In their research, Steinmacher, Igor; Silva, Marco Aurelio Graciotto; Gerosa, Marco Aurelio identified 15 challenges that newcomers face when trying to integrate into open source software communities, which they grouped into 5 categories.
- Social Interaction: lack of social interaction with project members, not receiving a timely response, receiving an iimproper response
- Newcomers' Previous Knowledge: lack of domain expertise, lack of technical expertise, lack of knowledge of project practices
- Finding a Way to Start: difficulty to find an appropriate task to start with, difficulty to find a mentor
- Documentation: outdated documentation, too much documentation, and unclear code comments
- Technical Hurdles: issues setting up a local workspace, code complexity, and software architecture complexity
In response to these challenges, the researchers suggested several strategies to help newcomers overcome these barriers, including providing clear and comprehensive documentation, establishing mentoring programs, and creating onboarding processes that gradually introduce newcomers to the community's norms and practices.
In the context of an online community, such as a forum or social media platform, the barriers for newcomers identified by Steinmacher et al. are especially relevant. For example, newcomers to an online forum may struggle to understand the community's culture and etiquette, find it challenging to navigate the platform's interface and features, and feel overwhelmed by the volume of content and conversations. To address these barriers, forum administrators can create clear guidelines and documentation to help newcomers understand the community's norms and rules, provide mentorship or peer support programs to help them get started, and design an onboarding process that gradually introduces them to the community's features and resources. By addressing these barriers, online communities can promote a sense of belonging and engagement among their members, and ultimately achieve their goals of knowledge sharing and community building.