Early Thoughts on Designing for Participation

I took these notes while watching Designing for participation workshop on the Mozilla wiki about working with contributors. Many of the ideas I’ve experiences personally, learned from others and uncovered on my own. It is important to remember there is no one size fits all but, much like being a contributor, exposure to the different ways something can be done will help point out what will work best for a particular project.

  1. Commend interest – It is important to remember that someone is already contributing their time when interested in being a contributor. Make them feel good about it by welcoming and congratulating them on getting this far. This makes newcomers feel welcome and gives praise to motivate the next step. People will already feel invested if their interest is noticed and praised.
  2. Invite action – Right after commending interest, action must be invited. People feel noticed, appreciated and ready to do more. This is where contributions paths must be clear and approachable. It can’t simply ask people to get started, it needs to show them how they can get started. In short, it needs to convey: you can do this, here are some ways to start.
  3. Design your own adventure – People are more willing to get excited about and take ownership over something when they get to pick what it is. When designing for participation it is important to provide containers, frameworks or options that define a space but allow the contributor to define the path. This invites fun and personal investment, allowing people to choose rather than be told. It’s a matter of self-actualization, whether that be rising to a challenge, helping others, etc.
  4. Efficient Workflow – Work should be designed to be done discretely and asynchronously – give the contributor trust and ownership. With such a framework teams can give options to contributors that they can do on their own and be creative. Contributors come in with a range of skill-sets so it is important to remember that contribution options are not limited to the mundane (who wants to do that anyway?) or the highly skills (every contributor would like to know more).
  5. Not alone – It helps to see that other people participate. This can ease the initial daunting feeling by materializing the feeling that there is a community of people working together – people who have crossed the chasm to making contributions and are there to help. It is important to drive home that a contributor is joining a community, not just making an isolated contribution. Joining a community is an investment, that drives participation.

More thoughts to come as I explore the topic in preparation for my own project to work with other contributors.

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