Among the many new things happening in our world is the formation of the Magento Association, announced by Magento CMO Andrea Ward at Imagine this year. In the interest of establishing and maintaining transparency regarding the Association, I’d like to share some information with you as well as an update on progress.
Magento Association Timeline
- October 2017: Discussion between Magento & MMA
- January 2018: Launch Association Management company research
- March 2018: Launch Association Management company selected
- April 2018: Magento Association announced
- June 2018: Initial brainstorming sessions (US, Europe, LATAM + India)
- July-September: Internal planning, public feedback
- October 2018: Magento Association established
TL;DR: What is the Magento Association?
Right now it is just an idea for the future benefit of the community, but one that will be realized. This idea is being made a reality through a deliberate, open process. It will be a replacement for the Meet Magento Association, with a likely expanded scope and deepened community involvement based on copious amounts of community input.
Why Magento Association?
Ever since its grassroots beginning, Meet Magento has grown to be one of the most important initiatives for connecting the community, the company and the growing business of Magento throughout the world. Over the past few years we saw an opportunity to support the Meet Magento network by partnering with the Meet Magento Association (MMA), a German-based trade association which administers the Meet Magento brand. MMA serves the worldwide Magento community through various business and educational initiatives as well as facilitating the growing footprint of Meet Magento events. In pursuit of expanding on this mission and these activities, we began discussions with MMA president Thomas Goletz. We eventually settled on establishing an independent, US-based trade association which will take one of the chief responsibilities of MMA: maintaining and extending the Meet Magento event network as well as licensing of the Meet Magento brand to vetted organizers.
I have a broader vision as well, one in which the Association becomes a venue for all Magento event organizers to work together as well as for community members to better connect with each other and with Magento, Inc. – but we have more work ahead of us to see if, how, and when that broad vision makes sense.
What will the Magento Association Look Like?
Once we realized this path, we began to consider how best to administer Meet Magento, and what kinds of other purposes and people it might serve. My main concerns were to preserve the independence of Meet Magento, which I credit as the most important part of its survival and growth. This pointed us to establishing a non-profit organization. This means that while Magento, Inc takes on the six-figure cost of researching and establishing the association entity, it is specifically limited from being overly commercialized by anyone – including Magento. Win-win! While this was the obvious course of action, creating independent trade associations isn’t a core competency of mine or of the company, so I had my concerns about how to proceed. However, It turns out that there are companies which help other companies solve this exact problem!
The Magento Association Process
Late in 2017 we began looking at how other technology (especially open source) companies have helped establish associations for their communities. In particular, Mark Lenhard (my boss), reached out to Dries Buytaert of Drupal, who connected us with Megan Sanicki, Executive Director of the Drupal Association. Conversations with her led us to the world of Association Management Companies (AMCs), which Brittany Mosquera, Shahadat Hassan, and I spent the first part of 2017 evaluating. In the end, we selected SmithBucklin as our association launch partner. You can find some details about them online: http://www.smithbucklin.com/about/our-culture/
We selected SmithBucklin for many reasons, including their corporate history, ethos, and their long-running success creating sustainable technology associations. What most encouraged us about SmithBucklin is their time-tested process of shared initial discovery in order to best define the organization structure, to identify the audiences it serves, and most importantly to ensure that it is self-sustaining. I characterize this initial step as a deep dive into the current character, activities, resources, and needs of the Magento community, with a goal of establishing a vision for how Magento and the community can grow to meet the challenges of today as well as the future. Feel free to reach out to Josh Berman from SmithBucklin’s Technology practice: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details
To that end, we’ve recently held a couple of brainstorming sessions, one in Chicago at the SmithBucklin headquarters and one in Leipzig, Germany after Meet Magento Germany (and the announcement that the Adobe acquisition is complete). We also conducted a virtual meeting to involve LATAM and APAC community members. These meetings were an honest, introspective, and intense look at our community and activities. They have been purely explorational, mainly for the benefit of SmithBucklin to understand the scope of what we’re trying to accomplish.
Process Interlude: Addressing Concerns
I’d like to address some of the concerns and feedback regarding the initial nature of these meetings. Our community tends to be wise, opinionated, and vocal, and I think most would agree with me when I say that transparency is a core value – perhaps the primary core value. It was no surprise to me to hear misgivings around the silence and lack of visibility regarding the brainstorming sessions (e.g. what they are, who was invited and why) and I admit to feeling some dissonance organizing them in silence. That said, we all have a monumental task ahead of us, and we have to start small in order to have focus. I liken it to building a big, beautiful building for us all to work in: it does no good to have all of the materials show up at once, when what’s needed is to clear some space and then go about construction with planning, purpose, and process.
I’d say that this initial process is going well. We’ve uncovered and unpacked several concerns, perspectives, and ideas to consider / challenges to meet. These early discoveries will help to drive the process forward constructively. That said, there were some things that I would like to own publicly:
- First, the silence about even this initial phase was not ideal. In retrospect, I think the community at large would have been less mistrustful of our process if I’d published our intentions earlier. Going forward I’d rather deal with telling several people to wait for a chance to offer input, rather than just ask them to trust me. At least that way people have had a chance to communicate.
- Regarding the brainstorming sessions, I think it would have been good to publish our criteria for who was selected to sit in the room, because it gives an appearance of favoritism when the criteria aren’t clear (thanks to Eric Hilleman from MageMojo for this suggestion). These meetings were used to gather input from Magento Masters, prospective commercial partners to the association, top core contributors, and event organizers from several event imprints (Meet Magento, MageUnconference, MageTitans, Magento Stammtisch, Magento Meetups, and Christmage).
- One glaring failure of mine in organizing the brainstorming sessions: I intended to limit participation to one person per company (in order to avoid the appearance of excessive influence), but due to less-than-clear organization on my part, some companies ended up with two people present in the Leipzig meeting. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have limited things in this way, and I apologize to all who were affected by this.
Teething pains aside, I’m thankful to share this process update along with the notes from the brainstorming sessions with everyone for your collective consideration and comment. It is a personal as well as an organizational goal to share everything in this process as quickly and openly as possible, and I want this expectation to be set from now going forward. Just as Magento is an open source company supported by a community steeped in openness, so must be the work of and eventually by the Magento Association.
After “What is the Magento Association?” (which I’ve hopefully answered here) the most-asked question I hear is “How do I become involved/have a say in this process?” It may seem silly, but it’s really important to register your interest using the link we announced at Imagine (https://magento.wufoo.com/forms/imagine-2018-magento-association/). Beyond that, you can of course reach out to anyone at Magento with thoughts, concerns, etc., including my email email@example.com.
Magento’s past and future success is 100% reliant on the Magento community, a community unlike any other in the technology industry. Our values must always reflect this, and more importantly, so should our actions.