Community Leadership Summit Wiki

Coopitition: Managing Competitors In Your Community[]

The goal of the session was to explore the value of coopitition, share stories and discuss strategies to keep the competitors involved.

Dan kicked off the session by providing a definition of the term coopitition - competitors working together in a community to furthur a common goal. He referenced the saying, "a rising tide lifts all the boats."

A recurring example of coopitition was when competitors worked together to furthur the adoption and perception of a technology or platform. Some of the stories shared follow.

  • The core value of Java EE is that it offers a standards-based platform with multiple implementations. Java EE vendors work in each other's communities to foster the Java EE ecosystem, the common ground. If one vendor can help another vendor improve the performance of their implementation, that can positively impact the perception of the technology (a poor implementation can give the impression the technology is bad).
  • NoSQL vendors, such as MongoDB, work together to raise nawareness about NoSQL as an alternative to relational databases. Although each implementation offers unique value, they need to make developers aware that there are data storage alternatives.
  • Google is the biggest revenue source for Firefox (ad revenue), yet their open source browsers compete. Yet, they have a common adversary, proprietary or older browsers not HTML5-compliant. That's their common ground. Together they work together to broaded adoption of HTML 5 browsers and push each other to achieve compliance and much better performance.

Additional examples were given. Some of the example explored how toxic it can be to block contribution by competitors, whether it's better to recommend a competitor if your product is not a good fit for the user or try to persuade them to fit your offering, ...

We decided that competitors in your community is a good thing (even if it's the extended community like the relationship between Spring and Java EE advocates in the broader Java community), you should go upwards until you find a common point and you should always be respectful with those members. Reasons to consider are:

  • Sharp attacks/jabbing can give users the impression that the technology is rife with conflict and they want to avoid it all together; better to emphasize the value you offer, phrasing it as the benefits
  • You may end up joining with your competitor down the road (either individually or through an acquisition); cooptition can keep the door open for you to change your message w/o caught being double tongued.
  • A competitor can help you spread the word when your message overlaps, then you just have to convince them of the extra value you provide

Dan shared a story from his competitive days as a swimmer. He said he would get to be friends with a competitors from another team who he would he would race against in the next lane. Knowing the person made the race more personal and thus motivated him to put more into it. Between competitions, he would think of their next meeting and it would drive him to be prepared to put on a good performance and to gain peer respect. So competitors push each other in a positive way, and make for a better race for the spectators.

The take away from the session was to find a common ground with your competitors in your community and focus on advancing those common goals. After all, "a rising tide lifts all boats." When you want to focus on differentiating your value from your customer's, do it in a respectiful and tasteful way. Spreading FUD only comes back to hard you, and could drive the competitor out of your community, thus evaporating the mutual benefit you could have by working together.