An Open Source Community: How We Came To Use Spectrum

CameraKit is a robust open-source platform for quickly adding camera functionality to your android applications.

At CameraKit we strive to empower our community to not only expand CameraKit usage, but build a better product along the way. We’ve discovered a few tactics for accomplishing our goal: be available and responsive, open to feedback and build the CameraKit our community wants.

We had the vision, now we needed the tool.

The First — GitHub.

CameraKit started on GitHub. GitHub is a platform to house code, track changes and post issues. Posting issues it the main method one can interact with other developers on GitHub.

Starting out, we didn’t have a need for lengthy communication. We had a small following of developers looking to use CameraKit and help in its development.

As CameraKit grew, our GitHub page was attracting a wider audience. We noticed our issue page filling up with all sorts of questions. From a developer creating his or her first Android application, or a seasoned Android expert looking into the intricacies of our library. We didn’t have a good way of separating these two styles of questions and ended up with a backlog of issues.

In order to keep GitHub project development focused, we needed another solution.

Pros:

  1. Automatically set-up with our codebase hosting
  2. Good for software development related issues

Cons:

  1. Bugs and features mixed together with simpler questions.
  2. Difficult notification management

The Second — Slack.

Our team used Slack internally. When we wanted another place for communication and questions, it seemed like the natural first choice. Slack is primarily a tool for well defined teams, but decided to give it a try in our community use case. We created a public channel and had people join.

Slack worked well at a small scale for CameraKit. People were able to ask questions and get quick responses. We posted updates and new feature ideas, and were able to get feedback right in slack. The chats had much more of a discussion feel, where people could get help or talk about their applications and camera needs.

However, slack is inherently built for teams and not for large groups of people. There is a bit of a barrier to entry with using Slack for this type of communication. One has to sign up through the 3rd party tool by link only, and download the client. Because of this link only invite, our group was not easy to find by searching alone. Slack is also not indexed online, so finding questions that someone’s asked before was not possible.

Pros:

  1. Faster communication than GitHub
  2. More discussion focused than GitHub

Cons:

  1. Hard for people to join
  2. Poor member management
  3. Not indexed by Google for repeat questions

The Third — Spectrum.Chat

After searching for another tool to host informal CameraKit discussion, we came across Spectrum. Spectrum positions itself as “a platform for communities”, just what we had in mind.

Spectrum’s format for discussion is based on a question and comment system similar to GitHub issues. The questions are split up based on channels; e.g. feature requests or community help. This system makes it easy for someone to pick the channel they want, ask a question and get a timely response. On the homepage for our CameraKit group, there’s a helpful search feature next to different sortings of the questions. One can see the latest questions or what’s trending on CameraKit.

Spectrum is also easy to join and brings useful member management, analytics along with flexible team and administrator settings. We also have the ability to integrate Spectrum directly into our website.

Spectrum is still not perfect. Its a relatively new company, and we have occasionally encountered bugs and stability issues on their site. The website can also be confusing to navigate on first glance.

However, spectrum was recently acquired by GitHub! This gives us hope that the Spectrum will only grow in popularity and continue to be updated for the foreseeable future.

Pros:

  1. Easy to join
  2. Helpful management tools
  3. Robust search, and indexed online
  4. Strong backing

Cons:

  1. Still a young company: some bugs and stability issues
  2. Interface can be confusing to navigate

The Winner — Spectrum!

We are fond of our new home on Spectrum. With Spectrum’s acquisition by GitHub, no doubt these issues will be ironed out and the system improved in the future. We much prefer the ease of management Spectrum provides over the discussion focused style of Slack.

So if you haven’t already check us out on Spectrum. Leave a question or comment and we’ll be sure to get back to you!

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you around.