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Franklin Ohaegbulam
Franklin Ohaegbulam

Posted on • Originally published at

How To Achieve Effective Open Source Collaboration

In this article, principles, tips, and tools are highlighted to demonstrate the various ways of collaborating efficiently and effectively in the open source community.


Open source collaboration requires open-mindedness since individuals with varying personalities, work experience, and attitudes are involved. Creating an atmosphere that respects diversity increases engagement, encourages open communication, and fosters accountability among every participant.

People can collaborate better to open source projects using the right collaboration and project management tools. Organizing meetings daily or weekly, asking questions, networking with coworkers, making suggestions, asking for feedback and guidance, sharing knowledge, and assigning roles to everyone as a group or individually also ensures efficient collaboration. It is pertinent for everyone to communicate effectively and also respect people’s opinions to accomplish a successful open source collaboration.

Here's a video presentation on effective open source collaboration:

How to achieve effective open source collaboration presentation

Defining the term "Collaboration"

Collaboration simply means working together with one or more people to complete a project or develop ideas. It requires interpersonal skills, communication skills, knowledge sharing, and strategy. It also involves using modern technologies to unite teams from different locations and time zones.

This gives team members an equal opportunity to share ideas, respect diversity better, and make decisions for the achievement of a common goal. Effective collaboration can be challenging since each person on a team has their respective strengths, weaknesses, perspectives, communication preferences, and personal goals.


Principles of effective Open source collaboration

The mindset and approach used in collaboration can make a world of difference.

1. Efficiency

Outlined action items and a project-focused team to encourage efficiency and increase productivity.

2. Trust

People need to feel safe to give and receive genuine constructive feedback, be inspired by a common goal, and have the tools and opportunities to connect.

3. Empathy

The more you get to know your colleagues and understand how they work and what challenges they’re dealing with, the better chance you’ll have at successfully collaborating with them. Having empathy for your teammates can allow you to better understand their motives and feelings. Taking the time to listen and understand how others think and work can help you to communicate with them in the right ways.

4. Optimism

Just because you had a group project go poorly in the past doesn’t mean that the same thing will happen again. Approach every group work situation like a new start, with an open and positive mindset.

Another extremely important component of collaboration is being able to think long-term and envision the end result of your collaborative work. Gaining an understanding of a project’s scope and everyone’s role encourages collaboration.

5. Clarity

It’s natural for people to have their own priorities or interests. That’s why it’s important to identify everybody’s priorities and agendas upfront to find a common denominator that will move the project forward.

6. Accountability

The most successful open source communities have modes of operation and processes where peers can reference a project’s schedule and tasks so they have a clear understanding of how their contributions affect the group.

7. Respect for Diversity

For a diverse Open Source community, reflect on any implicit biases or decisions that could be discriminating while working with colleagues from other countries and cultures.

8. Adaptability

Collaborative projects often don’t go as planned. Priorities shift, obstacles or unforeseen issue delay progress, and problems occur. Adapting well to change comes with practice and experience. Encourage adaptability by skipping the initial freak-out stage and brainstorming a solution to the problem.

9. Transparency

Practicing honesty and transparency at work might mean working through a disagreement, explaining that you were not able to complete a certain task on time, or sharing difficult updates. Without transparency, it can be difficult for a team to develop trust and therefore work together efficiently.

10. Organization

Collaboration can’t be successful unless people can delegate workload, take care of their responsibilities, and keep themselves organized.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Ways To Achieve Effective Open Source Collaboration

1. Provide Support

Although, you might have ideas about the direction of a project, it is essential to take others’ opinions into account. The best way to approach differing perspectives is often to reach a compromise.

2. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members

It is a great strategy to work with team members’ strengths rather than working around their weaknesses. This enables each person to get to know themselves better and their individual strengths. Then, pair them with convenient and apt tasks and roles.

When teams are connected in this way, everyone is set up for success because they are assigned tasks that play to their respective strengths.

3. Clarity of team goals and purposes.

To drive success in a team, it’s important to set measurable goals for each on a quarterly basis. Having a clear cause on why to get involved, makes them passionate about the goals and objectives. For collaboration to work, the vision and purpose must be clear.

When working with others, always be sure to state your intentions before you begin tackling a task or assignment. Let your teammates know what you’re doing and set realistic expectations regarding your timeline. If something unexpected happens and you won’t be able to deliver results as expected, communicate these changes too.

4. Assign roles and responsibilities

Members should be assigned defined individual roles and collective responsibilities. Analyze, evaluate and match tasks with a person who is in possession of the ability necessary for the task. Having a clear understanding of their position encourages them to work effectively.

5. Create an atmosphere of trust

As a team leader, it is mostly up to you to create a safe environment based on trust.
Setting up visible and realistic goals is a good way to start. It shows that you are able to manage performance in a way that motivates team members. And when a team can trust each other, it is easier to have a healthy approach to the project, and admit a mistake the moment it occurs, so the damage is minimized.

