The Five for the Future site and tools launched at the end of 2019, and then the pandemic hit. It’s been difficult to make time to iterate on the program, but eventually the window of opportunity for changes will open, and I wanted to collect my suggestions here, in case they will be helpful in the future.
The program has a few major challenges that have kept it from reaching its full potential. Here’s my take on those problems, and how they might be resolved:
Spam or dormant pledges
The program runs on the honor system, and it wasn’t clear how much of a risk that would be, at launch. Two years later, there have certainly been more “spam” pledges than anyone would want, and surprisingly (to me) few reports of fake or spam pledges. What that tells me = either people don’t go surfing around in the pledge lists, checking for accuracy, the Report feature is too hard to find (unlikely), or people don’t really care whether pledges are accurate or not.
I do think that a substantial number of false/fake/spam pledges are a problem, because they depreciate the value of the sincere/active/real pledges. If we never intend to clean up the rolls, then we should probably consider shutting down the program or putting more disclaimers on the site. 🙂
I don’t think it’s time to get that drastic, though. Here’s what I think could work, to increase the signal to noise ratio in pledges, in no particular order:
- Share the list of pledges with leaders on each contributor team, asking them to mark the contributors they’ve never worked with or seen participate on the team.
- Send the “absent” contributors a friendly email, letting them know that we’re cleaning spam pledges from the site, and asking them to confirm that their pledge is not-spam. Share the names of those who confirm not-spam back to contributor teams and encourage them to reach out to that list with opportunities to help work on things.
- (This will depend on each team being able to provide a list of ways to contribute. Worse comes to worst, I suppose we can send pledgers to each team’s handbook page that talks about how they can help.)
- For those who do not confirm within a reasonable time period, remove their pledges from the site, and email them with a friendly message that we have been removing apparent spam pledges. Let them know how they can re-pledge if they simply missed our previous message asking for confirmation. It would be interesting to know if people who only come back once we’ve removed their pledge, actually become active or not. I’m not sure what will happen there.
- Institute a biannual 5ftF spam-check, following the above process. Maybe that’s too often — maybe only once every year?
Disconnect between contributor teams and pledged contributors
For whatever reason, the outreach that I imagined would happen, between contributor teams looking for help and the list of pledged contributors that was added to every sidebarSidebar A sidebar in WordPress is referred to a widget-ready area used by WordPress themes to display information that is not a part of the main content. It is not always a vertical column on the side. It can be a horizontal rectangle below or above the content area, footer, header, or any where in the theme. on the Make network…. never really came to pass. I’m not sure if that’s because contributor teams don’t feel comfortable pinging someone out of the blue and asking for help (it’s very likely that I have less shame than most, in my recruitment work), or if that *has* been happening, but just hasn’t been productive.
I was talking to Courtney Engle Robertson about this a little, this week, and she mentioned the idea of a tagging system on Make blog posts, that could automagically alert pledged contributors of posts that included opportunities to help out. I think we’d need to add some opt-in steps there, for privacy reasons of course, but I think this idea has merit.
When contributors re-confirm their pledges, they could be asked to click a box on their Profile page if they want to be emailed posts from Make blogs with a #5ftF tag or something, and maybe even specify which blogs they’d like to hear from in that way.
Another idea in this vein = inviting people to mark what kind of work they’re interested in doing for WordPress, when they make their pledge. I’m envisioning options like:
- administrative (answer emails in a queue, take meeting notes, etc)
- feedback (review and comment on blog posts,
- testing (CoreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. betaBeta A pre-release of software that is given out to a large group of users to trial under real conditions. Beta versions have gone through alpha testing in-house and are generally fairly close in look, feel and function to the final product; however, design changes often occur as part of the process. testing, contributor tool beta testing, pre-beta testing for new features, etc)
- writing (write new or update old documentation, revise contributor team handbooks)
- and the like.
Then contributor teams could get a regular report that (for example) 24 people have pledged 2 hours per week to their team, and 10 of them are willing to write or edit documentation. This could aid in the outreach/recruitment that contributor teams do, when they need to find people to work on a new or dormant project.
Train the pledgers, train the recruiters/onboarders
Another thought I had, about how we don’t seem to see a strong connection between pledged contributors and the teams they’re pledged to, is that not everyone knows how to effectively recruit people to contribute — even if they’re “qualified leads” (which is what I’d consider pledged contributors).
And not all people making pledges, necessarily know how to *find* the pages that tell them how to get involved.
So I think a two-pronged approach could help here. We write some docs or a training on how to recruit (and onboard?) contributors, and then we alter the email that pledged contributors get when they pledge, to include links to the onboarding docs for the teams they indicated. That’s work, y’all! But I think it would have a positive effect even beyond this program.
What do you think of these ideas? What ideas do YOU have for making the Five for the Future program more reliable and useful? Share your ideas/feedback and discuss in the comments, below!