Decoded Chats – Tessa Mero on building Open Source Communities

Tessa Mero

Tessa Mero (@tessamero) is a Global Speaker, World Traveler and Mentor. She is a Developer Advocate at @cisco and organizer of @SeaPHP, @pnwphp and @DevNetCreate. She collects all of this at

During a recent visit in Berlin, I was lucky enough to have her come to the Microsoft Office and have a half hour chat on how to build Open Source Communities and make commercial companies embrace developer outreach.

If you prefer to have an audio version, you can download it here

Here are the questions we covered

  1. How did you get into community building in Open Source? (00:32)
  2. How did you manage to move that quickly up in a community to get onto the board of directors in a short amount of time? (02:07)
  3. Do you consider teaching an essential skill for community builders and developer evangelists? (03:48)
  4. Working hours for developer evangelists and community builders can be pretty taxing. How do you balance being available for the community and your own social life? (06:20)
  5. What can you do to stop your company becoming your identity? As soon as you work for a larger company people are very likely to refer to you as the company which can be very taxing. (07:23)
  6. I’m confused about companies that hire developer evangelists from the outside rather than allowing current employees to grow into that role. Do you think this is even feasible or does that mean you just hire a marketing person by another name? (09:31)
  7. How do you get support from a very commercial company as an open source advocate? How do you explain that it doesn’t mean giving everything for free? (10:17)
  8. How can you ensure that an open API by a commercial company keeps being available – even if there is no direct money coming in from offering it? (11:29)
  9. How do you deal with outrageous demands by developers and communities. It seems the bigger a company gets, the more people expect to get for free. (14:29)
  10. Do you consider taking part in open source communities and tinkering with open APIs a good way to get into professional development or is it more of a play-pen for already working people to be more creative? (15:49)
  11. How do you explain the difference between free and open source? (17:03)
  12. How can we fight the prejudice of open source not being professional and insecure? (17:42)
  13. How do we battle the issue of innovation that happens too fast and older, more stable and proven open source products being discarded for the new and shiny? (19:02)
  14. What can community leaders do to encourage good behaviour and prevent harassment and overly aggressive communication patterns in the community? (21:02)
  15. Do you think there is a danger of communities becoming too insular and introspective? Do you think we should be mingling more? (22:28)
  16. Do you think the emergence of GitHub helped the explosive growth of open source and are we in danger by relying on it too much? (24:42)
  17. A lot of open source repositories are very structured, which is great for code quality and maintainability. But isn’t there a danger that expecting a certain syntax or processes overwhelms and discourages new contributors? (26:30)


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