Fueling innovative software
July 15-18, 2019
Portland, OR

A community of communities: Empowering maintainers to grow communities around their code

Ben Balter (GitHub)
2:35pm3:15pm Thursday, July 18, 2019
Open Source
Location: E145/146
Secondary topics:  Open Source
Average rating: ****.
(4.67, 3 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Open source program office managers, product managers, engineering managers, and open source maintainers




Open source is about much more than publishing code. It’s about building communities around shared problems. However, it can still be a challenge to empower maintainers of projects, both large and small, to grow safe and welcoming communities around their code. GitHub’s community and safety team is like many other services’ trust and safety teams in that the team is tasked with ensuring users aren’t required to risk their privacy or personal safety in order to participate in the GitHub community. But online communities are no different than the offline communities we participate in every day. Beyond discouraging disruptive behavior in the form of spam, abuse, or harassment, the community and safety team is also tasked with encouraging good online citizenship by making it easier for users to contribute constructively and for maintainers to adopt community management best practices.

Ben Balter walks you through GitHub’s approach to empowering open source maintainers to build a federation of semi-independent communities, both in terms of content moderation policy and specific features, shipped and upcoming, looking at how various community management approaches encourage or discourage community growth and participation. You’ll walk away not only with a better understanding of GitHub’s approach to fostering safe and welcoming open source communities but what tools and resources are available for maintainers to grow healthy communities around their projects that scale along side the code.

Prerequisite knowledge

  • A basic understanding of the open source community and community management generally (useful but not required)

What you'll learn

  • Learn how to grow a safe and welcoming community around your open source project and what community management tools are at your disposal
  • Understand GitHub's federated approach to community management
  • Take an analytical look at how various community management best practices affect community growth and participation
Photo of Ben Balter

Ben Balter


Ben Balter is a senior manager of product management at GitHub, the world’s largest software development network, where he oversees the platform’s community and safety efforts. Named one of the top 25 most influential people in government and technology, Fed50’s Disruptor of the Year, and winner of the Open Source People’s Choice Award, Ben previously served as GitHub’s government evangelist, leading the efforts to encourage government at all levels to adopt open source philosophies for code, data, and policy development.