[Foundation-l] Community, collaboration, and cognitive biases

Austin Hair adhair at gmail.com
Wed Jun 9 09:01:50 UTC 2010

On Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 12:55 AM, Aryeh Gregor
<Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2) Make sure that every paid developer spends time dealing with the
> community.  This can include giving support to end users, discussing
> things with volunteers, reviewing patches, etc.  They should be doing
> this on paid time, and they should be discussing their personal
> opinions without consulting with anyone else (i.e., not summarizing
> official positions).  Paid developers and volunteers have to get to
> know each other and have to be able to discuss MediaWiki together.

I like the "discussing their personal opinions without consulting with
anyone else" bit, and you bring up a very good point.

I don't think (and I don't mean to imply that anyone else does) that
anyone's conspiring to keep the community out, or saying "leave this
to the professionals, we know better."  When you're hired onto a team,
though, you're wary of saying anything that would cause strife or
confusion.  This isn't necessarily out of fear of retribution from
your employer—it's simply conventional professional ethics, and it's
usually not even a conscious thing.  (It's also not limited to paid
staff—the people we put on the Board specifically for their vocal
opinions on things often fall into this, for understandable reasons.)

This "united front," however, results in the "us vs. them" mentality
that we're all now lamenting.  Volunteers are now "giving feedback"
rather than "making decisions," as Greg put very well, and we wind up
with questionable UI decisions becoming surrogate arguments for the
roles of community and staff.

I don't think that there's a magic fix for this—it's simply a matter
of culture, and making sure everyone involved understands it and can
work effectively in it.  We can point to the little things, but the
systemic problem needs to be addressed.


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