Your approach to communications in your project influences success more than code and data.
I often kick off a hack weekend with an assurance to participants that everyone has something vital to contribute, and not being able to code isn’t an inhibitor to being able to contribute to a project.
I’m sure no one believes me. I’m sure they think I’m just being nice.
The truth is that the single biggest contributor to any project is communication, not code. Being able to convey to users what the project does, why they should care and how they can take part are vital aspects that are often overlooked. So let’s break down the what, why and how a little.
What the project does
There are two parts to this – and one often gets forgotten. What the project does in terms of features, and what the project does in terms of objectives and outcomes. A project to make it easier to find public transport options could be described as “making it easier to get the bus”, and it should also be described as “increasing mobility options for area X” or indeed “save the Polar Bears by reducing transportation carbon emissions”.
Why they should care
No one cares about databases or apps. Which is why it’s so important to look past your features, to the underlying cause.
Typically people will care more about the bigger goal, and are therefore more likely to give your project attention. Who doesn’t want to save the Polar Bears?
Identify your Polar Bear and talk about it.
How they can take part
Nothing makes people care about a project like feeling involved. Tweeting a request for information can be a quick, simple, low barrier option that is available even in the first hour of a project. Publishing a survey, asking for relevant stories, and even asking for volunteers is all worthwhile – as long as you’ve given your audience a reason to care first.
Building a broader team of supporters and test users around your project is vital to creating long term momentum. Lower the barriers to engagement – offer really simple tasks that people can complete so that they feel invested.
At a recent codethecity one of the requests was as simple as “hey friends, could you send me a photo of any drinks cans that are near you please?” Within minutes the photos started flowing.
Find that simplest contribution and reach out broadly, and early.
So how does this impact a project? Projects are enabled by technology, but they are driven by people. The more people you have behind your project the faster you can drive.
It’s as simple as that.