has volunteered to help your project, take the time to write a 2-3 sentence summary of what they did to help.
- You can send it to them, along with a thank you note, or offer to post it on their LinkedIn profile. (Remember, users can approve recommendations before they’re added to their profile.)
- Let’s spend some time celebrating our successes and all of our contributions! Let folks know you’re celebrating that success using #LABHR as a hashtag.
- #LABHR stands for Let’s All Build a Hat Rack. For why its an awesome acronym, you have to read the post.
And here is the example post she makes:
Deb Nicholson, Board Member, Open Hatch
While not strictly related to her work as an OpenHatch board members, Deb has given me invaluable counsel on fundraising for various non-profits I’ve been affiliated with. She’s also trained numerous community members on how to perform in-person advocacy for free and open source software projects, and software patent reform. As part of that training, she’s also convened numerous meetings and round tables to help people get things done in the open source world. She performs all this work with grace and patience for our sometimes difficult personalities. She’s brilliant and utterly unflappable. Cannot recommend her work highly enough.
So go ahead. Write something nice about someone and what they have done. Send it to them, blog about it, put it in Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.