Thoughts on Community

How should Composr governance be?

Keep as is permanently (more or less)
Liberalise as the community grows
Liberalise to grow the community
I'm not sure

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Chris Graham is in the usergroup ‘Administrators’
Hi all,

This is going to be quite a personal post, but I wanted to have a nice frank open discussion with you all :).

Drupal is having a bit of an implosion at the moment due to some controversy. I've been watching it with interest because (a) it's been pretty outrageous what happened to the guy Crell and I hope to see them resolve it amicably and (b) I wanted to see if there are any lessons I could learn from it personally, or in terms of how we approach things.

I came across this very interesting blog post.

I'm going to be frank, this is about the polar opposite of how I think, and how I think is reflected in how Composr's development is structured. I see a lot of value in clear direction, not having too many ambiguous or over-complicated processes, not being bogged down in endless community meetings that distract from development, personal ownership in success and failure, and clear chains of responsibility back to a dependable commercial entity. I simultaneously make sure that people can have a personal stake in Composr (e.g. advertise as a partner on this site, no strings attached), and have the ability to make and lead forks for whatever reason. So, I try and balance things: centralised control for the core product, but distributed opportunity and innovation.

I am a fan of the TV show "Breaking Bad", and there was one episode that hit home for me called "Half Measures". In it the anti-hero of the show realises that he has to go all the way to get something done right (if I remember correctly that involves assassinating someone, but that's not the point :lol:) – he can't just try and meet people in the middle because that's where you get outmanoeuvred and lose influence. Since then I've wondered a lot about the philosophy of that: when is it best to go to an extreme, and when is it best to try and get the best of both worlds.

I think I may be guilty of overlooking people's innate psychology sometimes. The author of the blog post (Nedjo) seems like a very decent guy, and in the way he expresses things he makes some good points about power dynamics. I think more fundamental to power dynamics though is a basic sense of friendship and belonging that people want to have, completely firewalled from anything commercial or any kind of authority. I wonder if my central planning undermines that sometimes, as in the back of people's minds there might be a voice saying "this seems corporate, I don't want to play in a sandbox with suits, I want complete freedom from any kind of 'man' [in charge], I want the core community to be only about friendships not about commercial opportunities". I think it's likely many people struggle that I have dual roles as a community volunteer (huge amounts of unpaid time), and as a corporate CEO – some business people probably think I'm a hippy, other's probably think I'm 'the man' and not to be trusted.

Politically I'd guess Nedjo is pretty far to the left, but I can't speak for him. I'm pretty much a centrist, again trying to blend different things (to me it's about what is best in any context to maximise happiness, and that's a combination of different ideologies – mix in left-wing ideas about social justice with right-wing ideas about incentivisation so that it works). Talking about politics is bound to get me in trouble so I'll stop now :ninja:. We have users all over the political spectrum, and I think that kind of diversity is a good thing.

But anyway, again, my "best of both worlds" way of thinking is reflected in how Composr's structured - if you look on our site it's not all enterprisey trying to sell great solutions through a sales funnel for a high price - but it's also not community-led either. I try and create a balance. That may be wrong though, due to people really seeing it as something that doesn't fit the clear mould of what they're looking for.

I hope I haven't shot myself in the foot too much by being frank, I'd really love to have people's thoughts :). Should we try and create a strong firewall between a community-led project, and a corporate sponsor? Or, would that be a waste of resources?

Last edit: by Chris Graham



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I think for a project to become community driven it would need a substantial community of knowledgeable people. We have some of course (not counting myself because I still struggle with lots of things I want to achieve). Clearly you and the team know exactly what you're doing and understand the full implications of your choices on the end product and until this community explodes with more people who find developing for Composr a breeze then I don't think this question of a community driven project is relevant and even then I would prefer you to carry on the leading the way because to most people you are (to borrow a phrase from one of your links) the daddy.

I do understand the concerns with regard to corporations but most of those have already picked a platform (usually one of the better known offerings), so I would assume it's a case of not knowing rather than not wanting to know. The Compo.sr project is unique in many ways and I like current setup which as you said aims to be balanced, but I am wondering if there's something important you want to tell us about yourself? Perhaps whilst wearing a gimp mask?
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Chris Graham is in the usergroup ‘Administrators’
I think part of it is a requirement for 'faith', my thinking is also very rooted in what I see as evident before me. I could frame a question:

If we reduced central control, and reallocated some efforts and resources towards a framework for distributed decision making, would this increase participation such that the overall productivity increase exceeds that of the reallocated resources?

And 2 auxiliary questions:

Would there be enough democratic and developer participation such that decisions would be dependably made?

With a lack of central control, is there a democratic way to ensure the project is kept lean and well-designed, rather than a vast morass of an ecosystem with too many cooks?

