Nurturing, Motivating and Recognizing Non-Code Contributions

by Aleksandra Abramova

When discussing contributions, we still see a lot of emphasis on the code contributions into project repositories. But the open source world is extensive and diverse, and everyone can find their place there. Your project will benefit from various experiences that non-coders can bring to the table. Isn’t that cool when you receive an issue with an interesting bug from the community, read about a user case in a blog or a review, or someone makes a video guide for your product? And more!

Non-code contributions may be of different types. You can learn more about them in my previous blog post.

In this article, we will look more into what could we do to bring in more non code contributions.

Why Do You Need Non-Code Contributions?

  • It gives you resources to fill the gaps. It is not a secret that developers often do not adore writing documentation. Or you may not have resources for testing or designing things, improving usability or localization for different markets. Coding is super important, but that is not always enough.
  • It helps you to become more visible on socials and on software marketplaces where people come to choose a tool for their project and motivate people to try your software, for example, for their pet/student project.
  • Furthermore, it motivates your developer team - seeing how people share T-shirts with your project name on Twitter, how many reviews they have, seeing that people use your software and create their own tutorials on YouTube, experimenting with it. That feeling that you do your work not for the work itself but for the people, for the people who not only use your project but spread the work about it, and give you feedback. Everyone will benefit from that.
  • You do make the world a better place for everyone. Open doors to those who did not have opportunities to obtain systematic technical education due to different reasons. And it is not even necessary to explain that we all gain from a diversity of ideas and different experiences.

What Could We Do?

Offer a small reward for the completion of particular tasks (that you find are important for your project). For example, we offered a T-shirt or a mug sent worldwide for leaving reviews on software marketplaces. People also tend to love Amazon 5 USD gift cards. You can launch campaigns with clear requirements, instructions and a due date to motivate people to act now and publish information about it on your blog or social media accounts. You can reward those who reported security issues. In Percona, we have Percona forum and reward active users who advise others. Not everyone has a forum, but if you have a Slack/Discord online chat for your community, you can do the same thing. Be creative and find what is important for you (and fits in your budget).

Participate in different challenges like Hacktoberfest. In 2022, Hacktoberfest made an emphasis on bringing more non-code contributions and recognizing them too. Percona also participated in it, we had 20 contributions to our repositories and half (!) of them were non-code ones.

Non Code

For your swag gifts, try to offer personalization if possible. For example, you can add individual messages on the t-shirt if you use print-on-demand providers. People share those opportunities around with their circle and pictures of provided swag on social media and spread the word about your open source project/brand. So they not only left a review or fixed several typos during Hacktoberfest, but also tweeted about you - their contribution became larger and you did not even had to ask them about that!

Non Code

Make reward visible and document it for the history. Publish blog posts/social media posts to thank people who did a great job - those who reported issues or provided important suggestions included in the latest release, contributed during Hacktoberfest, etc. We also publish all contributions (community videos, blog posts that mention Percona) on our website and social networks (tweet about them, tagging authors) and the community likes the recognition.

Non Code

Make sure to have guides on how to contribute and/or at least an email to contact. Involve non-coders from your team in testing interfaces and writing guides on how to contribute. Offer simple guides with clear screenshots and instructions or even guides for different level of experience - for those who have code experience and for those who have a few. Offer video guides. Simplify the process as much as you can. Try to use simple IDEs or tools. Leave a contact email everywhere for any questions or doubts people may have.

Have a list of things you need help with and publish it: list of open topics for your blog, list of how-tos in your documentation which you lack, etc.

Provide a space for contributions. We host podcasts and community streams by inviting authors from the community and use Restream, Riverside and Podbean for easy streaming. Start a podcast about your product and around. You can discuss not only coding, but all things open source, trends, use cases, etc.

If you have Community Advocate program or reward Contributor of the Year, make sure you track non-code contributions too. It is a simple thing, but might be overlooked. We also have dashboards, custom-written and Orbit.Love, which helps us find contributors on Jira and GitHub. Also, we track talks about Percona in Jira and so they go to dashboards for easy tracking.

In your messaging, emphasize why it matters. Why non-code contribution matters. And explain that it is a contribution INDEED. Recognize it as a contribution. Non-coders tend to underestimate what they do (like - oh, I did not do anything special, everyone can do that - send a tweet or correct a spelling mistake in docs). That’s a mistake. Not everyone actually can and not everyone will actually do, stop by and pay attention, spend time on that.

Non Code

Aleksandra Abramova

Aleksandra joined Percona Community Team in 2021 as a Community Specialist. Before joining Percona, she worked as a support specialist and as a technical writer in Simtech Development. She is now focusing on communicating with the opensource community, building awareness about Percona products and services, and event organizing.

See all posts by Aleksandra Abramova »


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