[Haskell-cafe] Maintaining the community

Donald Bruce Stewart dons at cse.unsw.edu.au
Thu Jul 12 22:11:58 EDT 2007

As we sit here riding the Haskell wave:


with nearly 2000 (!) people reading haskell-cafe@, perhaps its time to
think some more about how to build and maintain this lovely Haskell
community we have. Just yesterday I received an email:

    "I posted it to Haskell-Cafe and received loads of brilliant
    responses. Wow, those guys are awesome. I'm definitely going to
    learn Haskell now."

Which is *exactly* the kind of (view of the) community we want to build
and encourage, so we can keep the Haskell project growing into the

I think the main thing we need to remember is to help train new experts
in the community, to be fluent in the culture, ensuring that expertise
and a knowledge of the culture diffuses through the new people arriving.

That is, to help people progress from newbie, to intermediate, to
expert, and thus ensure the culture is maintained (avoiding `Eternal
September'). This graphic[1] sums the main issue up nicely, in my view:


And the steps to follow (people can think about how best they apply to
them) (also from [1]):

* Encourage newer users--especially those who've been active askers--to
  start trying to answer questions 

        We're pretty good with this, but we can be *explicit* about it. If
        you're taking a lot from the community, please put a lot back in (in terms
        of writing about it, contributing answers, new libraries, and so on).

        I note this is also exactly what the Summer of Code helps do too --
        we've had several people paid to progress from newbie to expert, thanks
        to the SoC.

* Give tips on how to answer questions

        Answering politely, and in detail, explaining common misunderstandings
        is better than one word replies.

* Adopt a near-zero-tolerance "Be Nice" policy when people answer questions

        We are very good here already, both on email and IRC.

* Teach and encourage the more advanced users (including moderators) how to
  correct a wrong answer while maintaining the original answerer's dignity.

        This is hard, perhaps people can think some more about this.

* Re-examine your reward/levels strategy for your community

        This is also important: on the IRC channel we actually use
        participation data (http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~dons/irc/haskell-07.html)
        to determine who gets moderator privledges. For the community in
        general, rewards are along the lines of "going to the hackathon",
        "becoming the domain expert for some library". 

Cheers and happy hacking,

[1]. http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/12/how_to_build_a_.html

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