We were very pleased and surprised to see this article pop up (thanks, agilob!) as well as this one, this one, and this one that all arrived on the Hacker News front page in the space of about a weekend. There were also many kind comments left by users, which is always great to see. We’re excited to have a lot of loyal fans (many of whom are also contributors).
While there’s no magic formula for getting people to like you, we think that some of it has to do with the values embedded in your company culture. Your company culture not only defines how your organization works together but it also defines how your team interacts with the outside world. It dictates the underlying philosophies for how you treat employees, customers, partners, suppliers, etc. A great company culture can help you attract great talent and earn respect from your customers and partners. At GitLab, we take our culture very seriously and we are constantly working to maintain it as we grow.
This post outlines the principles that we think make it easier for people to become fans. Naturally, every company culture is unique so these are our thoughts on what works for us. We think there may be some learnings here for your company as well. We could also learn from your culture so please comment on this post with what works for your company or team.
We try to do things consistently as much as possible, like releasing a new version of GitLab every month on the 22nd. It’s not that different from knowing your favorite show is going to come out on the Thursday of every week; when you can rely on something, it’s easier to get committed to it.
We also try to make it very easy for our users and team to understand our processes, for example by having our Handbook and strategy out in the open. If people have access to clear information about who we are and how we work, they can become better ambassadors for GitLab. That means, basically, knowing our values in a way that can be communicated forward.
Nothing is worse than a company that creates a need rather than addressing a real problem. We develop new features on a regular basis and to be prolific (yet efficient) in our work, because we value productivity. In short: don’t try to create a problem where there isn’t one; solve a real problem. And then do it again, and again, and again. People will appreciate it.
One of our core values at GitLab is to contribute to the bigger project rather than guarding one corner of it. In one sense this is just a more efficient way to solve problems, by group-sourcing solutions. We developed our public issue tracker to help make collaboration as easy as possible. But not surprisingly, collaboration also builds solidarity, goodwill, and loyal fans. Just one more reason to do it.
Many companies try to tread a careful line, never taking much of an opinion so as not to alienate potential customers. We don’t believe in that. We’re vocal about things we believe in, like the fact that we think remote only is the way forward.
It’s hard for people to become fans if you never take a position on things. It can cause some polarization, ie. people will dislike you OR they’ll really like you – and we think that’s okay. It’s preferable to be disliked on occasion than to have a lukewarm company personality that’s completely uninteresting. Don’t be afraid to be a little different.
Transparency is one of those buzzwords that gets used a lot, and can mean very little. For some companies it means they’ve done their job if they put a few company documents online. We think real transparency is about trying to do as much as possible out in the open, so that anyone can see it. Being remote-only makes this easier, because we can ensure that most of our comms are logged publicly.
We still run into conflicts, because we’re also a commercial entity that has customers and partners, which means some things have to be kept private. We’ve outlined our commitment by looking at other communities and projects which have struggled with the open-source issue. We try to achieve:
- Transparent decision making about the direction of the project.
- Company involvement in open communication channels.
- A balance of tending to the needs of the project and to the needs of the company.
We’re working hard, but there’s always a lot to potentially improve upon. What do you think is important and what could we be doing better in your opinion?