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How Kubernetes contributors are building a better communication process
Authors: Paris Pittman
"Perhaps we just need to use a different word. We may need to use community development or project advocacy as a word in the open source realm as opposed to marketing, and perhaps then people will realize that they need to do it." ~ Nithya Ruff (from TODO Group)
A common way to participate in the Kubernetes contributor community is to be everywhere.
We have an active Slack, many mailing lists, Twitter account(s), and dozens of community-driven podcasts and newsletters that highlight all end-user, contributor, and ecosystem topics. And to add on to that, we also have repositories of amazing documentation, tons of meetings that drive the project forward, and recorded code deep dives. All of this information is incredibly valuable, but it can be too much.
Keeping up with thousands of contributors can be a challenge for anyone, but this task of consuming information straight from the firehose is particularly challenging for new community members. It's no secret that the project is vast for contributors and users alike.
To paint a picture with numbers:
- 43,000 contributors
- 6,579 members in #kubernetes-dev slack channel
- 52 mailing lists (kubernetes-dev@ has thousands of members; sig-networking@ has 1000 alone)
- 40 community groups
- 30 upstream meetings this week alone
All of these numbers are only growing in scale, and with that comes the need to simplify how contributors get the information right information front-and-center.
How we got here
Kubernetes (K8s for short) communication grew out of a need for people to connect in our growing community. With the best of intentions, the community spun up channels for people to connect. This energy was part of what helped Kubernetes grow so fast, and it also had us in sprawling out far and wide. As adoption grew, contributors knew there was a need for standardization.
This new attention to how the community communicates led to the discovery of a complex web of options. There were so many options, and it was a challenge for anyone to be sure they were in the right place to receive the right information. We started taking immediate action combining communication streams and thinking about how to reach out best to serve our community. We also asked for feedback from all our contributors directly via annual surveys to see where folks were actually reading the news that influences their experiences here in our community.
With over 43,000 contributors, our contributor base is larger than many enterprise companies. You can imagine what it's like getting important messages across to make sure they are landing and folks are taking action.
Contributing to better communication
Think about how your company/employer solves for this kind of communication challenge. Many have done so by building internal marketing and communication focus areas in marketing departments. So that's what we are doing. This has also been applied at Fedora and at a smaller scale in our very own release and contributor summit planning teams as roles.
We have hit the accelerator on an upstream marketing group under SIG Contributor Experience and we want to tackle this challenge straight on. We've learned in other contributor areas that creating roles for contributors is super helpful - onboarding, breaking down work, and ownership. Here's our team charting the course.
Journey your way through our other documents like our charter if you are interested in our mission and scope.
Many of you close to the ecosystem might be scratching your head - isn't this what CNCF does?
Yes and no. The CNCF has 40+ other projects that need to be marketed to a countless number of different types of community members in distinct ways and they aren't responsible for the day to day operations of their projects. They absolutely do partner with us to highlight what we need and when we need it, and they do a fantastic job of it (one example is the @kubernetesio Twitter account and its 200,000 followers).
Where this group differs is in its scope: we are entirely focused on elevating the hard work being done throughout the Kubernetes community by its contributors.
What to expect from us
You can expect to see us on the Kubernetes communication channels supporting you by:
- Finding ways of adding our human touch to potentially overwhelming quantities of info by storytelling and other methods - we want to highlight the work you are doing and provide useful information!
- Keeping you in the know of the comings and goings of contributor community events, activities, mentoring initiatives, KEPs, and more.
- Creating a presence on Twitter specifically for contributors via @k8scontributors that is all about being a contributor in all its forms.
What does this look like in the wild? Our first post in a series about our 36 community groups landed recently. Did you see it? More articles like this and additional themes of stories to flow through our storytellers.
We will deliver this with an ethos behind us aligned to the Kubernetes project as a whole, and we're committed to using the same tools as all the other SIGs to do so. Check out our project board to view our roadmap of upcoming work.
Join us and be part of the story
This initiative is in an early phase and we still have important roles to fill to make it successful.
If you are interested in open sourcing marketing functions – it's a fun ride – join us! Specific immediate roles include storytelling through blogs and as a designer. We also have plenty of work in progress on our project board. Add a comment to any open issue to let us know you're interested in getting involved.
Also, if you're reading this, you're exactly the type of person we are here to support. We would love to hear about how to improve, feedback, or how we can work together.
Reach out at one of the contact methods listed on our README. We would love to hear from you.