What do Blender, Inkscape, Drizzle, and Subversion have in common? Good governance, at least according to Dave Neary. Neary, a former board member on the GNOME Foundation and participant in several other communities, boils best practices down to a few key ideas:
- A clear project scope.
- Clear goals.
- Transparent and fair community processes.
- Open up the floodgates for contributions.
Of course, it takes a bit more than that to encourage community contribution, but those key areas are right on the mark in terms of how to govern projects.
It's much easier if you start from the ground up with those principles in mind. It's harder to go the other way -- from a closed project to an open one, but it is possible. Especially difficult is handing over control to the community, when all processes have been internal. (The first company that figures out a way to provide consulting in this area stands to make big bucks -- if companies are willing to listen...)
Another easy way to see if your community is being well-governed: Ask yourself, if you were an outside participant, would you be willing to contribute time or resources to the effort?