What Science Fiction Can Teach Us About Building Communities

Short Form


Helpful tips about participating in and building open source communities as told through examples of what we can learn about communities from science fiction.


Communities are one of the defining attributes that shape every open source project, not unlike how Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics shape the behavior of robots and provide the checks and balances that help make sure that robots and community members continue to play nicely with others. When looking at open source communities from the outside, they may seem small and well-defined until you realize that they seem much larger and complex on the inside, and they may even have a mind of their own, not unlike the TARDIS from Doctor Who. We can even learn a lot about how we should not behave in our communities by learning more about the Rules of Acquisition and doing the opposite of what a good Ferengi would do. A few of my favorite rules to avoid include, “Greed is eternal”, “You can always buy back a lost reputation” and “When in doubt, lie”.

This presentation will include a lot of helpful tips about building and participating in open source communities, while using science fiction to keep it interesting and help people remember what they learn about communities.

Speaking experience

This is a brand new talk that I have not delivered before. I'm hoping to try it out at OSBridge first and then take it to a few other conferences later this year. I've presented at many conferences over the years on a variety of topics. For a few examples visit: http://fastwonderblog.com/speaking/


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    Dawn Foster

    Puppet Labs


    Geek, Community Manager, Blogger, Vegan and Technology Enthusiast.

    Dawn Foster is the Community Manager at Puppet Labs. Dawn has more than 17 years of experience in business and technology with expertise in strategic planning, management, community building, community management, open source software, market research, social media, and RSS. She is passionate about bringing people together through a combination of online communities and real-world events. She has experience building new communities, and managing existing communities with a particular emphasis on developer and open source communities. Most recently, Dawn was leading the Community Office within Intel’s Open Source Technology Center. In addition to working at Intel, Dawn was an online community consultant, and she has worked at Jive Software, Compiere, and a Midwestern manufacturing company in positions ranging from Unix system administrator to market researcher to community manager to open source strategist.

    While at Jive Software, she was responsible for building a new developer community for Jive’s new Clearspace product line and managing the existing Ignite Realtime open source community. Dawn was an organizer for earlier versions of Portland BarCamp, Ignite Portland and other events. Dawn holds an MBA from Ashland University and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Kent State University. Dawn occasionally blogs about online communities as the author of the Fast Wonder Blog, and she was a past blogger for GigaOM’s WebWorkerDaily. She is the author of two books: Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy and What Dawn Eats: Vegan food that isn’t weird.