Build Your Own Contributors (One Part at a Time)

Denise Paolucci (Dreamwidth Studios), Mark Smith (Dreamwidth Studios)
Location: D136
Tags: community
Average rating: ***..
(3.92, 12 ratings)

Dreamwidth Studios, a code fork of the LiveJournal open source blogging software, averages 50 commits a week from over 70 unique contributors. Over half of those contributors have either never programmed in Perl or never contributed to an Open Source project before, and roughly 75% of those contributors are women.

Mark Smith and Denise Paolucci, owners of Dreamwidth Studios, will discuss the tactics they’ve used to make their project successful, including:

  • Lowering the barrier to entry for new contributors, both experienced programmers and newcomers to the Open Source world, and how doing so creates an environment that enables the experienced developers on the project to work even faster.
  • Creating a mentoring program that accepts anyone who wants to learn that teaches programming in Perl (the project’s language), using Linux, designing good code architecture, and navigating the social norms of an Open Source project, without sacrificing your project’s ability to innovate advanced features.
  • Fostering an atmosphere of collaboration, not competition.
  • Harnessing users’ passion for the product and turning them into contributors passionate about the project.
  • Adapting these techniques to projects of all types, sizes, and lifecycle points, with practical tips for easy implementation.

If you want to broaden your contributor base and build an inclusive, passionate developer community, come and learn how to apply Dreamwidth’s methods to your own project.

Denise Paolucci

Dreamwidth Studios

Denise Paolucci began working on the project in 2001. Since then, she’s done everything from customer service to product planning to documentation to user advocacy to QA testing to falling over exhausted because she’s trying to do too much at once. Denise lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA with her long-suffering girlfriend, who fortunately enjoys the frequent “c’mere, look, isn’t this cool?” invocations, and two cats, who don’t care about the internet as long as they get fed on time.

Photo of Mark Smith

Mark Smith

Dreamwidth Studios

Mark Smith began volunteering with in 2001 in technical support and code development. He joined the staff in 2004, concentrating both on feature development and backend development, where he contributed heavily to utilities, such as Perlbal and MogileFS, that are in wide use by many other sites. After transitioning to Six Apart, Mark worked to design and build out the systems infrastructure for the product launch. He currently works for Google. Mark resides near San Francisco, CA, USA with his wife Janine and their canine companions.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Andrew  Binstock
Andrew Binstock
07/24/2010 8:18am PDT

OK session, although nearly every recommendation could have been taken from Karl Vogel’s book. What disappointed me was that the entire session was about how not to lose contributors—which is different from what the title suggests. There was scant information about how to get contributors except for an in-passing comment to get them from your user base.

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Rackspace Hosting
  • (mt) Media Temple, Inc.
  • ActiveState
  • CommonPlaces
  • DB Relay
  • FireHost
  • GoDaddy
  • HP
  • HTSQL by Prometheus Research
  • Impetus Technologies Inc.
  • Infobright, Inc
  • JasperSoft
  • Kaltura
  • Marvell
  • Mashery
  • NorthScale, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • OpSource
  • Oracle
  • Parallels
  • PayPal
  • Percona
  • Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc.
  • Rhomobile
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • SourceGear
  • Symbian
  • VoltDB
  • WSO2
  • Linux Pro Magazine

Sponsorship Opportunities

For information on exhibition and sponsorship opportunities at the conference, contact Sharon Cordesse at

Download the OSCON Sponsor/Exhibitor Prospectus

Media Partner Opportunities

Download the Media & Promotional Partner Brochure (PDF) for information on trade opportunities with O'Reilly conferences or contact mediapartners@

Press and Media

For media-related inquiries, contact Maureen Jennings at

OSCON Newsletter

To stay abreast of conference news and to receive email notification when registration opens, please sign up for the OSCON Newsletter (login required)

OSCON 2.0 Ideas

Have an idea for OSCON to share?

Contact Us

View a complete list of OSCON contacts