When I joined 10gen, the MongoDB community was relatively small. We had a passionate following of users and contributors comprised of early adopters, startuppers, and open source enthusiasts. My first, tactical task at 10gen was to send thank you gifts to all of the contributors (coffee mugs, of course!). It was a fun and informative introduction to some of the early contributors. I enjoyed building relationships with users and seeing their excitement about this new database technology.
As we built out the product and the community, adoption accelerated. It became harder and harder for me to build and maintain personal relationships with everyone in the community. And up until about a year ago, the community and marketing team was tiny (three people, myself included, who also handled finance, sales operations, random admin, and HR). It became apparent that the MongoDB community needed some mechanism to scale effectively.
We needed to develop advocates and leaders who could be the go-to person in certain subsets of the community, whether it was geography or programming language or spoken language. Some leaders emerged organically: Nathen Harvey as the organizer of the DC MongoDB User Group, Rick Copeland in the Python community, Takahiro Inoue with Japanese speakers, and several others. But we needed a way to encourage and support other new leaders.
We provide financial and logistical support to MongoDB User Groups (MUGs) around the world. My colleague, Francesca, spends time with each MUG organizer helping them find space to host events, connect with speakers, and promote their meetups through the MongoDB community. We’ve developed and documented best practices for MUGs and have a mailing list for the organizers. Francesca also worked closely with the team at Meetup.com to establish a global account on to manage the groups.
The MongoDB Masters is a program to recognize leaders in the MongoDB community, and facilitate communication between those leaders and 10gen. It’s a meta community: we’re organizing the organizers, and building a community of leaders. It started out simple, with a mailing list for discussion of new features and releases, community events, and more. We brought the group together for the first Masters Summit at MongoSV at the end of last year. We’re planning to do more regional and online events in the future.
These programs have not been without their challenges. For example, I was taken by surprise when the Masters program inadvertently became a recruiting pipeline (we ended up hiring several people who attended the Masters Summit). This means that we have to work harder to continue to recruit nominations for new members. And the success of the MUGs has been inconsistent across groups and takes constant effort to sustain.
At OSCON, SCALE 10x, and several other forums, I have spoken about how 10gen built the community around MongoDB. During those talks, I touched on how we work with community leaders. I’m looking forward to going into greater depth on this topic at Open Source Bridge on June 26-29, and OSCON on July 18. I’ll talk about organizing the organizers and the challenges and rewards that go along with that. I’m looking forward to getting lots of feedback on the sessions and to learn what others have done successfully. I hope to see you there!
For those of you interested in attending OSCON this year, you can register using the discount code GILL10GEN for a 20% discount on any package.
I will be sure to post my slides after the conferences.