I don't think there's a clear answer on either of those questions. To me it's a big gamble, and are my main concerns.

I may invite some more people from outside our community who have alternative views to me to see what they think. Anyone posting here is of a group that likes (to some degree at least) the way things are, so there's a bias I want to get out of.

but I am wondering if there's something important you want to tell us about yourself? Perhaps whilst wearing a gimp mask?

Ha ha, no I am not as interesting as Crell, and I don't particularly strive to be everybody's 'Daddy' either.


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  • If my reply is too Vulcan or expressed too much in business-strategy terms, and not particularly personal, I apologise. As a company & project maintainer, time is very limited to me, so usually when I write a reply I try and make it generic advice to all readers. I'm also naturally a joined-up thinker, so I always express my thoughts in combined business and technical terms. I recognise not everyone likes that, don't let my Vulcan-thinking stop you enjoying Composr on fun personal projects.
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I've added a poll :).


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  • If my reply is too Vulcan or expressed too much in business-strategy terms, and not particularly personal, I apologise. As a company & project maintainer, time is very limited to me, so usually when I write a reply I try and make it generic advice to all readers. I'm also naturally a joined-up thinker, so I always express my thoughts in combined business and technical terms. I recognise not everyone likes that, don't let my Vulcan-thinking stop you enjoying Composr on fun personal projects.
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I like how things are, but I opted for liberalise as the community grows on the basis that this growth will include more skilled designers and developers who can help with driving the project forward. Of course, if it doesn't then I am happy for it continue as it currently is even though it's keeping most of the weight on your shoulders. I am not sure what liberalising at this point in order to attract growth would actually involve or how it is supposed to work.
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In my mind, the primary goal of an open source community is to write great software. What often happens along the way is you find the community is also a means to foster personal and professional relationships which collectively has a lot of power to influence others. Overall, this "influence" can be a good thing and one of the reasons people like and stay with open source. But I've noticed that once communities, no matter how well intended,  believe they have an obligation to use that influence for social, political, or theological  change then fractures develop. I argue that when this happens they've lost sight of the primary reason they've come together…to write great software.

I think perhaps the Drupal community needs to spend some time not only thinking what they are as a community, but also what they are not. It's probably one of the things you do Chris that you don't see in other open source projects…define what you are not. It sets boundaries that seem to be missing in other open source projects: What Composr is not - Composr

 
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I've been thinking more of this, and honestly I think we have a bubble here, and we should work towards opening up the governance. The tendency for people to agree with my approach is probably to do with an assumption about me always being right than me actually being right ;-).

I remember one occasion a couple of years ago where someone didn't agree, but I think the guy had some personal issues and he made a long rant and never returned, so I somewhat discounted it.

I'll try and cover the logic behind my reasoning...

I think we can best split up the psychofunctional behaviour of users by dividing against two axes: Motivation, and Introvert/Extrovert. If we look at the likely typical thought process of each combination we get the following table...
 
MOTIVATIONS Introvert Extrovert
Learning for career Will pick most popular system applicable to them.
Reason: Dispassionate decision based on features and support.
Will pick most popular system applicable to them.
Reason: Dispassionate decision based on features and support.
Using as an employee Will pick most popular system applicable to them.
Reason: Dispassionate decision based on features and support.
Will pick most popular system applicable to them.
Reason: Dispassionate decision based on features and support.
Self-starter leader enthusiast Will start own project / code from scratch.
Reason: Does not want to rely on anyone, confident to forge own path.
Will pick a popular open community.
Reason: Social aspect is very important, wants to join an existing community. Must be open so that it doesn't feel 'stifling' (no need to have to go through ocProducts for any kind of officialised subproject).
Follower enthusiast Will pick best project they know of.
Reason: Geeky kind of decision-maker.
Will pick a popular open community.
Reason: Social aspect is very important, wants to join an existing community. Must be open so that it doesn't feel 'icky'.

I have highlighted in green the ones with a decent chance of choosing us, under ideal conditions. Frankly we're nowhere near well known enough, so we don't currently have these ideal conditions. We were never bootstrapped from very old communities or with lots of cash, like the popular CMSs were.

Note that of course any individual may make any choice that doesn't match these assumptions. I'm just trying to highlight trends. These choices may be subconscious in many cases. And sometimes people may choose differently but it wouldn't work out for them anyway, because they'd have made the wrong choice for their personality / approach to life.

Now, let's look at the typical ability for the psychofunctional groupings to act as influencers...
 