6. Organize the process

There is no chance for a collaborative environment unless you organize the work processes. In addition to providing support, building trust, and clarifying team member roles and responsibilities, your task is to provide a team with a platform to share their ideas or leave feedback. Try to allow teams to communicate the work status in real time.

7. Encourage participants to network

Socializing with co-participants is an effective way to open channels of communication, share common interests or talk about some challenges outside of work. This helps to decrease individual bias. For the Open Source community to grow they must be encouraged to brainstorm and exchange thoughts on a regular basis.

8. Recognize and reward efforts

For collaboration to work it must be consistent and purposeful, with resources and rewards dedicated to its success. When team members feel they are a part of something exceptional they are more than willing to work together.

9. Resolve problems without assigning blame

Sometimes when working with others, problems arise or people make mistakes. In these circumstances, it’s essential to analyze the issue as a group without blaming any team member. Instead, focus your energy on working together to find solutions.

To enhance collaboration, it’s important you’re willing to forgive mistakes when others make them and take responsibility when you make an error. This helps build trust between team members and ensures everyone feels comfortable communicating, even if they do something wrong.

Essential Skills For Successful Open Source Collaboration

1. Goal setting

Every effective team needs to understand what the common goals are, how these goals are measured and what the team should focus on. Set realistic expectations, otherwise, your team will find frustration instead of success.

Everyone should understand the purpose and vision behind the project, as well as how you’ll be determining success. Establishing transparency and identifying goals before you kick off a project will ensure everyone is committed to success and aligned with a common purpose.

2. Communication

People communicate differently, some of us feel perfectly comfortable speaking in groups; others don’t. Clear and thoughtful communication means being mindful of different communication styles and adapting the way you communicate accordingly. The collaborative process should incorporate alternative communication means - written, verbal or non-verbal.

3. Active listening

Active listening implies focusing intently on one person as they share their ideas, thoughts, or feelings. You might also ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into what they are communicating.

You might not always agree with the outcome, but at the end of the day, you need to prioritize the needs and responsibilities of the group over your own wants.

4. Problem-solving

When problems arise, analyze the issue as a group without blaming anyone. Rather, focus your energy on working together to find solutions. This helps build trust between team members and ensures transparency.

5. Time management

Being able to prioritize your tasks and schedule them accordingly is key to ensuring you can meet deadlines and complete the work that your team is counting on you to deliver.

6. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, recognize emotions in others and react appropriately, and apply your emotions to tasks. This is one of the most sought-after soft skills in the workplace.

Some traits to cultivate to increase your emotional intelligence include, resilience, not being offended easily, not taking criticism personally, being able to recognize and detach from strong emotions when needed, curiosity, empathy, compassion, and conflict resolution

7. Open-mindedness

When discussing a project or during brainstorming sessions, ideas come from different areas of expertise and should have equal opportunity to be heard, mulled over, criticized, or expanded upon. Also, set up some parameters on what will be discussed in a given meeting or discussion.

To be a successful collaborator, you must remain open to new ideas. It’s critical you acknowledge others’ contributions and consider their ideas without judgment.


Tools That Help In Effective Collaboration

Essentially, collaboration takes place when two or more people work together to produce or create something. This can happen either in person or virtually, thanks to the many communication tools and cloud-based programs that are created for this very purpose.

Some of the tools required for efficient and effective collaboration include:

Asana - a popular project management tool that allows you to assign tasks to other teammates, add followers to projects and monitor deadlines.

Trello - is another project management tool that organizes projects and tasks into draggable cards. Good for monitoring projects, assigning tasks, and quickly see the status of your team’s projects at a glance.

Discord - an instant messaging social platform for seamless communication and collaboration that help small teams to become more productive by featuring instant messages with unlimited searchable history.

Slack - a team messenger with an impressive list of collaborative tools. Your team can benefit from file sharing, search and archiving, and integrations with services like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

Backlog -
an all-in-one online project management tool for task management, version control, and bug tracking. It enhances team collaboration across organizations large and small.

Zoom -
a popular video chat and voice call service. Useful for making daily or weekly calls, video conferences with remote teams, job interviews, and communicating with clients.

Google Workspace - a collection of cloud computing, productivity, and collaboration tools great for remote teams. It comes with abilities to store, organize and search files combined with collaborative features like sharing, editing, and commenting within documents and applications. It comprises Google Drive, Google Excel, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Calendar.

Notion - a powerful note-taking tool that helps members of organizations coordinate deadlines, objectives, and assignments for greater efficiency and productivity.


Successfully collaborating with peers can drive efficiency and foster healthy relationships.

Additionally, sharing ideas and brainstorming is helpful for developing unique solutions to complex challenges.

This blog post was inspired by my talk on Open Source Collaboration at the FOSS Backstage. You can find the presentation slides here.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

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