The Community Club

Sarah Greisdorf
Sarah Greisdorf

Posted on • Updated on

What happens when you build something your community created?

Question for community managers who work at platform companies. We have community members who will build plugins to augment our platform. By virtue of the ever-changing nature of our platform we will sometimes release updates that render their plugins unnecessary.

For the large part this is completely unintentional. we don't keep a repository of member plugins and add-ons. However, I'm wondering for folks with similar communities, if you did know about a specific plugin that your company would be replicating the functionality of natively offered tools, do you give any advanced communication to that member?

We're wondering if doing so would set a dangerous precedent if we missed something going forward. Would love to know what you all think!

Discussion (3)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I think it comes down to a public setting of expectations, an acknowledgment of the give and take in these sorts of situations, and a reinforcement of your values along the way.

You have to march along and not be too tentative with this kind of unknown, but being proactive in setting the dialog helps a lot. It can also help to have an official guideline around the do's and don'ts about community contributions. Make sure that those guidelines are as strict or loose as you feel are appropriate. I'd err on the side of loose unless you have really good reasons to be strict, but there may be some parts to be strict about (like use of your official logo vs maybe a designated marker for community contributions)...

Good luck! Embrace the awesomeness of a community interested in doing this in the first place. Be firm where firmness is needed and otherwise go along for the ride.

jcountyprodigy profile image

I'll add ive also seen this happen pretty frequently in Discourse's community. but because every thing is open-source i think its pretty easy to mix and match community built plug ins with stuff maintained by the core team. From what i understand from hanging out on the forums over there - if a 3rd party plugin becomes super popular then i think thats a bit of an indicator to the team that its a big want/need for customers. I wouldn't be surprised if they reached out to original developers to see if they could work out something equitable. i dont know for sure but ive seen cases of people build really popular plugins and then later on end up being official employees of the company.

jenny profile image
Jenny Weigle

I want to echo what Ben and T have said. The first thing I thought when I read your post was, "Are the expectations or guidelines for creating a plugin documented somewhere? Is there a section in your Terms of Service that users must agree to in regards to these plugins?" It's great when a plugin becomes popular and heavily used, and it's important to keep track of those to know when they may be affected by updated. If/when you do create this document, promotion, education and awareness of it will be key! Plan a campaign around it to get the word out. Hold open office hours so people have a chance to ask questions about it. Hope this helps, Sarah!