Community Management Wiki


Cookie licking refers to a common Anti-pattern where someone (metaphorically) takes a cookie, licks it and puts it back on the cookie tray, essentially preventing anyone else from having it, but not eating it by himself or herself.

This can be often seen within volunteer communities when discussing a certain issue or an improvement. Someone says "I've already done draft on this topic," or even commits parts of the code (if it's a developer community). This prevents/defers others from working on the feature as there is suddenly someone who started working on it. If it's not followed up on by this person, it's essentially a licked cookie. Nobody else touches it, but nothing real gets done.



You can partially prevent this by having clear roadmaps and not allowing people to volunteer for more than they can handle.

An alternative option is to create a policy that issues are not 'reserved' to anyone but instead that people may develop drafts / codebases in parallel, then let others in the community review their work and either validate both, select one, or combine the approaches.

Another approach which works well is to put time limits on tasks - if someone says "I'll send a draft by the end of next week", then Monday the week after the task is fair game again.

A final option is to disallow the existence of unfinished tasks which are not actively in progress. If a task has not received an update within a satisfactory period then all work completed thus far is removed. This places pressure on the party who has not finished their work to actually complete what they've started lest their effort go to waste. The effort required for another individual to start the work over is often less than the effort required to understand and complete the existing work; if this is not the case then some discussion is merited.

External resources[]

Related patterns[]

Being a dog in a manger.[1]

A polar opposite of decision paralysis, perhaps?