As a DevRel professional, you know that building relationships with developers and driving adoption of your protocol are key to success. But how do you achieve these goals in a structured and sustainable way? Enter the Orbital Model. This strategic framework focuses on customer engagement, brand reputation, and product innovation - all essential elements in the DevRel world. Keep reading to discover how the Orbital Model can be applied by DevRels for long-term growth and community building.
What is the Orbital Model?
The Orbital model is a strategic framework that focuses on creating long-term relationships with customers through customer engagement, brand reputation, and product innovation. This model can be applied to a variety of businesses, including open source protocols, and can be especially relevant to the role of Developer Relations (DevRel) in these organizations.
The Four Elements of the Orbital Model
The four key elements of the Orbital Model:
Gravity: Gravity is the force that keeps members engaged and motivated in a community. Members revolve around a shared mission and values, building relationships that help the community achieve its goals. The mission, values, and connections act as forces that attract and retain members.
Love: Love refers to the emotional connection that members feel towards the community and the protocol. This emotional connection drives engagement, advocacy, and loyalty.
Reach: Reach is the process of expanding the community by attracting new members and increasing the community's visibility. Reach is not just about numbers, but also about the quality of connections and relationships within the community.
Impact: Impact is the ultimate goal of the Orbital Model. The impact of the community and the protocol is measured by how it affects the lives of its members and the world around it. Impact can be achieved through product innovation, community contributions, and advocacy.
The Orbital Model recognizes the importance of building a strong community and the force of gravity that keeps members engaged and motivated. In a solar system, everything revolves around the sun, while in a community, members revolve around a shared mission and values. As members orbit, they build relationships that help the community achieve its goals, and the mission, values, and connections act as forces that attract and retain members.
A community's gravity causes members to pull themselves closer to the center, with highly engaged members orbiting faster at the center.
The concept of gravity is central to community building. These movements determine each community's unique field of gravity. In the Orbital Model, community builders can measure gravity and observe how it changes over time in response to various stimuli, such as engagement tactics and product improvements. Understanding a community's field of gravity is key to building a strong, sustainable community around an open source protocol.
Gravity = Change in Weighted Commitment / # of Members
Gravity & Growth:
Gravity and growth are two essential components of community building. However, striking a balance between growth and maintaining a community's values and sense of connection can be challenging. If a community grows too quickly without maintaining its gravity, it can negatively impact its impact and engagement levels.
Fortunately, the Orbit Model provides a framework for achieving this balance by leveraging the benefits of both gravity and growth. In this model, gravity is seen as the foundation for growth. The more gravity a community has, the more growth it can sustain while maintaining its values and connection between members. When members increase their commitment level, they can guide and integrate new or less involved members, allowing for an efficient and reliable process of moving members up to higher levels of involvement.
High-gravity communities can effectively integrate new members and help them reach higher levels of involvement. In contrast, low-gravity communities struggle with this process. As a metric, gravity measures how quickly member involvement is changing.
The Orbit Model identifies two key characteristics of each member, love and reach, that can help increase gravity. Love refers to the emotional connection members feel towards the community and the protocol, while reach is the process of expanding the community and increasing its visibility. By focusing on both love and reach, community builders can increase the community's gravity and sustainably grow its membership while maintaining its sense of connection and values.
In the context of community building, love is a crucial measure of a member's level of involvement and commitment. As members progress from newcomers to regulars to leaders, their love for the community increases, and this high level of commitment is essential in directing resources and people towards the company's mission.
However, it's not just high love members that are important; a balance of members with varying levels of love is necessary for a healthy community. Without a sufficient number of medium and high love members, it's not advisable to add new low-love members since they may struggle to integrate and engage with the community.
Using love as a metric, members can be assigned to different orbit levels, based on their level of commitment and regularity of activities. These levels provide a quick snapshot of a member's orbit within the community's field of gravity, helping community builders make informed decisions about growth and engagement tactics.
Reach is a metric that measures a community member's influence within and beyond the community. It factors in a member's reputation, credibility, and degree of connectedness to others. Members with high reach have broad and influential networks within the community, and information is likely to flow through them, causing others to follow.
To study reach, we use network analysis and graphs. Each node in the graph represents a member, and an edge exists between two nodes if they have a direct or indirect connection, such as a discussion on the community forum or attending the same event.
As a metric, reach considers the number, strength, and freshness of a member's connections, as well as their centrality within the network. Additionally, a concept called clout measures a member's external reach and looks at their influence outside the community, as well as their ability to act as a bridge between different groups of people.
The outcomes of a community's work and operation are collectively referred to as its impact. When a business invests in building a community, it can expect a return on its investment in the form of increased revenue, leads, visitors, partners, products, support, and social impact, among others.
In the Orbit Model, we conceptualize the community-to-business process as a flywheel, with the outputs of each step feeding back in as inputs to create a self-sustaining cycle. For instance, when satisfied customers become advocates, they attract more happy customers who, in turn, become advocates themselves, leading to a multiplication of positive outcomes. This helps explain how communities can generate exponential impact over time.
The Standard Open Source Community
Open source communities typically have a core tech stack, including a code repository, synchronous communication for core members, and occasionally a Twitter account or mailing list. These communities possess an inherent understanding of the development process and can usually code. Some well-known open source communities include Mozilla, Linux, freeCodeCamp, VS Code, and Orbit.
Common Challenges They Face:
Open source projects have become popular due to the collaborative opportunities they offer. However, working in an open source environment also presents some unique challenges. First and foremost, it is essential to prioritize moderation, having a code of conduct, and creating an inclusive, welcoming environment. These factors are necessary to build a high-gravity community that attracts and retains contributors.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is user support. When a project is new and not widely adopted, it may not seem like a burden. However, as the project grows and gains more users, the number of dependencies also increases. If the project is maintained by a company or a larger organization, it may have an advantage in terms of funding to pay people to maintain the project. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and getting volunteers to communicate and update user needs can be challenging.
If a project has a good set of contributors and maintainers, it is crucial to cultivate their needs to ensure the project's health and foster a healthy community. However, if these challenges are not taken seriously, the project could lose trust or traction among maintainers, users, and supporters.
A lack of a healthy community could lead to other alignment problems.
If there is no agreement on the direction to move in, the project could stall and suffer from a lack of growth.
Creating a high-gravity healthy community requires a diverse set of individuals with different skill sets, knowledge, and ideas. It takes time, energy, and resources to build and maintain a healthy community. By dedicating these resources, you effectively contribute to creating a better internet for everyone.
Wrapping up with a High-Gravity Community:
In the open source world, building a high-gravity community is more critical than the project itself. Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment, prioritizing moderation, and providing user support are all key factors in cultivating a healthy community. By rewarding and supporting participants, and educating and encouraging others, we can create lasting connections and relationships that extend beyond the project's scope. Ultimately, the success of an open source project hinges on the strength and health of its community.