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Sat, Apr 17, 2010

Conflict Resolution in Online Communities - Chapter 9 from the Art of Community by Jono Bacon

book coverPeople in the open source software community are probably already familiar with Jono Bacon, community manager for Ubuntu, a very popular version of the Linux operating system. Personally I’ve enjoyed listening to Jono’s lovely sense of Brit humor now that he has become a regular participant on the FLOSS Weekly podcast that explores the open source software universe.

However, the reason readers of this blog should get to know Jono’s work better is because he is the author of a new book (August 2009) from O’Reilly called The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation which is available in multiple languages and under a Creative Commons License that permits it to be shared and reused with proper attribution. Kudos to O’Reilly for being willing to release a free version of this book alongside the paid options!

The book is written so that it’s lessons can be applied to communities that go well beyond the technical and software focused groups that command most of Jono Bacon’s attention as a software developer and community manager.

Chapter 9 of the Art of Community (see it embedded below) is all about handling conflict that may emerge within your community. Concepts from the chapter are illustrated using a case involving two influential members of an online community who have gotten into conflict over if/how to solicit donations to the group and how to best manage the funds that could result. Overall, a lovely chapter, which, while it takes a few digs at conflict resolution as a full-blown field of study, it does so in a friendly way that simply emphasizes the practical over the theoretical. (Note: Readers may also want to pay special attention to Chapter 3 on Communicating Clearly, as this relates directly to conflict management and prevention as well.)

From the conflict resolution chapter:

There is a science out there that explains how conflict occurs, but it is grounded in this plethora of variables, stimuli, nature-versus-nurture debates, and other elements. It is possible to devote your life to the topic: there is a sea of content about the psychology of conflict, anger management, cultural impact, expectations, and negotiation skills. Although you are welcome to submerge yourself in this academia, much of it will not be particularly useful when trying to figure out how to untwist the knickers of two people caught up in a fracas.

As a general rule, conflict is rare, and it doesn’t need a lifetime devotion to the library of academia. What it needs are straight, practical, hands-on approaches to dealing with common situations. With this in mind I wanted to include this chapter as a summary of the most important things to know when dealing with your community’s conflict. It will give you the tools for handling the level of conflict you are likely to deal with.

The Art of Community - Building the New Age of Participation



Posted by: Bill Warters on 2010 04 17 | Filed under Conflict Resolution  

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