3 ways open source software communities could learn from Crossfit

Photo by Anthony Topper.

This week I am participating in the opensource.com community blogging challenge: Encouraging New Contributors!

Crossfit gyms are great at creating community and welcoming new members. Here are 3 things that Crossfit boxes do that open source software communities could also do to encourage new contributors:

  1. Say hi to the new person. I drop in at gyms around the world, and no matter where I go, everyone in the class comes up to say hi to me and introduce themselves. How awesome is it that I can go to a gym in Frankfurt and have 10 total strangers walk up and introduce themselves and say how happy they are that I’ve joined them?
    For open source: When you see a new person on your mailing list or IRC channel, stop and say hi. Introduce yourself and tell them they are welcome. You can do it publicly or privately. (If you do it publicly, you might set a good example for others!)
  2. Celebrate daily accomplishments. When we finish a workout at my Crossfit gym, we all post our scores in an app. It gets ordered from best to worst but no matter where you are in the line up, everyone will  give you a virtual fistbump and most of them will notice when you’ve had a spectacular work out based on your skill level and they’ll congratulate you for it.
    For open source: Have a place where people can note what they’ve done, maybe point out what they are proud of or what was hard for them, and get kudos from others. Sometimes this happens on source code control systems. Sometimes on IRC. I think most open source software projects could do better at this.
  3. Allow for off topic interactions. To really build community, you have to know each other. Sometimes that’s hard to do if you just focus on the work all the time. There has to be a place to chat, to share goals, ideas and maybe every once in a while, a non-project focused thing. In my Crossfit box, we do this in a Facebook group. Usually, it’s fitness related but sometimes it’s just chatting about life in general. The group gets noisy and I turned off notifications, but I still visit at least once a day to congratulate, commiserate and just visit. It’s a place new members can ask questions, learn more about the community and get to know each other.
    In open source communities: Find a channel where people can chat. A place where they can ask all their questions, express frustration over a piece of code or complain about the weather. Sometimes it’ll get noisy but usually it will bring people together and, more importantly for the new people, help them “see” the community they are joining. Most open source software projects do this on irc or Slack.

How do you think open source software communities can Encourage New Contributors? What have you learned from the other communities in your life?


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