AOC Chapter 9

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Ch 9: Leading and Motivating a Community

 (Suggested Vinette – Linus Torvalds, Ned Gulley matLabs, Chris Messina BarCamp)

(Suggestion: talk to Ori Brafman, who just wrote the amazing book, The Starfish and the Spider: the unstoppable power of leaderless organizations. In it, he wrote about catalysts, not traditional leaders...he used open source, but also historical movements and the totally decentralized world of P2P.)


It is not unusual for an online community to start with a few people and mushroom into a very large community with hundreds or thousands of worldwide contributors. As the project grows, it becomes difficult for the originator to manage it effectively, and a tiered structure with additional maintainers and contributors is frequently created to manage the community. Linux is the classic example of this phenomenon. Linus Torvalds wrote the initial code base for the Linux kernel alone; however, Linux now has a complex structure with maintainers for sub-projects and individual releases. Mediation, handling crises, and delegating to other community members are key management functions, and leadership styles vary from meritocracy vs. benevolent dictatorship.

Planning to Scale:

Danger in waiting too long to plan for success. Horror stories about Howard Dean blogsphere and OpenOffice binary distribution issues.

Embrace the chaos

Starfish model

Strategies for Distributing Leadership:
  • Choosing Lieutenants
  • Lazy Consensus
  • Tag-Team Leadership
  • Anarchy
  • Catalysts
  • Decentralization
  • Embrace the chaos
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