I have participated in the CiviCRM community before, so my joining now is really an extension of relationship I've already built with the core development team and other members of the community. I've already "gotten in" and it's just a matter of having time and expressing willingness to jump back in.
Something I anticipate being different in this round of my participation is that I'm not connected to an organization that's actively guiding and supporting the development of CiviCRM. That was a key component of my original participation; I also had an "in" via my affiliation with the Progressive Technology Project, where I was working: there was a limited vetting process and I didn't have to follow quite the same kind of "script" or prove my mettle in the way a lone contributor might have.
This time around, I (and Lisa Jervis, who's also working on CiviCRM) sent an email to Dave Greenberg and Michael McAndrew, two key pillars of the CiviCRM core team. This was informal, personal and not through a forum or public email list. The reason is that decisions about participation in CiviCRM tend to happen in one-off, non-public ways. For example, much of the documentation and a fair amount of development happens via periodic sprints in which community members come together in a physical location and dedicate a few days or week expressly for the purpose of developing or documenting CiviCRM software.
The CiviCRM communication & participation system is somewhat convoluted and complex, and participation for non-developers doesn't usually happen in a simple, transparent way according to a script, as was described in the readings. Instead, there are many relationships at play between organizations that can determine the direction of development and allocation of resources. Often, those organizations that can make a case for a community of users that needs a new feature or functionality, and those who bring resources to cover the costs of such are those who get what they're asking for. Users and administrators who demonstrate a spirit of constructive criticism and willingness to fix what they identify as needing improvement are asked to attend sprints and contribute in the ways they are able.
Here's my/our initial email to Dave and Michael:
"Hi Dave and Michael,
Lisa already reached out to Michael but I'm sending a follow-up to let you know that both she and I are in this Open Collaboration and Peer Production class that lets us join forces with an open source project and contribute to it (for credit).
We'd like to plug back in to doing work for Civi in a way that's most useful for the Civi community.
Both of us last contributed a while ago, so it would be great to have some suggestions from you about where best we might fit in. As she mentioned, the doc road map was last updated in Jan and we're guessing there might be some updates since then after all the sprinting and conferencing y'all have been doing.
Looking forward to working together again. Let us know what you think!
Robyn & Lisa"
In response to Lisa's and my email, Michael suggested we take inspiration from a recent blog post about improving marketing materials and take the next step to make those improvements.
This is a point at which I begin to navigate the delicate aspects of participating in this community: I have a project in mind I'd like to work on, but they have explicitly given us a suggestion for something that really needs doing. My response will offer to help with the marketing project to the degree my skills allow, but I'll also see if the bite on the project I have in mind, and if they think it's still useful.
The project is related to their communication and bug-tracking infrastructure, if not to improve it, to at least shed some light on how it works for people who are new to the community. It's not immediately obvious how one might participate, get questions answered, or find the latest, most authoritative update to a decision or conversation that's happening in the community.
To address this problem during my earlier participation, I wrote a blog post that was made into a [guide] (http://civicrm.org/bugreporting) available on the [CiviCRM forum] (http://forum.civicrm.org/). I would like to update this and make improvements to it towards the goal of providing a how-to for any novice website visitor to the CiviCRM project. At the moment, the blog post is only accessible via the forum, which means to read it, one has to know the forum exists. What's really needed is a map of the five or six sites, including the forum, the wiki, the issue tracker, the official online documentation, and the blog, where one can go to get questions answered. Even making decisions about where to get information is overwhelming and confusing for the newbie.
added Comments Thomas 11/6/2013 (see commit description)