MOTIVATIONS Introvert Extrovert
Learning for career Very low.
Reason: Lack of passion and connection.
Moderate.
Reason: Typically will only influence colleagues.
Using as an employee Very low.
Reason: Lack of passion and connection.
Moderate.
Reason: Typically will only influence colleagues.
Self-starter leader enthusiast Low.
Reason: Will generally work alone, but does influence based on results.
Very high.
Reason: Enthusiastic and wants to share it, and has results to show.
Follower enthusiast Very low.
Reason: Low social connectivity or desire for it.
High.
Reason: Enthusiastic and wants to share it.

I have highlighted the biggest influencers. Notice the unfortunate correlation with the table above -- the biggest influencers are also the least likely to want to be in our community.
I think the typical Composr user is the "Follower enthusiast Introvert" (no offense, lol, none of these boxes are better than each other).

I think anyone who has the following psychological/political traits would prefer a fully open community (i.e. expanding beyond the simple introvert vs extrovert model above):
  • More emotionally-driven people, because they'll thrive a larger community that's more bustling
  • More socially-driven people, for similar reasons
  • Very independant people who are suspicious of organisations (hey, people aren't going to immediately know that we don't operate like the typical company does)
i.e. everything on the fringes from artists, to libertarians, to socialists.
And, I think people on the fringes are often the most dedicated and passionate, so I think we're losing something here.

Again, I want to reiterate that I'm not trying to force people into boxes or force assumptions on these boxes. I'm just trying to do a high-level analysis of likely trends.

Additionally because we're not well-known (which I hope could be remedied by opening up more), people with the following traits may avoid us:
  • Risk-adverse, because they naturally correlate the most used system with the one that is safest for them to choose
  • People wanting very quick results, because they can just get Wordpress and any of thousands of themes - people want our features but the majority will trade 90% of their features if it means they can get an instant high-quality theme to install.
  • Trend-driven, because they want to be using what everyone else is to be in on the party.
While these are not directly remedied by opening-up, it should be a side-effect of the increased popularity of doing so.

If we open up I see the following advantages:
  • Expanded social opportunities for our passionate social-orientated users, including joining in things like Google Hangouts to discuss things
  • Expand perception of available opportunities to our capitalist-orientated users
  • Greater sense of fairness and equality, more emotional buy-in from everyone
  • Remove any suspicion of motives of a corporate presence - people never say it, but I think every time you reach out, on some level people are much less patient or willing to build bridges when there's a company behind-the-scenes (unless that company is handing out money)
  • Less resting on my own shoulders if decision making is spread out
  • Greater levity, a business always needs to have some professionalism in every interaction, that formal relationship can feel stifling for people
And if we're not careful we'd risk the following:
  • Composr turning into a mess architecturally. However, I don't think this would happen as after our relaunch with Composr we have a really solid core design and server architecture.
  • It not being in my financial interests to lose too much control (I have 12 years in the project, that's an enormous investment). I don't think that's going to happen though, and we could set up an innovative Open Source licensing agreement that ensures any major contributor remains with high-level credit that can then be used to win paid work.
  • Standards dropping in code contribution. We already have extensive testing tools, these can continue to be improved.
Thoughts? Would people be up for a Google Hangout to discuss this stuff? (It wouldn't be for at least a few months, there's too much on my plate right now - but I'd really like to do it)
 


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  • If my reply is too Vulcan or expressed too much in business-strategy terms, and not particularly personal, I apologise. As a company & project maintainer, time is very limited to me, so usually when I write a reply I try and make it generic advice to all readers. I'm also naturally a joined-up thinker, so I always express my thoughts in combined business and technical terms. I recognise not everyone likes that, don't let my Vulcan-thinking stop you enjoying Composr on fun personal projects.
  • If my response can inspire a community tutorial, that's a great way of giving back to the project as a user.
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Not disregarding the very in-depth post made. For me I bounced to and away then back to composr a couple of times, now here to stay. Reasons for me being indecisive at the start were:

- The initial appearance of composer is very rough when you compare to other solutions. By rough I mean the default theme looks quite old school, by appearance. It does take a bit of work to get it to resemble what you want. This could be said for any cms out there, but initial appearance is everything. Maybe a more detailed theme settings page that allows the users to change the finer details of their theme without having to immediately jump into the css files.
- Earlier versions of composr were quite buggy. Current version being a lot more stable. It may take a bit to get people back.
- Composr cms is not listed in the google search well at all. Try searching for composr cms in google.
- There are a lot of well regarded sites that do cms reviews, maybe approaching them with the composr cms solution and getting the name out there.
- More staff. Not sure how many developers you have working on composr but it may help if they were also very active on the forums. When I was deciding on what cms solution to go with, one of the things I looked at was the forum activity. In my mind at the time a very quiet forum was a negative.

