forkingeducation

forkingeducation

A blog about Open Source, my work at the Gates Foundation and those I am fortunate enough to collaborate with

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Great community leaders are born not made

August 4, 2011

Bruno Souza

While at OSCON I had a chance to sit down with Bruno Souza aka ‘Javaman’.   You can find Bruno here

Bruno is an awesome guy with a more than passing resemblance to Russel Crowe who spends his time evangelizing among the Java and Open JDK community.

Bruno’s network extends to about 70-80,000 users worldwide.   He is currently in the middle of the US leg of what appears to be an annual world tour that he has been on pretty much ever since he joined Sun way back when they launched Java.

I asked for his thoughts on managing large user groups and any advice he might have for Gates as we start to engage with developers.  As I listened to what Bruno had to say, I quickly realized that Bruno is a what they call a “natural” with an unceasing
passion for his space and the mission he is on.

Here are nuggets I caught from our chat:

Only connect – ok so EM Forster said it first, but anywhere and everywhere that Bruno goes he is reaching out ahead of time to arrange a meeting or dinner with the local user group. No agenda required

Conversions come one at a time, (and not where you always expect them) – Bruno shared a great anecdote about how he broke into a vacation with friends in northern Brazil to give a presentation at the local university.  They closed down the entire CS and Science departments to turn out and listen to him. During Bruno’s talk, a particular faculty member grilled him relentlessly and aggressively.  He walked away feeling pretty down about the incident. Years later he ran into a young Java developer, the product of a new program in Java at the very same university Bruno had presented at.  The head of the program?  The very same lady who grilled Bruno…

Make people important locally –  Don’t try to control the activities of local user groups or try to be THE LEADER.  Support the emergence of local leaders and give them the room the need to operate as they see fit.  Make sure your contribution is an input to their activities rather than a directive.

Make sure people feel ownership for the message – while folks won’t always get it word for word, they should feel able to adapt your message to suit their audience and express it as they see fit

Give groups time – managing user groups and community is a journey.  It takes time.  Don’t go into it unless you are prepared to commit for the long term

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