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 the platform’s Community and Safety efforts. Named one of the top 25 most influential people in government and technology, Fed50’s Disruptor of the Year, and winner of the Open Source People’s Choice Award, Ben previously served as GitHub’s Government Evangelist, leading the efforts to encourage government at all levels to adopt open source philosophies for code, data, and policy development. More about the author →

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