These answers were provided by Megan Brett, a PhD student in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and a research assistant at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, where she's part of the team that manages the forums for Omeka.org.
For people who aren’t familiar with this community, where should they explore to find out more about it?
To learn more about Omeka in general, go to Omeka.org and look at the About page and some of the top pages of the documentation (omeka.org/codex).
Many members of the Omeka community are also active on twitter, and will either tag omeka with @omeka (the official account) or use #omeka when talking about using the system, asking questions, or sharing their projects.
What are a few of the most interesting features of this community?
There is a very broad range of people involved in the community, from those just getting started with digital work to professional developers who modify Omeka’s code and build their own themes and plugins. It includes the members of the Omeka development team at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, but many of the people answering questions online are volunteers who help others because they enjoy working with Omeka.
We recently conducted a survey of our developers to get a sense of where they are and what training they have (or have not had): http://omeka.org/blog/2016/03/03/omeka-developers-are-all-over-the-map-in-more-ways-than-one/
What’s it like to participate in this community?
This is a hard question to answer because we are the maintainers of the open-source project, so our experience is going to be different from an end user, a beginning developer, a developer for hire, or a power user.
That said, I would say that there’s always something new to learn, and that I really enjoy seeing what people are trying to do with Omeka. It is only frustrating when there’s a language barrier - either spoken language or textual - which interferes with the ability of two people to communicate just what a problem (or solution) might be. Those are instances when I wish we could see each other’s machines. However, those moments are rare, and almost always work out.
What do participants put into it?
People participate by building and sharing Omeka sites, helping each other on the forums and on twitter, and by contributing new or adapted add-ons for Omeka on GitHub. In other words: time, expertise, and ideas.
What do they get out of it?
Because the community supports each other, people have the opportunity to teach as well as the learn. We have people all over the world, so at almost any time of day there is someone available to answer questions.
I think we all enjoy the wide range of projects people build with Omeka. Together we expand the theoretical and practical boundaries of what you can do with Omeka.
How did this community get started?
It started as a way to offer help for users of Omeka, and as a way for us to communicate with them about changes to the system.
What kind of steps were involved?
Deciding which systems to use for the general help forum and developer community. We are actually talking about moving to a new forum software system because the platform we chose has gotten unwieldy and is sometimes hard to manage.
What do/did you do to maintain this community?
We delete spam comments and posts, and answer questions according to our various expertises.
What kind of issues do/did you have to troubleshoot?
Because we have a number of places where people can ask for help, we sometimes get people asking in multiple places at once - without giving one space a chance to give an answer. We do also get spammers but those are easy to deal with. Thankfully our community tends to be respectful and helpful with each other, so we do not have to do much work moderating
What other advice can you offer about online learning communities?
If you are interested in collaborative online learning, looking at our and others’ open-source software development communities is a good idea.