Deb Richardson formed LinuxChix1 in 1999 with the goal of creating a welcoming and friendly environment for people interested in Linux. Soon, LinuxChix had a web site, several mailing lists, a logo, and a community of people interested in helping people, especially women, get started and stay interested in Linux. By 2001, LinuxChix was struggling, as the community continued to grow and Deb began to burn out. Deb asked for volunteers to take over as LinuxChix coordinator and chose Jenn Vesperman for the job.
Along with a large cast of volunteers, Jenn Vesperman set about learning how to run and organize a large international volunteer Linux community. Along the way, LinuxChix grew substantially, became more explicitly focused on encouraging women in Linux, and branched out into many new areas, such as free on-line classes on everything from kernel development to starting a small business. LinuxChix was and is completely volunteer-run and has no corporate sponsorship, which makes the accomplishments of the last few years even more impressive. What made LinuxChix such a success? This paper is our attempt to record and communicate what we learned about running an online volunteer organization to other free software communities.
We'll begin with the major lessons we've learned about running (or more accurately, not running) a volunteer organization. After that we'll talk about some of the problems specific to the LinuxChix community and some of the ongoing problems we haven't yet solved. We'll end with a summary of the big rules we learned while running LinuxChix.