How to Grow Your Community with Data-Driven Insights

Learn how to harness project data analytics to grow your open source community and ensure project health. In this blog post we’ll cover:

  • Where to start when building a data-driven engagement plan.
  • How to use tools like LFX Insights to build a picture of your current ecosystem
  • Quick steps you can take to start growing your community today

Building a strong community is critical for the long-term success of any open source project. After all, Kubernetes didn’t become the leader it is now without the power of a highly engaged, global community of contributors. But how can a project grow that kind of following? You first have to know who’s already part of your team.

It starts with your community

In-person events like KubeCon 2019 are one way to develop a healthy open source project community.
KubeCon 2019

We know community development is important, but projects often struggle to understand their current base of contributors. To build a complete view of your ecosystem, you need more than just pull requests and commits. You need to understand the people behind these numbers: Where do they work? What other projects do they contribute to? Are they engaging with your project elsewhere–on social media, events, or training courses?

You also need to understand how the community you’re building impacts the growth of your project. Sure, you might be able to pull insights data from GitHub, but do you know which companies are contributing most to your project? And what about across all of your projects and sub-projects? Also, how does your project health compare against other, similar projects out there?

Finding answers in data

These questions are top of mind for projects like the TARS Foundation, who see data as a lens through which to understand and grow their community. They’ve thought a lot about how data can help address critical project health and sustainability questions, and have come up with an approach to measure the health of their open source community.

I’m sure you’ll agree that knowing more about your community through data helps you make more informed decisions. But pulling together the variety of metrics to give you that holistic view may seem daunting. Most open source communities use an assortment of tools that typically don’t have built-in integrations. Just hunting these down can be challenging, not to mention aggregating and analyzing the data.

Your data in one place

Successful open source projects like the TARS Foundation and Kubernetes skipped this pain and found a solution, using the Linux Foundation’s LFX Insights.

LFX Insights provides a holistic view of your project’s data across 15+ sources. This includes CI/CD insights from tools like GitHub, Jenkins, and CircleCI; stories and issues from tools like Jira; and social engagement data from Slack, Cision, Twitter, and more. For more complex open source projects such as the TARS Foundation, subproject data can be aggregated into rolled-up dashboards providing a big-picture view of your overall project health, engineering efficiency, and project ecosystem without any manual report generation.

LFX Insights has 15+ data sources to measure open source project health, engineering efficiency, and community development.
15+ Data Sources and Growing

Grow your community with data

So how do you make the most of all this data to build a thriving community? Here are a few steps to get you started.

Step 1: Turn your goals into questions

Data is only as good as how you use it. Before you go too far down a rabbit hole, identify your goals and focus them around 1-3 questions. For example, if your goal is to grow your community then consider starting with questions about your current audience.

  • Goal: Grow our project community by X% in the next year.
  • Questions:
    • What does our community currently look like?
    • What motivates them to contribute and engage with us?
    • How does our community compare with other projects similar to us?

Step 2: Dive into the data

You have your set of questions, so now you’re ready to identify the appropriate data sources and what to look for. Let’s revisit our questions from step 1 and start searching LFX Insights for answers.

  • Question: What does our community currently look like?
    • Use Technical Metrics Dashboards to identify top contributors and companies.
    • You can also find your most engaged influencers on Twitter using the Social Media Metrics Dashboards.
  • Question: What motivates them to contribute and engage with us?
    • Identify popular keywords and topics related to your project with Ecosystem Metrics and Social Media Metrics Dashboards.
    • Submit a request to expand this list to include custom topics or hashtags to track events or competitors of interest.
  • Question: How does our community compare with other projects similar to us?
    • Compare your project’s performance against similar projects and track growth trends over time using the Compare Project Health (Beta) Dashboard.

Use these insights to set a baseline (which you will measure against later), a target (we will grow to match X project), and a strategy (what’s next). But remember: While data can give you a good picture of what’s going on, you may need to do additional research (like interviews or surveys) to get the full answer.

Step 3: Convert learnings into action

Once you have a data-driven picture of your current community, it’s time to build an engagement plan. So here are some easy community-building ideas to get you started.

  • Share Community Leaderboard stats with your community to highlight your top contributors and encourage healthy competition. Also, be sure to check out the top hashtags from your Social Media Metrics Dashboards to get inspiration for blog and speaking topics that your community is interested in.
  • Use the top-10 company contribution rankings from the Technical Metrics Dashboards to motivate members into investing more time and resources.
  • Finally, offer rewards and incentives to your top influencers and contributors. It can be something as simple as sending an email to celebrate their work and say “thanks.” This will encourage and inspire others.

Step 4: Rinse and Repeat

Finally, continue to monitor your dashboards to make sure what you’re doing is working. Data updates automatically in LFX Insights, and new data sources are added regularly. So you’ll always have the most up-to-date view of performance.

Get started with LFX Insights

Hopefully this helps you consider using data to grow your project community. LFX Insights is a powerful tool to get you started, so why not take advantage of it?

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LFX Insights is available for all projects hosted by the Linux Foundation. So whether you’re a contributor, end user, or enthusiast of open source technologies, you’ll have access to data about the projects you care about. Check out http://insights.lfx.dev to get started.

Need more help making the most of LFX Insights for your project or company? Have a specific report or research project in mind? We’d be happy to help! Please reach out to set up some time with us.