What makes an effective open source community? _This question might seem a little too broad to be answered in one sentence, as there are so many elements one might think of what makes an effective open source community. In his book “The Art of Community”, Jono Bacon explains that an open source community can be visualized as a social economy, where 1)  a sense of belonging keeps people in the open source community, 2) This economy’s currency is not money but social capital, which is measured by strong sense of belonging, 3) participants need to believe in the community, 4) at the heart of the economy is a process that describes how work is done and shared, 5) the process and social capital that generates the belonging needs to be communicated.

So, communication is an important element of an open source community that binds the other elements, as described above, together. As I have begun to work in the OpenMRS open source community, I need to understand how I can communicate my work and findings to the community effectively. So in this post, I am going to share two moments in my life. Once, when I was successful in communicating and once when I was not successful.

When I was successful at communicating.

About a year ago, I joined the Idea State U business competition. As, college freshmen I had no clue what I was doing at the beginning, but I had the vision to become an entrepreneur and learn how startups are built. I pitched my idea to the entrepreneurship professor on campus, and a couple of my friends. Soon, two of my friends reached out to me to become part of my big vision, but with no hint of the outcome. In four months we had accomplished quite a lot. We won both the regional and state-wide business competitions, beating 3 MBA teams in our category. As I reflect on my moments during the 3 month competition period, I realize that good communication was a big reason for our success.

At every step in the process, each member would inform other members about meeting times, their availability, and their new discovery. Everything work in the team was done through shared Google Docs, SpreadSheet, and Slides. This made the work transparent among all members. We were big believers of “doing” rather than “talking”, so we would always communicate to each-each other through the works we have done or goals we have accomplished, and not sitting in a room and chatting about it. The last and most crucial thing that made our story successful was to communicate through our designs. Every time, someone came up with a new idea they effectively communicated their idea by drawing sketches or diagrams and building small prototypes. Overall, all these methods of communication kept the workflow smooth that led to this success story.

When I was not successful at communicating.

Last year, in one of my computer science classes, I was assigned to work in a team with another individual (I did not really know much about him, and haven’t talked to him before that). The problem we were solving was to write a computer program, which was very simple in nature and had to be done by the end of the class. When introducing ourselves, we felt like two aliens from different planets put together to accomplish a mission. I was too enthusiastic about the assignment that I started solving the problem on my own, without discussing my plan with my teammate. Whenever my teammate asked me a question about the design of the computer program I was writing, I was reluctant to answer because I thought those were very silly questions. By the end of class, I was done writing the program, however, I completely overlooked some of the tasks that we had to accomplish. My teammate had asked me twice about it when I was coding, but I avoided him. In the end, we had a program that did not achieve all the tasks assigned in the problem. One of my biggest learnings from this moment was that good communication also incorporates good listening practices. To be able to work effectively, you have welcomed everyone’s ideas. I took this learning to heart, and every time in a group work, I try to strengthen my listening skills.

Ok, now what?

So, I plan to take the learnings of what made communication successful back to my team as I am working on the OpenMRS open source project with my other team members.