Brrrr google hangouts. Try Discord.
Discord is free, has text and voice support. Free IOS and Android app as well.
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- The initial appearance of composer is very rough when you compare to other solutions. By rough I mean the default theme looks quite old school, by appearance. It does take a bit of work to get it to resemble what you want. This could be said for any cms out there, but initial appearance is everything. Maybe a more detailed theme settings page that allows the users to change the finer details of their theme without having to immediately jump into the css files.

Adding more theme options would be good, definitely something I want us to add to say v12. I touch on this in this monster issue 0003049: Major upgrade reimagining (including hypervisor) - Composr CMS feature tracker
If you have more ideas for what would make good options, please chime in on that issue :).

Additionally though, I think the problem is that most people idealise something really focusing on graphics, with lots of space, low clutter, everything arranged neatly. That's the antithesis of a system where you are picking and choosing features. When you pick and choose features it's inevitable really (unless we have some AI) that it'll go in a rather soulless grid until a designer spends a decent amount of time with it.
I think we can still tackle that, I think each Setup Wizard installation profile should have a bundled theme for it. Essentially we'd be providing a number of "website in a box" options for people at installation, then it would be up to the more advanced users to get into stuff like block layout. But of course that means making and maintaining a larger set of themes.

- Earlier versions of composr were quite buggy. Current version being a lot more stable. It may take a bit to get people back.

Yeah, this is why we instituted the new policy with Composr that we'd only go with the final/gold release once we had 2 weeks without anything significant getting reported. It took almost a year. Probably we should have stuck in beta for longer, but there's also this tension that people don't want to wait and certainly I'm all enthusiastic to move forward with the next exciting step forward and that makes me over-optimistic. Maybe it should be 1 week of no significant bugs for beta to become RC, then 2 weeks for RC to become final/gold.

- Composr cms is not listed in the google search well at all. Try searching for composr cms in google.

This situation has been improving, for me at least. I do get our links when I search now, but for quite a while I did not. There is some FinalSite (a CMS) feature called Composer, and there's the PHP package installer Composer.

- There are a lot of well regarded sites that do cms reviews, maybe approaching them with the composr cms solution and getting the name out there.

Could you list some? Rajesh Kumar is working on promotion activities.

- More staff. Not sure how many developers you have working on composr but it may help if they were also very active on the forums. When I was deciding on what cms solution to go with, one of the things I looked at was the forum activity. In my mind at the time a very quiet forum was a negative.

This is closely related to my thoughts in this topic.

On the financial side of things, which isn't what I was talking about above, but I think it adds another interesting angle on the conversation…

It's not so realistic for ocProducts to pay staff to work directly on Composr development, even if it's for sponsored tasks. That's why it's almost always me doing things; because I'm volunteering a lot of unpaid time, or lowly paid time, but also because I know the system well and am motivated to work efficiently. Programmer salaries are so high, and training takes so long to do well, and management adds so much overhead, and I work so much faster than the average programmer (good programmers are 10x efficient as the average programmer, that's a very documented problem), there's just no way we could get close to charging sponsorship fees anyone could afford. Already it's really tough but we'd have to quadruple the cost of everything. It makes me sad to see the big income disparity in the world right now, only a few professions (programmers being one) making so much money, and all the 1%er stuff.
I do have Salman working away on big design updates for v11, which is a very slow burn thing. It's hard to hire more people like him though, it can't be scaled.

So it really comes down to finding more volunteers.

(I don't want to solicit venture capital money like Drupal and Wordpress and many other OSS CMSs have done, that corrupts and changes the focus and you can really now see the results)

From a logistical point of view, I'm 100% happy with how I set things up, it's logical. By having ocProducts here it guarantees we're developing things to a high standard, and in return most of the work feeds back through the company. It's an organised and efficient way of doing things.

From a psychological point of view though, I think on whatever level the majority of people just aren't going to be getting past the notion of companies existing for personal enrichment and it feels abusive, or at least the 'paternalism' aspect exists where there's this big barrier.

So I think this is all another strong argument to move the project to be run by a Foundation.

From my point of view I'd still be contributing lots to the project (for one thing we have clients actively funding improvements), but I really think we'd get more people wanting to help.

Brrrr google hangouts. Try Discord.
Discord is free, has text and voice support. Free IOS and Android app as well.

Does it have video chat though? I think most people, extroverted people anyway, would want that. What's the problem with Google Hangouts? (I really am a long way from being an expert, but I know it at least integrates with YouTube well, which we're making use of).


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  • If my reply is too Vulcan or expressed too much in business-strategy terms, and not particularly personal, I apologise. As a company & project maintainer, time is very limited to me, so usually when I write a reply I try and make it generic advice to all readers. I'm also naturally a joined-up thinker, so I always express my thoughts in combined business and technical terms. I recognise not everyone likes that, don't let my Vulcan-thinking stop you enjoying Composr on fun personal projects.
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