How Gophercon Changed Pilosa’s Approach to Community

How Gophercon Changed Pilosa’s Approach to Community

7/21/2017 • 3 min read

Like all avid Gophers, several Pilosa team members made the annual pilgrimage to Denver, CO for this year’s highly anticipated paean to all things Go.

Gophercon 2017 was full of surprises, not the least of which being the announcement of Go 2.0 by Russ Cox, one of the early co-creators of the language. Perhaps not as surprising was the uniformly high quality of the keynotes, workshops, and lightning talks throughout the conference. Of note are Liz Rice’s tutorial on syscalls and Joe Tsai’s presentation on forward compatible Go code, though don’t confuse our adoration with these workshops as a slight to the other incredible presentations throughout the conference.

Perhaps our favorite presentation, and by far the most moving, was Ashley MacNamara’s keynote, My Journey to Go. As the closest thing Pilosa has to a community manager and an aspiring coder myself, I must admit that I’ve become rather obsessed with it. And while the point of this post is not to summarize her amazing talk, I encourage you to read the Gophercon live blog recap, here.

Ashley’s fresh perspective on the human connections that create and define community are particularly relevant for our team as we navigate our first foray into open source. Even before we launched this past April, we spent hours discussing the type of community we wanted to build. Terms like “diversity,” “creativity,” and “brilliance” were thrown around in meetings and conference rooms, and we vowed to create the most amazing community possible.

What we’ve found, of course, is that it’s one thing to talk about your dream community, and another to actually go out and build it. Our entire team has been all hands on deck since Launch, pounding the pavement to conferences, churning out some beautiful docs, and even overcoming their ambivalence to social media platforms, all just to get the word out about the incredible software they’ve devoted countless hours to building and perfecting.

And we’ve had some amazing success! At present, our GitHub repository has attracted an amazing 1,071 Stargazers and counting! We’ve also had some amazing contributions from members of this growing community. But as Ashley’s talk demonstrates, building community is about more than promoting what you’ve done. It’s about creating a space where anyone, even a beginner, feels welcome to hone their skills, ask “silly” questions, fail, fail again, and learn about their craft among friends who will accept and mentor them. It’s about getting to know the people behind the project, not just their contributions.

Coincidentally, a few of our developers have begun to embrace this philosophy on their own. Making Your Open Source Project Newcomer-friendly, a great blog post by Manish Goregaokar, made the rounds in our office just as Ashley began her presentation. Inspired by it, one of our engineers crowd-sourced a response to one of our contributors to make sure he sounded appropriately encouraging. Another created a newcomer label to our docs.

Ok, perhaps it wasn’t pure coincidence. I firmly believe that releasing a sentiment into the ether makes it mysteriously more accessible, even to those not in its direct line of communication. Kind of like learning a new word and then suddenly noticing it everywhere you go.

We still have plenty of work to do as we make this essential switch. Regardless, I want to personally thank Ashley for her honest, warm, vulnerable presentation. It has, whether directly or not, energized our entire team, myself included. We are collectively beginning to shift our focus away from simply hitting metrics to adopting a true mentoring mindset. Beginning our own journey, so to speak, as we discover that our project is not the only thing we have to offer, and learn to welcome more from our contributors than code.

Avatar for Ali Cooley
Ali Cooley

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