Episode 84

Jono Bacon on Building Sustainable Communities


July 9th, 2021

39 mins 52 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


Jono Bacon


Justin Dorfman | Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. Today, we have as our special guest, Jono Bacon, a self-employed Community and Collaboration Consultant, author, speaker, and Founder of Jono Bacon Consulting. Jono tells us about his interesting journey with his career, the diversity of his clients, a concern he has with chat channels, and why community is the most important thing in open source. He talks about developers and how to help them see their value and potential to achieve their goals. We learn more about some of the things Jono wrote, including his most recent book, People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brands, and Teams, _and how he got the _“star power” behind it. Also, he also shares an awesome story when he worked at XPRIZE, and something that made him realize how unique the open source world really is. Go ahead and download this episode to hear much more!

[00:01:46] Jono tells us how he ended up doing what he does.

[00:03:36] We find out the type of clients Jono has and how he gets them often through referrals.

[00:06:34] Jono talks about how he feels about Discord, Discourse, Gitter, and the open source IRC replacements that are going on right now.

[00:09:42] Richard asks Jono what he thinks the value is of having these side conversations, and how does that help community members have better engagement and build value for them.

[00:13:28] Jono shares his opinion on one of the flaws with individuals in open source and why community is the most important thing.

[00:16:46] Richard wonders how Jono balances the needs of emotionally connecting to everyone in your group and how he makes sure that developers know there is a balance to be met to have the community thrive.

[00:20:30] We learn about some things Jono wrote and he tells us about his most recent book, _People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brands, and Teams. _Justin wonders how he got the “star power,” such as Jamie Hyneman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his book.

[00:28:01] We hear an awesome story when Jono worked at XPRIZE and how personalities of people made him realize how unique the open source world really is.

[00:31:42] Richard asks Jono if there are any challenges, anything open source needs help with, and what is down the road for us.

[00:36:44] Find out where you can follow Jono online and learn more about what he does.


[00:07:25] “The second priority that I’ve got is by extension, that anybody who joins the community should get amazing value out of it.”

[00:07:32] “As far as I concerned, if you join a community and you don’t get value out of it, that community hasn’t earned you.”

[00:07:56] “One of the concerns I have with chat channels and chat services in general and I’d include Slack, Mattermost, Discord, Git, all of these, is that by definition, it’s a linear stream of consciousness. So Slack claims that they’ve got history and you can kind of unlock history for example if you pay for it. It just doesn’t work.”

[00:08:41] “That’s why I think even Slack, don’s say this is for community building, it’s for building teams.”

[00:10:00] “So, to me what brings people into communities is they’re there to solve a problem. They’re there to improve their future state, such as they’re using pieces of open source software, and they want to make better use of it and solve their problems or build their applications.”

[00:10:16] “I think what people stay for in the community is an intrinsic sense of belonging and a sense that this is just a good place for me to be.”

[00:13:26] “My take on this is I think one of the flaws of a lot of open source communities, not so much communities but more individuals, is that they always talk about the most important thing is code, is getting code that can be created and shared with a group of people.”

[00:13:57] “But to me, I’m engineering for impact here, whether you’re building a little project to just make certain types of unit testing easier, or whether you’re building a replacement for a major piece of proprietary software.”

[00:14:48] “ The reason why I’m so passionate about community is because if you take a hundred people inside of those hundred people, there are so many ideas and insights and experiences and skills, and so much time available. Then when we can get all of that out into the open, it makes us the best we can be as people.”

[00:17:28] “But, I think most people, a much more kind of, I guess you could say practical than that, and they will do something if they can see the value, and it’s worth it, and they can achieve their broader outcomes.”

[00:18:36] “You need to be inclusive, not just in terms of a rich demographic of people, which is always important, diversity of race and sexuality and all those wonderful things.”

[00:18:48] “But just a diversity of ideas and letting people come in and take your little baby, which is this project, and just put new clothes on it and see what it can do.”

[00:19:21] “It’s kind of like someone says I’d like to learn to cook and I basically give them everything they need to be a Michelin Star Chef.”

[00:27:31] “Eric Holscher probably has had a larger impact on the world. Read the Docs is amazing, and you know he’s a really down to earth guy who’s not famous who you wouldn’t recognize.”

[00:33:01] “The platform should be holding your hand and showing you how to do.”

[00:33:47] “I would also go as far to say that I think we, as a community, need to get over this obsession with metrics.”

[00:34:14] “I would much rather say, okay, what are the things we don’t know today and what are the three metrics that we can use to figure that out?”

[00:34:37] “Sure, I can see, for example, all of these metrics about how a project in GitHub is performing, but I think what most developers want to know is what does normal look like?”

[00:35:00] “I think if we really want to build scale with open source, which I think we can, and we’ve seen scale happening, open source is real in the world, but the platforms have got to help that long tail of projects succeed more with community building.”

[00:35:42] “So to me, diversity is not just a great code of conduct, but also it’s great leadership, and it’s great moderation, and it’s inspiring diverse collaboration as well.”


  • [00:37:46] Justin’s spotlight is Bitnami.
  • [00:38:14] Richard’s spotlight is The Book of Knights by Yves Meynard.
  • [00:38:48] Jono’s spotlight is a project called Arches.



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