Getting started with the XWiki Community

Apr 20 2010

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Some members of the XWiki Community

Lately I've been working a bit on recruiting and it made me think about how I started with XWiki and how it's grown on me ever since. As a result I've come up with a blog post to sum up some of the myths about open source I faced at arrival and how they were confirmed or proven prejudices after a while.

Speeding the learning process

I'm glad to say I now have experience working with both open and closed source companies. I've found that while in a closed company there are many things to learn, in OS communities the learning process is much faster due to the higher number of contributions, the diverse community and the speedy release process. Either you're an employee, or a non-paid contributor you can be sure that joining the OS community will prove a very fruitful professional experience.

Competition & Community: a successful duo

Another thing I've observed is that while in the typical company competition is as high as anywhere else, often this run for achievements develops in rivalry between employees. As a result many will be reluctant to giving away their well kept sets of skills and professional advantages that make them an asset for the company. I was pleasantly surprised to find in the open source community a healthy competition, which I've grown to love. People are excited about their work and like to be recognized for their contributions, however there's also a sincere desire of helping one another in order to make the project run as smooth as possible. While in the typical firm the motivation is most frequently that of the personal good, in the OS community efforts are joined in a higher quest of making a good product everyone can enjoy and take pride in. For most of us it's nice to keep in mind there's a bigger purpose.

Responsibility & fear of potential embarrassment

When I started work at XWiki I knew almost nothing about OS. So I can tell from experience that starting to work for an OS company, and/or joining a new community can prove a bit difficult. Now it's not just you, trying to impress your boss, but a whole bunch of people watching over your work, making comments and suggestions. The fear of making mistakes is probably the biggest inhibitor when you decide to make a  contribution. One thing you can do is just observe the ways of the community for a while by joining the IRC chats and the mailing lists. You can start contributing and making suggestions on smaller issues and as you grow accustomed increase your additions. One thing to remember is not to take replies personal. Everyone is working in order to make the same ends meet, so constructive criticism is only a way for other members to help you get there.

International community & diversity

Contributions to the OS software come from different kinds of people, all over the world. So in addition to this being a valuable professional experience it also proves a rich personal endeavor. One thing I was surprised about when I first joined the XWiki Romanian Office was to see such a big number of women amongst my colleagues. I expected the environment to be an all boys club, but actually girls exceeded in number. 

As time passed and I grew more accustomed to the new environment I realized that this is no way an exception. Lots of women were also members in the community, asking and answering questions, adding applications and committing code to the platform. So this is another myth busted emoticon_smile

Can I make a difference if I don't code?

Probably my biggest worry at joining XWiki was that in order to make a contribution one had to write code, otherwise their contribution wasn't needed. Nothing could be more far from the truth. I've been working closely with the community for months. I haven't written a single line of code and it's likely I'll continue in the same manner. There's a lot of ways one can make herself useful. For instance I've been testing the platform and applications, I've created new documentation and took an interest in improving the existing pages. I've also joined the lists by participating in discussions about the user experience and needs. 

So either you code or not, either you're experienced or that which goes by the name of n00b, either you're a woman or a man, or live at different ends of the world, I hope I've outlined at least a couple of reasons that will convince you to join the community. If you're already a member of the community I hope the article is a mere reminder of what you already knew and have grown to appreciate as much as I have.

Silvia, QA