Friday, April 2, 2010

Open source collaboration, safety and enemy images

Two guys who started the subversion project talk about how their community works. I guess they work for google now doing open source development.

Enjoyed hearing about how they keep projects on track. After taking a semester-long course in project management, replete with all of the PMBOK high-falutin' language, I like the practical 'lessons-learned' wisdom here. Though the title and a part of the flavor of the presentation bothers me, "surviving poisonous people," the approach they describe is actually fairly flexible.

"poisonous people" is a judgment. A poisonous person is a "thing" in your imagination. A scary thing. Immutable, fixed. An enemy.  And that is not useful. I'd prefer to think about "people patterns which threaten a project." (This is not as pithy as poisonous though)  Maybe they could call it poisonous patterns instead or dangerous patterns.

To summarize what I understand :

As open source software project leaders we are afraid of the threat of dissolution of our project, the frustration of our desire to make something awesome .  If this were to happen we would lose respect, maybe money, and the fun, inclusion, connection, and sense of competence we get from being part of the project community.

We need safety to work well.  We are going to tell you about some  common dangerous people patterns which have threatened us and got us all distracted, frustrated and disconnected,  and how to keep the community safe from community death (falling apart).

Groups do need freedom from distractions - e.g. too many ideas,  and/or  arguments, (What NVC might call needs for: "ease","harmony", "stability" "clarity" and "order") - But they also need to be open and welcoming to new ideas, new members to keep "alive" (needs=growth, stimulation, learning, spontaneity) -- and fair and collaborative in decision-making to survive...seems like a tall order to balance all of that!

It thrills me to learn more about collaborative forms of software development - though I have been involved in evaluating, installing, configuring and using open source products for over 10 years -And have even done bug reports,  I have never contributed code to a project.

The thing that thrills me is that if I can pull some of my enjoyment of group process, improv and Non-violent Communication practices together with my tech background   it would be lots of fun.

Marshall Rosenberg (NVC founder) on  enemy images: - Hearing what people feel and need instead of what they "think" when they label you as a powerful technique to get to communication. Someone calls him a "murderer" (sees him as very poisonous) - he is able to get past that to communication.  His distinction between violence and protective use of force is very clear here.

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