Community-centered design: commons-based peer production (CBPP) community personas

(This post is by the UCM (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) team: Samer HassanPablo Ojanguren, Antonio Tapiador and Antonio Tenorio)


In the P2Pvalue project, we have followed a user centered design (UCD) process for our online collaboration platform. As first step, we’ve performed an ethnographic research study of different CBPP communities. One of the outcomes of this work has been the development of “Personas”.

A “Persona” is a fictional character that represents the typical characteristics of a given type of user of the product of service. Personas are useful because they provide a reference point for talking about desires, goals, limitations, etc.

Three main characters we have identified and developed as “Personas”. It is worthy to mention that in some aspects they have opposed needs and problems. In addition, we framed them within a hypothetical commons-based peer production community.

Hereafter we introduce the personas developed in the P2Pvalue project that have been used massively in ideation and design stages of the P2Pvalue platform:

Open Data Lovers (ODL)

The Open Data Lovers community (ODL) studies the relationship open data has with citizens, human rights, and political participation and transparency. The community was founded 3 years ago by Lucas and others attending the OpenData congress in Berlin. ODL works in conjunction with several open source businesses. They bring together people from social movements and some lower-level officials working in public administration (AAPP). They have drafted reports presented in the local councils of cities that have been key in the development of open data use in public administration.

ODL holds its internal organization meetings as well as bi-monthly events at MediaLab Prado and other open culture centers. Few people from the community attend these organizational meetings, and in fact they’re often the same people. However, there is a large community of interested individuals. The events held by ODL are well received and attended.

The community is organized through various mailing lists, one for organization and others around work topics. The use of chat apps like Telegram and WhatsApp is on the rise, although not everyone subscribed on the mailing lists uses these tools.

In a few months, Lucas will go to Peru for a one-year work commitment, which means the ongoing work and events with AAPP may be on temporary hiatus. Up until now, Lucas has been taking care of resource management, mailing lists, and the web page, with occasional assistance from other participants.

In general, decision making is handled informally though the mailing list. Event and work-group organization is managed using different tools, but there are no “official” tools designated for use by the community. Specific online tools are used as needed (Doodle, Trello, Google Docs, etc.)  This heterogeneity of tools does not allow the information produced by each work group to be shared easily with the rest of the community.

Lucas (1% or core)

Lucas is 30 years old, lives in Lavapies (Madrid) and is a university professor. He is passionate about free software, the commons and free/open culture in general.

He participates in many collectives and social movements and has even founded several, including ODL.

Lucas assumes many responsibilities in ODL with the intention that the collective will progress, and that things will get done – and done well – because they are essential. He would like to see the objectives of the community met. Every achievement in the community gives him a sense of fulfillment.

He often believes he is the only one who can resolve problems, and it’s not easy for him to delegate and share responsibility. At times, others have agreed to take on responsibilities without following through.

He reads all of the mailing lists for the communities in which he participates.

The workload that comes with all this often leaves him feeling burnt out, and that others in the community are not involving themselves enough.

He would like not to feel indispensable, and hopes to find fellow travelers that share his passion for the ideals of the community.

Laura (9% or occasional contributor)

Laura is 36 years old and a journalist by training. She runs a blog on transparency in public administration.

Laura encountered ODL about a year ago while doing research for an article she was writing for her blog.

After following ODL’s Twitter activity for a few months and attending several events, she decided to organize an event to present her research both to the general public and to this community in particular.

She believes that organizing an event with ODL could provide some visibility for her project and give her practice working on her communication skills, as well as help her organize the information she has gathered. She hopes that the community can give her feedback on her ideas, in order to improve her project. She also seeks wider recognition from the community, and to feel valued/acknowledged. She wants to feel like part of the group.

Laura believes that her research shows new examples of open data use and that sharing these with the community could be valuable for ODL. With this event, she feels that she is giving back to the community.

Laura fully shares the values put forth by ODL on open data, which she has discussed often in her blog.

Unlike Lucas, doesn’t take on general responsibilities for ODL; she knows that other people will take care of those. An exception would be those areas that affect or interest her most, like organizing her event, where she hopes the community will help and support her. However, she’s ready to lend a hand or generally offer support for the community.

A few months ago, she proposed a change in the community’s organizational structure and despite receiving positive feedback, Lucas and other highly active participants didn’t offer any concrete answers. This has frustrated her and made her feel less valued within the community.

Laura is on the mailing list, but she doesn’t read all the messages. She doesn’t feel confident about giving her opinion on certain topics.

She feels insecure because she doesn’t know if the community will value what she has to offer (her ideas, skills, etc.), a community she admires for its knowledge as well as its values, which she shares.

She plans to invite her friends, who don’t yet know the community, to her talk.

Alex (90% or periphery)

Alex is a 27 year old beginning entrepreneur who has a good feeling about the future of open data. He likes to go to related Meetups looking for ideas and contacts to launch his first startup. He likes to bring the subject up in conversation with his colleagues, and some of them find it a little tiresome.

According to the people in this small world, ODL enjoys a good reputation, so Alex started following them on Twitter and reading the articles they publish. He’s already been to one event, but he doesn’t really know how the community works nor what its members get out of it. He also doesn’t know how they’re financed nor who’s behind the community.

The community’s articles seem to him like a very important source of knowledge, and seem well aligned with his business ideas.

He doesn’t understand how the community can be sustainable, but he’s also not certain how his open data business will be sustainable. He has some intuition that if at some point his business does generate open data, the community could benefit from it.

As far as contributing to the community, he’s not sure where to begin right now.




You may also like

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.