Cogito, Ergo Sumana

Categories: sumana | Open Source and Free Culture:Advice:Maintainership book

Book project on open source maintainer skills, starting in 2020


(1) : MOSS Video, BSSw Honorable Mention, and The Maintainership Book I Am Writing:

Video

Mozilla interviewed me about the Python Package Index (PyPI), a USD$170,000 Mozilla Open Source Support award I helped the Python Software Foundation get in 2017, and how we used that money to revamp PyPI and drive it forward in 2017 and 2018.

From that interview, they condensed a video (2 minutes, 14 seconds) featuring, for instance, slo-mo footage of me making air quotes. Their tweet calls me "a driving force behind" PyPI, and given how many people were working on it way before I was, that's quite a compliment!

I will put a transcript in the comments of this blog post.

(Please note that they massively condensed this video from 30+ minutes of interview. In the video, I say, "the site got popular before the code got good". In the interview, I did not just say that without acknowledging the tremendous effort of past volunteers who worked on the previous iteration of PyPI and kept the site going through massive infrastructure challenges, but that's been edited (for brevity, I assume).)

This video is the first in a series meant to encourage people to apply for MOSS funding. I mentioned MOSS in my grants roundup last month. If you want to figure out whether to apply for MOSS funding for your open source software project, and you need help, ping me for a free 20-minute chat or phone call and I can give you some quick advice. (Offer limited in case literally a hundred people contact me, which is unlikely.)

BSSw

The Better Scientific Software (BSSw) Fellowship Program "gives recognition and funding to leaders and advocates of high-quality scientific software." I'm one of three Honorable Mentions for 2020.

The main goal of the BSSw Fellowship program is to foster and promote practices, processes, and tools to improve developer productivity and software sustainability of scientific code. We also anticipate accumulating a growing community of BSSw Fellowship alums who can serve as leaders, mentors, and consultants to increase the visibility of those involved in scientific software production and sustainability in the pursuit of scientific discovery.

Exascale Computing Project logoThat's why I'll be at the Exascale Computing Project Annual Meeting next week in Houston, so if you're there, I hope to meet you. In particular I'd like to meet the leaders of open source projects who want help streamlining contribution processes, growing more maintainers, managing communications with stakeholders, participating in internship projects like Google Summer of Code and Outreachy, expediting releases, and getting more out of hackathons. My consulting firm provides these services, and at ECPAM I can give you some free advice.

Book

And here's the project I'm working on -- why I received this honor.

In 2020, I am writing the first draft of a book teaching the skills open source software maintainers need, aimed at those working scientists and other contributors who have never managed public-facing projects before.

More than developer time, maintainership -- coordination, leadership, and management -- is a bottleneck in software sustainability. The lack of skilled managers is a huge blocker to the sustainability of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) infrastructure.

Many FLOSS project maintainers lack management experience and skill. This textbook/self-help guide for new and current maintainers of existing projects ("brownfield projects") will focus on teaching specific project management skills in the context of FLOSS. This will provide scalable guidance, enabling existing FLOSS contributors to become more effective maintainers.

Existing "how to run a FLOSS project" documentation (such as Karl Fogel's Producing Open Source Software) addresses fresh-start "greenfield" projects rather than more common "brownfield", and doesn't teach specific project management skills (e.g., getting to know a team, creating roadmaps, running asynchronous meetings, managing budgets, and writing email memos). Existing educational pathways for scientists and developers (The Carpentries, internships and code schools) don't cover FLOSS-specific management skills.

So I'm writing a sequel to Karl's book -- with his blessing -- and I'm excited to see how I can more scalably share the lessons I've learned in more than a decade of leading open source projects.

I don't yet have a full outline, a publisher, or a length in mind. I'll be posting more here as I grow my plans. Thanks to BSSw and all my colleagues and friends who have encouraged me.

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: What Does A Volunteer Development Coordinator Do?: A giant wall of text follows, giving a snapshot of work I do. I nurture the software community that supports the Wikimedia movement. So here's a big swath of stuff I did between February 1st and today.

Wrote and posted a blog entry about the San Francisco hackathon. Still need to do more followup with participants.

Handed over the MediaWiki 1.19 deployment communications plan to Guillaume Paumier, WMF Technical Communications Manager. He blogged a summary of the deployment and of our efforts and that's just the tip of the iceberg; he also set up a global message delivery and improved the CentralNotice maintenance message and did even more to make sure that we thoroughly communicate about the upcoming deployment to all the Wikimedia communities. I also shared information with various folks regarding testing of site-specific gadgets on 1.19.

I sent at least 285 work-related emails. That's 41 per workday but I definitely sent some work-related email on weekends.

Some patch queue work, responding to contributors and getting experienced developers to review the patches. I'm just trying to keep our queue from growing while code reviewers are mostly focused on getting MediaWiki 1.19 reviewed, polished, and deployed. But I do want to take care of all parts of the volunteer pipeline -- initial outreach and recruiting, training, code improvement, commit access, continued interest and participation, and debriefing when they leave -- so the patch review queue is a continuing worry.

