I just read C.S.E. Cooney's piece thanking an editor for encouraging a particular author to write a particular story
, and I'm remembering the innumerable times I recruited or nudged or forwarded or invited or encouraged or hand-held or outlined or co-drafted or persuaded or, well, argued, to help someone do a cool thing.
I'm in particular remembering a guy in the MediaWiki community.
A few years ago, I think, I was looking around some old patches, and I saw there was this one guy who'd submitted good work that always got merged quickly, but who didn't have core contributor privileges to merge work directly. So I asked the core contributors whether they thought he ought to have core committer access. They hadn't thought about that, but, yeah! So I sent him a personal email and invited him to apply.
The next year, as we were planning out a hackathon, I saw that this guy was working on a particular aspect of the tech ecology that we wanted to advance at the hackathon. I asked a few people, "would it be especially helpful if he's there?" and they said yes. I sent him a note inviting him.
He said no, he didn't have the money.
I said we had travel scholarships that would cover flight and hotel, and most of the food would be covered, and transit passes as well.
He said he really didn't have any extra money at all to cover incidentals, and besides, it would be so expensive to cover him travelling internationally, and that money should be better spent.
I said multiple people had requested his presence, and I would find some way to make sure all his expenses were covered, and we really would like for him to come.
He told me I was making him an offer he couldn't refuse, and basically since I insisted, he would go (which meant applying for a passport for the first time, I think).
At the hackathon he got to work for the first time with people he'd been collaborating with online for years -- and as a result of some chats at the event, he got a much better job, working fulltime on open source software. And he was absolutely totally qualified for it, but I know him well enough, now, to think he would not have applied -- too intimidating.
(Edited to add - I believe this is not breaching this person's privacy, for reasons too boring to go into here.)
A few years earlier...
In early 2010, when Paul Cutler encouraged me to come to a GNOME marketing hackfest in Spain, paid for by GNOME, I protested that I had never done marketing before. Paul said he'd seen me work on GNOME Journal with him, I was a good writer and a good project manager and a good editor and I'd be able to do this just fine.
Later that year, Andreas Nilsson encouraged me to apply for the GNOME 3.0 marketer position.....
I don't have time to go into all the "yes you can" I've given and received. But it's just so important. Yes autonomy is important, yes, respecting people's strong "no" is important. But there is an art to encouragement, to respectfully getting past anxiety and self-esteem objections.... I don't know how to articulate it, though.