At CMX Global last week, I presented a workshop on defining a membership identity for your community. I found this to be a valuable exercise and thought I would apply the same principles to the WordPress community since that is the community with which I am most familiar.
What is a Community Membership Identity?
A membership identity for a community is, as the name suggests, something that members can identify with and aspire to as they participate in activities related to the community. In order to define this identity, I use a framework that I adapted from Charles Vogl’s The Art of Community that includes three key questions to help community managers think about the core principles of their community program.
Those questions should all be answered in the context of the work the community does and should be considered to be aspirational goals that members can work towards.
The questions are:
- Who am I? Who does your community tell members they are?
- How should I act? What does your community tell members they should do?
- What do I believe? What does your community tell members they should believe?
The answers only need to be a single sentence each time and should be statement reflecting what you consider to be the “ideal” community member.
What does this look like for WordPress?
As part of my preparation for this workshop, I answered these questions for the WordPress community. For the purposes of this exercise, I grouped the community into two broad categories: Users & Contributors:
Who am I?
I am a unique individual with something important to say – my thoughts and ideas are valuable.
I have useful skills that I can use to make impactful contributions to the broader community.
How should I act?
I share my ideas and publish content that I care about.
When I can, I volunteer my time to contribute back to the community, helping others do the same.
What do I believe?
I believe my ideas are valuable and it’s worth taking the time to publish them.
I believe in the freedom that open-source provides and that I can take part in sharing that freedom with others.
I originally worked on this in November when I gave this workshop at an in-person event in Cape Town, but I modified my answers this time and I feel like they are an accurate summary of what leaders in the WordPress project hope for users and contributors to aspire to. This is, of course, my own opinion and I’m sure others have their own ideas about what the answers here should be.
For folks involved in the WordPress community in some way, does this resonate with you? Do you agree or disagree? I’d be interested to hear what others think about this!
Personally I think the WordPress community is too vast and too diverse to be put in boxes and categorized.
There’s more than just users & contributors…
Each one of us is a user, a contributor and has a bunch of other roles that just defy categorization.
There is no such thing as a “user” or a “contributor”, not in a strict sense. There’s people. Each one different, each one of them hoping to improve the future in some way. Some write, some lead, some develop, some design, others translate or frantically submit support requests for core and 3rd party plugins & themes for whatever they come across.
Everyone is a contributor & everyone is a user.
And to be honest, it looks a bit like trying to split the community in 2: those that have the skill to do (contributor) and those that don’t (user).
Categorizations may work in the context of a company or an organization, but not in a community that consists of dozens of millions of people…
What each and every one of us has in common is a belief that we can improve things.
I wouldn’t want to be categorized and/or labeled as something, whatever that may be. Today I feel like writing a blog post, tomorrow I feel like contributing to core and the next day I’ll release a plugin.
It’s fluid, it’s diverse, it defies traditional boxes and labels.
We are all one, there’s no reason to try and split the community in separate identities… It can’t possibly help us better understand each other or solve the problems we see in the project.
The answers to the 3 questions asked in the post look right to me and I think all of should aspire to those things. But… Without the separation of roles.
Thanks for the comment Ari!
I wholeheartedly agree that segmenting the community isn’t helpful at all. The purpose of this exercise was to look at the core values of the community to reorient ourselves to what we aspire to as a community. You’re 100% correct that these groups overlap a whole lot, and there are other groups too! Site builders, for example, or plugin/theme developers – these are all groups the are significant and important, so I was not intending to diminish their role at all.
If we can all aspire to the identity statement I outlined here, no matter what group(s) we personally identify ourselves to be in, then I think the community as a whole will be better for it.
I’m busy working on a follow up post to this that looks at the practical use of working out this type of community membership identity, so that should help to clarify some of the intent here.