Some work preparing for the Pune hackathon and for GLAMCamp DC, neither of which I am attending. I wrote or edited some tutorials and made a tutorial category which pleases me. We have more good material for workshops and stuff now, yay! And I helped the GLAMCamp people a bit in talking through what technical goals they wanted to achieve during the weekend.

Got dates from Wikimedia Germany for the Berlin hackathon, 1-3 June, and started trumpeting it. Also worked on planning for it and did outreach. For example, I reached out to about 13 chapters that are pursuing or interested in some kind of technology work like, say, funding or working on the offline Wikipedia reader (Wikimedia Switzerland), or usability and accessibility for Wikisource (Wikimedia Italy), or the Toolserver, a shared hosting service for tools and stuff that hackers use to improve or make use of the Wikimedia sites (for example, Wikimedia Germany & Wikimedia Hungary). We hope they can convene, share insights and collaborate at the WMDE hackfest.

Told at least 30 contributors to apply for Wikimania scholarships because the deadline is 16 February.

Talked to some Wikimedia India folks about planning technical events, and contributed to a page of resources for upcoming events.

Worked on some event planning & decisions for a potential event.

Passed the word to some friends, acquaintances, and email lists about some job openings at the Foundation.

Google Summer of Code has been announced, and I am managing MediaWiki's participation. I have started -- flyers, emails, recruiting potential students, improving the wiki page, asking experts whether they might mentor, and so on. I'm trying to start a thing where every major women's college in North America gets a GSoC presentation by March 15th, to improve the number of GSoC applications that come from women; let's see how that goes. MediaWiki still needs to apply to participate as a mentoring organization and acceptances only go out after that, but I'm comfortable spending time preparing anyway. And the women's college outreach will lead to an increase in the number of applications for all the participating open source projects, instead of just aiming a firehose at MediaWiki; that's fine. Like Tim O'Reilly says, aim to create more value than you capture.

Related to that -- I set up a talk for one of our engineers to give at Mills, a women's college that has an interesting interdisciplinary computer science program (both grad and undergrad, the grad program being mixed-sex) and I think it may end up being a really amazing talk. Ian Baker is going to talk about how CS helps us work in Wikimedia engineering, how we collaborate with the community during the design, development, and testing phases, and what skills and experiences come in handy in his job. I'll publicize more once there's an official webpage to point to.

Had a videoconference with a developer and my boss about our conversion to Git. I prepped for it by collecting some questions and getting preliminary answers, and then after the call we ended up with all this raw material and I sent a fairly long summary to the developers' mailing list. There's a lot left to do, and the team needs to work on some open issues, but we have a lot more detail on those TODOs now, so that's good.

Saw a nice email from Erik Möller publicizing the San Francisco hackathon videos and tutorials/documentation, yay!

Talked with a few people about submitting talks to upcoming conferences. I ought to write some preliminary Grace Hopper, Open Source Bridge, and Wikimania proposals this week.

Various volunteer encouragement stuff (pointing to resources, helping with installation or development problems, troubleshooting, teaching, putting confused people in touch with relevant experts, etc.), especially talking in IRC to eager students who want to do GSoC. Many of them are from India. I wonder how many of them see my name and think I'm in India too.

Commit access queue as usual.

Saw privacy policy stuff mentioned on an agenda for an IRC meeting on the 18th, so I talked to a WMF lawyer a little bit about privacy policy stuff for our new Labs infrastructure. We set up a meeting for this week to iron stuff out.

Helped with the monthly report. I have a colleague who wants to learn more about All This Engineering Stuff, so every month we have a call where I explain and teach the context of the report, and for this month's call I suggested we add another colleague who also wants to learn how the tech side works. Who knows, maybe this will turn into a tradition!

Followed up on the GSoC 2011 students who never quite got their projects set up and deployed on Wikimedia servers, and looks like two of them have some time and want to finish it now, yay! Updated the Past Projects page.

Checked in on the UCOSP students who are working on a mobile app for Wiktionary and told them about Wikimania, new mobile research, etc. Also got some feedback from their mentor, Amgine, on how they're doing.

Started an onwiki thread to discuss the MobileFrontend rewrite question(s).

Talked to Oren Bochman, the volunteer who's working on our Lucene search stuff, and followed up on a bunch of his questions/interests.

Ran & attended meetings.

Suggested to the new Wikimedia Kenya chapter that maybe we could collaborate, since they're interested in helping schools get Wikipedia access via offline reading.

Looked into the code review situation by getting a list of committers with their associated numbers of commits, reviews, and statuschanges. It's just a first pass, but it's a start for discovering who's been committing way more than they review, so we can start efforts to mentor them into more code reviewing confidence. I also saw who's been reviewing way more than they commit, and saw a name I wasn't familiar with -- looks like I've now successfully recruited him to come to the Berlin hackathon. :-)

Put two groups of people in touch with each other: did a group-intro mail to people at various institutions working on Wikimedia accessibility, and another to people who want to work on a redesign of mediawiki.org's front page.

And there was other miscellaneous stuff, but this is already sooooo TL;DR (too long; didn't read). (Which is funny because that's the name of my team.) Monday awaits!

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