Quantifying the Community

I was talking to Sherrie Rohde, our friend and community manager, about her work which includes the Magento Master programme. A fantastic initiative to highlight and engage with those in the community that contribute substantially to it. And it got me thinking, how big is our community and what counts as an active community?

If you’re at all familiar with Magento conferences, you’ll see a few names over and over again. Particularly if you’re on twitter in which case there’s a prolific small network of individuals. Some have complained that this network is too small and that more work needs to be done to be inclusive. One manner in which the in-group has been called out is for the use of the hashtag #RealMagento. As I understand it, this hashtag was first used to circumvent the spam that was making it more difficult to see the work of the real Magentites. I agree with its use, it does help avoid that problem, but I can see how it gives the impression of exclusivity and how it can mean that we miss new community members. We’re not the only community big enough to be inundated with spam so I think it would be wise for us/me to pay more attention to #magento and to not use #realmagento so much.

Going back to the Master programme. Sherrie puts in an awful lot of effort to surface community members regardless of how many times they get retweeted or if they enjoy standing in front of people and presenting. There are many ways to be a part of this community, to add to the magento ecosystem without being in the spotlight, and I think that’s fantastic. Kudos for doing such a great job, taking on the challenge of objectively enumerating such a huge community. Thanks Sherrie.

It did however get me thinking philosophically about how big the community is and who is considered part of it? It can be easy on the one hand to think of the community as those that engage on twitter, or speak at conferences, or regularly write blog posts or create popular extensions.

One of the downsides about groups as we know from our psychology classes as that as soon as we group together there becomes an in group and an out group. It doesn’t even need to be done intentionally to have negative and competitive effects but it does happen. If we’re in the ingroup maybe we don’t help those around us so much. I’ll admit that I’ve been at conferences before and I’ve been smug at the number of people that know who I am. Sometimes this has meant that I’ve not gone out of my way to encourage others into the fold. I was content. I regret that.

What I’m saying is that we should be careful to consider those that engage as the only community, or worse, the more important members of the community. It should be about supporting what they do.

In the Magento world, we think of community being a subset of the ecosystem, i.e those that engage publicly. I think it would be healthy for us to spend some time recognising the importance of the wider ecosystem and broadening our definition of the community. As we know from our daily lives, it takes all types of people to make the world go around. Diversity of thought is important to create an inclusive future for Magento.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of people that work with Magento on a regular basis which is fantastic. A very small proportion of them would fall into our traditional definition of the community and yet every single one play a part in representing Magento and making it the success that it is. Without them Magento would not and will not survive.

Let it be said, I am grateful for those community members that are active. They inspire the rest of us. However, remember that to go far, we need to go together as community. One of broad experiences and viewpoints. So I’m going to take a second to thank the wider Magento community, even the recruiters (I’m looking at you, commercehero). It’s good to be working with you, kicking ass and taking names, addresses and payment details (guffaw guffaw).

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