Community Building and Free Documentation

Andy Oram conducted an interesting survey to answer the question, “Why Do People Write Free Documentation?” I was a bit surprised by the top result: community building.

As a community manager, I love to see that people are contributing documentation to projects as a way to help build the community. This also emphasizes a point that I have made several times during speaking engagements when people ask about motivation for contributing to communities or open source projects. My answer is always something like this, “Like any diverse groups of individuals, motivations for contributing will vary widely depending on the individual. Some people use it as a learning experience, some want fame (rockstar mentality) or other reputation building, some do it to help others, …” While community building is at the top of the list, the other motivations follow very closely behind: personal growth, mutual aid, gratitude, support, reputation, and more. Although this survey is focused on documentation, it still helps validate the idea that the motivations of individual community members are diverse.

As a community manager, I almost wish that there was a clear winner in the survey with one motivation standing out high above the others. It would make my job easier. Since no one way of encouraging people to participate within a community will work for every member, we sometimes have to get creative.

The survey is a great read for anyone interested in motivation within communities.

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