Yesterday, during our weekly Backdrop CMS office hours a friend who does business development for a Drupal agency dropped in to say "hi" and ask us a few questions about Backdrop. During our chat, we asked him for his perspective on how visible Backdrop is to the wider community. His answer without hesitation was "zero."
This is a big concern for many of us and something we spend lots of time discussing. Today, we hosted one of our bi-weekly Outreach meetings where we talk about things like our (sometimes) monthly newsletter, social media, blog posts, video content, events, the Backdrop CMS Forum, and any of the other tools that we use to try and reach the broader community. We frequently hear from newcomers and sometimes from ourselves, that we need to do better at reaching out and speaking to folks who are not already a part of our community. To spend less time talking to each other and more time talking to others.
We know that. But, knowing that and effectively solving it are different things. The first step is knowing what you need to do, the second is coming up with a strategy to get it done, and the third is in implementing that strategy effectively.
First time participants in our Outreach meetings often come with lots of ideas about the things that they think we should be doing, usually they are right. We appreciate these ideas, but I often find myself choking down the impulse to cut them off and tell them that we've heard the ideas before, more importantly we like them, but what we really need are implementation strategies and/or help to get the work done.
I think it might be helpful to jot down some of what we know already and more importantly, where we could really use the help.
1) We need to speak more at events other than Backdrop events (or even Drupal events).
We talk about this all the time. But, we're stuck with the problem of understanding and identifying those events where we should be and where our content would be welcome. We're familiar with the events we already attend, but we have not been very effective at identifying new opportunities. We need help identifying events (that are not Backdrop or Drupal events) where we might find prospective Backdrop users or developers. Tell us where to go and we'll do our best to be there.
We have a standing agenda item to recruit folks to write blog posts. Folks, like myself, often volunteer but then fail to follow through. We need a better strategy for encouraging folks to create content and to follow through. Where we really need help is figuring out how to get others to write about us. We default to trying to make Backdrop better and hoping that will get the attention of other organizations and content creators. But, in reality, we know we need to do more. We're just not quite sure how to do it.
3) We need to be identifying and reaching out to industry "influencers."
We've heard this before and it makes sense. But, who are the influencers for an opensource tool like Backdrop and how do we reach them. If we are able to identify them and find a channel to communicate with them, what should we be asking for or what should we be telling them?
4) We need more structured events that look more like Drupal Camps or DrupalCon.
Over the last 18 months, we've hosted 4 straight Backdrop LIVE events using an unconference format. In truth, we chose an unconference format both because it meets the needs and motivates the volunteers (myself among them) that organize these events. But, we also choose this format, because of limited resources and the fact that previous attempts to recruit presenters for more formal conference sessions were unsuccessful. We know that there is a large community of folks that wish to participate in formal structured presentations and events and it's on our agenda to provide both. But, we're hesitant to give up on the event that we like and are effective at, in favor of something that we view as more resource intensive and less likely to succeed.
We're not against the idea of more structured events, but we're going to need the help of folks with the skills and enthusiasm to organize that kind of event if it is going to be successful.
5) We need more online tutorials.
Some regular participants have been advocating for this for years. I think that there is widespread support for the idea. Personally, I've created almost 30 screencasts in the last several months. We regularly ask for and encourage blog posts and video tutorials. But, still we need more. No one needs to convince us of the value of this kind of content, what we could use are some ideas and assistance in how to make it happen. How do we motivate content creators with the right skills to create this kind of content?
6) We need to set priorities.
I'm not sure we have consensus on this, for some good reasons. Having priorities without the resources to address them can be a double edged sword in an open source and decentralized community like ours.
While some folks in our community are looking for direction about where to focus their energy, others do the things that they find rewarding and are discouraged by efforts to focus their attention elsewhere. While these are difficult things to balance, we know that many organizations are successful at creating a strategic plan AND motivating their members to implement that plan.
I believe that as a community, we need help in this area. If you have skills or can suggest some strategies to help us both set priorities and focus the energy of our volunteers on those priorities, we'd love to hear from you.
Personally, I sometimes find our Outreach meetings a bit frustrating because of the amount of time we spend talking about the things we should do, when we already have a surplus of good ideas. I'd like to spend more time addressing strategies for implementing those ideas and figuring out how to improve our follow-thru as an organization.
Sometimes, we ask folks for Outreach ideas, when it's not really ideas we're lacking. What we should be asking for is help and strategies to implement all the great ideas we have on the table right now.
Our next Outreach meeting is Thursday Feb 3rd, 12:00pm – 1:00pm America/Los_Angeles. Please, come with your ideas, but please also bring some strategies ideas, and if possible the skills and energy to help us implement them.