At Magento Imagine in April 2018 in Las Vegas, Magento announced the plan to found the Magento Association. It was presented by Magento‘s CMO Andrea Ward, together with four of the main heads of Meet Magento Association, in particular Thomas Goletz, Kuba Zwolinski, Guido Jansen, and Ignacio Riesco.

When the initiative to found the Magento Association was started, the idea was to have an organisation that is built to support technology projects, community events, training and education, and online collaboration (more here). In the formation process of the Magento Association, this focus may shift to something else, depending on the input of the community and the decision of the association.

Meet Magento Association

To prevent any confusion, let’s first recap what the Meet Magento Association is. In Germany, the conference Meet Magento used to be organised by Netresearch, a Leipzig based Magento focused agency. In order to better separate the conference organisation from the rest of the business, Meet Magento Association was founded. It soon became not only the home of Meet Magento Germany, but also the source of information for anyone planning to bring the Meet Magento conference format to another country. Also, the association brings together different players in the Magento sphere as well as representing the interests of its members towards Magento Inc.

First Reaction to Announcement of Magento Association

When I first heard of the announcement, I was a bit taken aback. As someone rooted in the German Magento community, where you have plenty of events (meetups, Meet Magento, MageUnconference, Christmage, …) as well as two associations (Meet Magento Association & FireGento), it didn’t seem necessary to have any other association. Moreover, it appeared like Magento suddenly wanted to be more in control of what the community does. To say I wanted to repulse the whole idea might be a bit too harsh, but I was certainly very critical of it. Here is why:
In the German community, we enjoy a high level of engagement of various people. Naturally, these people have different ideas of how things should be done. From my work in the organising team of MageUnconference, I know the struggles that happen when you have to report and justify your (crazy) ideas to the heading association (even if it is the liberal FireGento). I like the craziness, the individualism of each event. And I wouldn’t want to have any kind of association govern it with the authority that an official “Magento Association” could have.

Our national community is also known for speaking freely and frankly about anything they don‘t like. It is a community of outspoken critics of almost anything Magento does – no matter how good or bad it actually is.
However, there were some incidents at past events that may have been prevented if an organisation provided feedback to the organisers’ plans, e.g. the uproar about the dancers at Dev Paradise or the non-diverse speaker lists at various conferences. Not every event can rely on a diverse organising team nor can every organising team put an (inefficient) amount of time in discussing even the little things (which can blow up to big issues for some).
An organisation that would help (event) organisers stay on a steady path which makes every attendee or participant feel welcome and respected would help our Magento community grow and become even better.

Navigating uncertainty

The first announcement of the Magento Association was very vague. I tried to find out what it was all about. Why it was founded. Who would be leading. But I couldn’t get a concrete answer.
It became more understandable to me when Thomas Goletz spoke about it at the Meet Magento Association‘s Partner Day on 17th June 2018.
The plan is to create a non-profit organisation, registered in the United States, probably by the end of 2018. The Magento Association will be created with the help of SmithBucklin. SmithBucklin is an AMC, which stands for association management company. They have an extensive experience how to create and run associations, the legalese involved and also they provide professional staff to run the association. Some of their customers are the Fuel User group (connected to Palo Alto Networks) and the Oracle HCM Users Group.

The process

In order to create an association that fits the existing Magento communities as well as the future communities that will hopefully grow all around the globe, it takes more than filling out a form or two. The process is intentionally open, but also gated. This means that there is an open group in the Magento Forums. However, the brainstorming meetings take place with invite-only attendees: first at IRCE in Chicago, then after Meet Magento DE in Leipzig and finally online for the Latin American, Asian, and Pacific regions.
The content of these meetings is not confidential, but organised. So I‘m allowed to blog about it and you can also read the official notes from the meetings. At the Leipzig meeting, we were 21 people and, to be honest, it wouldn’t have been possible to work on all these topics in such a short amount of time (ha, 7 hours) if the group was any larger. The reasons here is that every voice should be heard, topics were discussed – sometimes very much in detail, group exercises took place. It was an interactive meeting which is only doable with a limited amount of people.

The Steps of 2018

Late of 2017, the whole process of forming the Magento Association was triggered. The steps until the official founding (planned for the end of 2018) include the creation of a 3 year financial plan, writing bylaws, putting together a strategic plan and finally agreeing on a plan of work and an operating budget. Since this association will need some resources to get started (only thing of the time already spent in the meetings), the association should bring value to the community. There must be some kind of measurable success to justify why SmithBucklin & Magento go to great lengths when creating the association. You might be taken aback by this. Please don’t be. They are looking for measurable success as in numbers of sponsors and members of the association, as well as number of attendees at events organised by / in cooperation with the association.

If I may quote Josh Berman from SmithBucklin here: Trust in the process.

What kind of association will it be?

There are different kinds of associations out there, characterised by the different level of control by the company and the customer (or community). For the Magento Association, the aim is to let the customer have a rather high control and leave a minimum of control to the company. In terms of association classification, this is called a self-sustaining independent customer company. It comes with a number of advantages, like a high engagement of the community. However, as a disadvantage, these kinds of associations have difficulties when it comes to making radical changes.

For Magento, this means that they will have representation in the Magento Association, but not control. Read: There may be a member in the board of Magento Association who is with Magento Inc. This person would then advise the board, however, they would not have a vote.

If the formation process of the association shows that more control from the company is necessary or wanted, the aim might shift to create an association with a different distribution of control. This will be settled in the bylaws.

From a financial point of view, this association shall make enough money to cover its expenses. For example, sponsors and members will probably bring in a steady flow of income.

Still a lot undefined

As of now, the Magento Association only exists as an idea (that many people already put plenty of work into). The brainstorming period continues to gather opinions that will later be represented in the bylaws.
We have covered a lot of ground during the meeting in Leipzig:

  • The current state of the community offerings
  • The future audience and a prioritisation of the community segments
  • Plans for event strategies and how to improve the operational efficiencies of events
  • Ideas how to fund the new organisation

More information on the details can be found in the official notes from the meeting that will be available in the Magento Association’s own thread in the Magento Forums.

Want to participate? Do so!

If you want to participate and engage in the discussion, please do so in the Magento Forums. To keep the discussion going in a constructive way, I would like to ask you to familiarise yourself first with the general aim for the association. We need a diverse input from all kinds of people inside the Magento ecosystem in order to build an association that can reflect the diversity. Merchant, service provider, solution specialists, all of you are welcome to provide input on the Forums.

While I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to take part in the meeting in Leipzig, I understand the frustration of some who would have liked to take part but couldn’t. Please take the chance to bring in your perspective on the Forums. To build the Magento Association that can create value for the community, it is first of all our task to tell what kind of support our community needs. Where do you see current initiatives fail? Where do you feel like there is an issue but no community initiative yet to address it? How could an association help in these cases?

Sonja Franz

Author: Sonja Franz

Sonja Franz is the Head of Communications at integer_net. She especially enjoys organising events. Sonja is a Magento Certified Solution Specialist for Magento 1 and Magento 2 and has been awarded as a Magento Master in the category “Maker” in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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