Brussels / 2 & 3 February 2013


The Keeper of Secrets

The Dance of Community Leadership

Whilst the mantra of free and open source software communities focuses on transparency and collaboration, community leaders will often find that the most significant conversations are those they have one-to-one and "behind closed doors". As a community leader, one is called upon to be both trusted confidant and change agent, and being effective in both roles simultaneously can be a quite difficult - and deeply humorous - dance. Join Leslie Hawthorn as she explores the nuances of public and private discourse in FOSS projects, using real world examples from her experience interacting with more than 200 communities over the past six years.

Leaders in communities that value openness and transparency are faced with a difficult challenge: people confide in you constantly, but your role as a leader is to promote positive change in your project; change only proceeds where information flows. How does one negotiate the need to maintain trust and harmony in the human sides of our interactions in development communities, while still ensuring that the social problems that may inhibit community progress are mitigated? How does one manage to do all this while keeping one’s commitments to one’s friends and to project values like transparency and openness?

In this talk, Leslie Hawthorn will explore the role of secrets and disclosure in our open development communities. Specifically, she will explore how good leaders know when to discuss secrets, when to remain mum and, in particular, how to tell secrets "the right way". Drawing on six years of experience working with 100s of FOSS communities, she will discuss some of the most contentious and hilarious social problems she’s encountered and how they were addressed, with names and details omitted sufficiently well to keep her own commitments to confidentiality.


Leslie Hawthorn