QA/Contributor Emails Discussion
Handling Contributor Emails
Currently we get a ton of emails from people who could be interested in participating in the project, and we are not taking advantage of that. We need to change our approach such that we are able to attract and retain a non-zero number of contributors in the near future.
What Happens Now
The nightly build landing page has a link to a contribution page where people can fill out a form for those interested in getting involved. If their interest is in quality assurance, the form submits an email to the email@example.com list and it gets cc'd to firstname.lastname@example.org. This account then sends an auto-reply message to the email address in the submit form with a brief description on how they can contribute to our group.
If they then decide to reply to that, the email is sent to the email@example.com list which includes all of the firstname.lastname@example.org and at that point individuals within the team can reply with a more personal message and instructions.
We get a little over 10 messages a day, and on a good week there are one or two emails from people describing with enthusiasm their previous experience and specific interests.
Many of these emails have empty content and only have a subject indicated they are interested in participating. A few turn out to be support requests.
All contribute emails used to be sent out to the email@example.com list, and a handful of us used to reply personally to those. We had a couple of templates with sample responses and we used those in our replies. Personal emails yielded 1 or 2 replies per 300 emails or so, and further contact didn't engage the potential contributor. For example, I was never able to get anyone to attend a testday.
We didn't have a schedule and assignments for who would be in charge of replying to these emails, so often times, we would go for a few days without replying to people.
How We Got Here
Replying personally to emails was time consuming. We decided to try the auto-reply approach because we thought that if someone was motivated enough to reply to an auto-reply message, those people might be motivated enough for us to continue engaging them on a personal basis.
The content was edited a few times until we reached a message that was concise, not intimidating, and specific: "try out one of our nightly builds" for example.
Very few people reply to our auto-reply messages. When that happens and we reply personally to those messages, we don't get further contact. To date, we haven't had a contributor come in and participate in any of our weekly tasks such as a testday or a Litmus test run.
Goals and Some Ideas
We would like to engage and retain contributors in our area. If we get 300 emails per month, could we have one new regular contributor per month? We would have to define "regular", but it would be someone who could attend a testday, triage a list of bugs, verify bugs, or run tests for some period of time.
Some ideas we can try:
- Go back to replying personally to these emails.
- Have potential contributors reply to other, new potential contributors, like a newbies forum.
- Continue with the auto-reply mechanism, but pick a few emails where people have been more descriptive and may be more motivated.