An example to follow

When I started to use SuSE, GNOME was a second class citizen in the distribution, with very limited support and limited attention from the developers. After the creation of the openSUSE project, things changed positively in different ways, and I think the openSUSE community should consider the GNOME team and the way it grew and make the community grew around it as a model.

I will sum up its history, for those that do not know it or just started to take part to the openSUSE community recently. When the openSUSE project was started, only a few developers were involved in GNOME for what concerns openSUSE, and the quality of GNOME in openSUSE, compared to KDE, was lower. GNOME was usable, but not at the level of other distributions, and not in its full power. After some initial difficulty, probably related to the new working approach and the need to talk to a bigger community, the quality of GNOME in openSUSE started to improve, to reach the high level of quality it has today in openSUSE 11.0, and that it is going to have in openSUSE 11.1, which will be released in less than one month. What changed? The answer is not simple, because a lot of things changed. OpenSUSE changed, GNOME changed, goals and ideas evolved. But this is not what made the difference. The difference was made by personal changes: the commitment of the developers changed, their attitude towards the community and the ability to communicate with the users, listening to their requests and their needs is what played the biggest role. And it is what plays the biggest roles in all communities.

What happened in the GNOME team at openSUSE is a simple but very important example of successful communication, and of interest in improving the quality of work. The team leader (jpr) and his co-workers slowly but steadly worked together with a few community members (captain_magnus, suseROCKs, FunkyPenguin, and some others) to help people interact, without increasing the number of communication media, and making users and contributors life for what possible easier. The team organizes a bi-weekly meeting where the new developments are discussed, some developers (federico) organized bug squashing days for particularly troublesome situations, and community members take part to important projects like the accessibility one, maintain the communication between users and developers, and recently some of them (captain_magnus) managed to provide updated releases of GNOME for the released version of openSUSE. Last but not least, suseROCKs, with the help of some developers, organized the Helping Hands initiative, to introduce users to the main features of specific applications.

In a short time, the hard work of a relatively limited number of developers and users made the difference, with their dedication and efforts, transforming one of the weakest parts of the distribution in one of its shining points. No extreme changes were necessary, no additional formalisms and burocracy, but more attention to some details, and a friendly attitude, which really helped to create the environment you can find today in the #opensuse-gnome IRC channel at Freenode.

This is the way to follow to build the foundations of a strong community, and I think the same approach should be applied (and it is already by some other teams) to other parts of the community, to fix what is one of the most difficult problems in the openSUSE community, the interaction between developers, community members and users.