A community of communities: Empowering maintainers to grow communities around their code

Posted July 18, 2019 | View revision history

Open source is about much more than publishing code. It’s about building communities around shared problems, communities no different than the offline communities we participate in each day. Yet, it can still be a challenge for maintainers of projects, both large and small, to grow safe and welcoming communities around their code.

GitHub’s Community and Safety team is like many other services’ Trust and Safety teams in that we are tasked with ensuring that users aren’t required to risk their privacy or personal safety in order to participate in the community on GitHub. Beyond discouraging disruptive behavior in the form of spam, abuse, or harassment, the Community and Safety team also goes beyond that and instead, actively seeks to encourage good online citizenship by both making it easier for users to contribute constructively and for maintainers to adopt community management best practices.

In this talk from O’Reilly’s 2019 Open Source Software Conference (OSCON), I walk through GitHub’s approach to empowering maintainers to grow a federation of semi-independent, safe, and welcoming open source communities that can scale along side the code, as well as what tools and resources are available today and in the future, looking at how various community management approaches encourage or discourage community growth and participation.


Ben Balter is a Senior Product Manager at GitHub, the world’s largest software development network, where he oversees Product Security and Platform Health. Ben was previously responsible for the platform’s trust and safety efforts, delivering more than 500 individual staff- and user-facing features in support of community management, content moderation, privacy, and compliance to ensure the GitHub community remained safe and welcoming for all software developers. Before joining GitHub’s Product team, Ben served as GitHub’s Government Evangelist, leading the efforts to encourage more than 2,000 government organizations across 75 countries to adopt open source philosophies for code, data, and policy development. More about the author →

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