How to contribute to the community – Inventing and promoting changes
Katarina Fischer asked me on the recent SAP Inside Track Munich, to write a blog describing how I contribute to the community: “There is currently only very few about this”.
I will focus on the way I am doing it and what I believe to be helpful. You may disagree, instead of just writing a comment to this blog, you may consider writing an own blog on this topic and use a comment to link to it.
Getting informations and ideas
I use now mostly Twitter for this. Twitter is not only a place where people share fancy pictures of their cats and other funny things. It is also a place where many specialists posts links to blogs or to videos of conference talks that contain new insights. I did never hear of Legacy Code before I read a blog that was mentioned in a tweet in August 2016. I had some idea that Unit tests often do not check for correctness, but can be used to characterize the behavior of a software component. I was lead by a tweet to see a conference talk by Michael C. Feathers who explained how many different ways of testing exist.
I usually follow people whom I want to endorse. But this can lead to very many postings in the timeline. So I mute accounts who post very often and add them to private lists. A list helps also to focus on a certain topic area while reading tweets. When I think whether I should add someone to a list, I check the number of tweets this person is posting. If it are too much, I either add them to extra lists “Many tweets” or not at all. Good postings by these people are often shared by other people whose tweets I read.
We all should think carefully before posting; does the “world” really need this joke also? Is it worth to consume even a second of a few hundreds followers? Followers whose timeline is already cluttered with jokes and other funny or scary stuff that fights for their attention?
Collaboration tools like Slack or Discord
Sometimes it helps to find persons who can help. I made good experiences with collaboration tools. If there is a Slack, Discord or something alike, it makes sense to join these. It was on the Pharo Slack channel where Alexandré Bergel programmed me a draft for the tool that later became Moose2Model. It was on the Legacy Code Rocks Slack channel, where people gave me book tips to help me promoting changes. One of the books “Fearless Change” I will mention below.
When I meet persons first on the Internet, and only later face to face, I have already a good feeling about them. Normally the impression I got from social media does not change. This has a good and a bad point. The good is, you can learn from people you want to work with. The bad is, using social media careless can ruin a reputation. Whenever I write something on Twitter, Slack or other social media, I behave therefore like when I apply for a new job. Do it with positive emotions and care about what I am doing.
Many postings can be deleted. There was once even a Facebook advertisement that promoted people to delete posts they are unhappy with. Delete when you are unhappy with a post or it was written with bad emotions. Maybe you started a shit storm. I once saw such a case on Facebook. A woman made a posting and did not realize that her statements could be interpreted negatively. After about 100 negative comments, I proposed her to delete the first Facebook posting. She did, and everything was gone. This may not work on Twitter, you can delete your own posts, but posts by other people who reacted will remain. Do not forget bad postings, they will otherwise remain…
If old postings become frozen on a platform, I would carefully regard whether I should contribute. I may contact the administrators and ask whether a deletion (with a good reason) is still possible after many years. A statement I once made, may become wrong, it should be deleted or corrected…
Check your postings. Are links broken? Is the target of the link correct? I once saw a tweet promoting a workshop. But the link did not point to the article that explained and invited. It pointed to the page where the personal information is entered. This does not look good, so check your postings and links. Links that are broken after some time are OK, but immediately after posting?
Comment on content, not on the contributor – Learn from the Wikipedia Guidelines
I learned a lot from the guidelines for Wikipedia editors. The English Wikipedia for instance has many good guidelines. A very important rule to me is “Comment on content, not on the contributor”, it is found in the Wikipedia guideline Wikipedia:No personal attacks. Not following this advice on Wikipedia is a common cause for edit wars. During the Ebola epidemic in West Africa I became witness of such an edit war on the discussion pages. At the very beginning of this, I found a statement by one of the fighting authors where he doubted the competence of the other person.
Use the right tools – git – Github
I use for instance now git to develop and share Open Source tools. But you can use git just to edit a text or Github to have an issue list. There are many tools, something comparable to Github can save a lot of time. If a user of a coding opens an issue on Github, the author receives an email notification. If the problem is fixed on Github, it is linked to the Issue if the ID of the issue is in the desription of the commit. Learn this techniques and promote people to use them. This saves your and others precious time.
OK, this is really tough. And it is something that has to be learned.
Learn how to promote
I read the book “Fearless Change – Patterns for introducing new ideas” by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising. It contains many patterns who came from countless people and where collected by the authors. You should read this book or something similar.
It goes really slow. I wrote a blog and near to nothing happened. I spoke at a SAP Inside Track and near to nothing happened. I wrote the next blogs and spoke at more SAP Inside Tracks and conferences and a year later it was near to the same. But something changed, in the second year a few more people contacted me and asked questions. This is not a surprise, we are constantly told of things that are supposed to be new and better. We have to restrict us to things where we think that they do really help us. Again I propose, you read the above book or something alike to understand this.
Promote good ideas – become an evangelist
The world is full of good ideas and initiatives. If you find or see one made by someone else. Use the tips I gave here to promote these. Our world needs evangelists to guide us, maybe you will become one 🙂