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Greg McVerry

Onboard Through Blogging: Open Source Training

3 min read

As an open source community  your front door must invite potential contributors to walk right in. Yet many spaces fill their most forward looking properties full of jargon and or well established practices not easily identifiable to outsiders.

Might as well put a Keep Out sign on your front door.

We need to find new ways to invite people in. This often includes onboarding. Some open source communities have very formal governance structures and may require training, others may have explicit systems for issues, pull requests, and commit files.

The snark that scored when n00bs violated social norms can no longer stand today. Instead we need to socialize new members into our ways of being as we always have in apprenticeship models.

Use Blogs for Onboarding

As long time contributors to Mozilla we often tried to push contributor onboarding through open pedagogy. Specifically within the learning programs in the now sunsetted learning programs run by Mozilla Foundation and in MOOCs set up by different communities within MoFo.

MoFo chose a different path and went with a commercial training and testing platform. The lure of ease of prescriptive technology and the ability to quickly generate data to write reports provided to sweet a deal.

We believe blogging provides open source communities a better option because:

  • Open Pedagogy- We know this works when people have shared values of open.
  • Shared Identity- A blog empowers people to embrace identity formation encourage their identities to be a part of the communities.
  • Spread Your Message-You do open source for a reason. Why not encourage others to tell the world?
  • Better Data- While multiple choice  test produce pretty pictures they often get framed in bad data. People blow through online quizes making them meaningless. When you make task relevant you can trust the data it produces.

How to Set-Up Learning Tasks

Look at your current onboarding documents. Most if not all you could turn into blogging tasks.

If not you can choose a well defined path where you encourage the publishing I milestone posts, "I just did X after completing Y." You can also design more open ended and reflective tasks.

Trust me you will enjoy the freedom of of designing learning modules not answered in mutliple choice questons.

Even if your onboarding in your community is just walking someone through their first pull request encourage participants to publish a post when done.

Not Everyone has a Blog?

Did your teacher ever correct you for showing up to class without a pen or pencil? Isn't showing up to an open source community without a website the same thing?

Now many children in school live an existence where thjey may not have access to pencils and this inequity gets compounded in life to a point where we can understand why someone may not yet have a website. Then, just as our schools should, we need to asisst or members and provide basic literacy tools.

You can link to tutorials on setting up free blogging tools on commercial hosting sites. As a community invest in  a domain and provide subdomains to anyone who can not afford the real life cost or need the anonymity of not paying and registering for a domain.

As an open source community we must band together and help build a better web. We can do this by encouraging blogging across our networks. Why begin where it all begins at onboarding?


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