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10 Tips for Building a Mobile Developer Community


Back in October our team at Dolphin attended the HTML5 Conference in San Francisco where Diane Bisgeier from Mozilla presented their lessons learned from building a strong developer community.

These are great points for anyone that’s trying to get an open source project off the ground and build a community around their mobile product: 

  1. Have a mission:  Otherwise a community won’t form around you. Your mission can’t be “do some free work for me”. It needs to inspire people and give them the gratification that they are part of a bigger vision.
  2. Be inclusive of non-developers: At Mozilla, localization and community evangelism are driven entirely by users. This broadens the pool of people that can participate in the project and brings a lot more diversity to the group.
  3. Be concise: Developers are the hardest type of people to recruit because their time is valuable and they usually have their own projects they like to work on.
  4. Let go: Once you embrace the fact that you can’t control community, your life will be much easier and your community will be more empowered. You need to let them have a voice and make decisions.
  5. Over share: Talk about what you are doing, future plans and your thoughts behind key decisions. Facilitate the community to talk to each other with forums, wikis and chat rooms.
  6. It is all about them: No one wants to do free work for you. You have to constantly ask yourself what is the volunteer is getting in exchange for their time and effort.
  7. Prevent Fragmentations:  Fragmentation of your community into small niche groups kills the sense mission and cohesiveness. If the core dev group mostly discusses in private mailing lists then it will be hard for others to participate and break into that club.  Make is easy for people to join any group and have visibility.
  8. Start Small: To kick start your community, create small manageable tasks for the community to do. For example, mark easy to fix bugs with special tags so that someone can come in and fix them with only a few hours of investment.
  9. Find a community Manager: Look at your existing users to find a community manager within. Promote them in your product and in your marketing materials. And don’t forget to invite them to come into your office and sit down with you periodically to get some exclusive news and access from core developers. This will help them increase their standing in the community.  Your community manager should earn the respect of the users in the community. It is better if the person comes from the community itself.
  10. Do community segmentation: The same way that you segment your users you should also segment your community. Make sure you have something specific for each type of contributor:
    • Core developer
    • Active users
    • Localizers
    • Testers

The Mozilla Foundation has inspired thousands of developers, marketers, and community organizers – and these are just a few tips to help you establish and grow your own community.


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