I admit, I have fallen short of my 2011 New Year’s resolution. Nonetheless, I continue to use, monitor, and promote open source options; and I have tried to stick around as a passive observer in a lot of the open source communities in which I initially embedded myself. One of the things I promoted in a couple of places was the concept that bug/issue trackers are not a tool that we must limit to development teams. Documentation, edits, administration, and other aspects of projects (and not just in open source!) all have issues. An issue tracker is a natural place to store these ‘bugs’.
I recommended an enhanced bug tracker as a possible solution to the problems of recruitment and difficulties in joining the community. I still stand behind the bug tracker concept, and I want to also highlight that OpenHatch did a wonderful job implementing this concept. OpenHatch takes advantage of a distributed scenario, where it sits outside of the project, and acts as a multi-project hub for issues. This offers the advantage of allowing individuals to easily bounce between projects and also to be quite selective about languages or types of tasks. A disadvantage (not a disadvantage for OpenHatch, but rather for the participating project) is that OpenHatch itself has a growing community, and this may prove problematic for an open source project that is trying to build its own community, as users may prefer to stay one-step removed from the project, and continue to work through OpenHatch.
OpenHatch is doing a great job, and I am confident that contributors are making their way into project communities as a result of everything that OpenHatch offers. However, I noticed an article in the June release of the Joomla Community Magazine that detailed a new Help Wanted Forum. This strikes me as another great way to accomplish a similar task. The help wanted forum is an explicit option for newcomers - but it has the additional benefit of being appropriate for existing contributors as well. It also side-steps a common occurence (which is mildly apparent on OpenHatch) where all opportunities to join a community seem to target software developers. While the software is important, documentation and administration are paramount to the success of an open source project/community. A final benefit to the Help Wanted Forum (at least in this case), is that it is internal to the project. It is not an entirely new system or service that community members need to learn and administer, it is simply another forum to moderate with a slightly new topic.
I enjoy Joomla (Many of my posts on administering and developing for Joomla are available at GeekGumbo), it fills a unique hole in the CMS market. The Joomla community and Joomla’s web presence is definitly a huge boon for the project. I have some subtle concerns regarding 1.5-1.6 compatibility and the proposed side-by-side work on 1.7 and 2.0. That said, I think Joomla’s great community coupled with the new Help Wanted Forum will help keep these efforts organized and effective. It might also give me just the opportunity I need to make my voice heard within the active Joomla community.
I hope to see forum take a few notes from services like OpenHatch, and have very discrete threads available. Some of the current posts are far-reaching, and some are quite narrow. In the context of new community members and easing into the project, I think the narrower a ‘help wanted’ request is, the better.
Another great step for an already active and friendly community, Joomla. I hope the help wanted forum gets used and thrives as a utility for community growth and effective project maintenance. Visit the Joomla: Help Wanted in the community forum, there is a lot to do!