Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

29 Jan 2020, 11:12 a.m.

MOSS Video, BSSw Honorable Mention, and The Maintainership Book I Am Writing


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.)


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.


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.


Sumana Harihareswara
29 Jan 2020, 12:13 p.m.


Hey there. My name is Sumana Harihareswara and I am the project manager for the Python Package Index.

From the time that I was a child, I've been very interested in community organizing, empowering other people, making sure that there's nothing about us without us. So when I found out about free and open source software, I thought, 'yeah! This is the way forward.'

Essentially, the Python Package Index is core infrastructure for a huge chunk of the computing industry.

Most of the time, when people write software, we don't write everything from scratch. We basically borrow and duplicate stuff that other people have done. This is part of the magic of free and open-source software, and it's part of how the internet -- and most of the technology you use! -- has been built.

It's really useful to have a single website, the Python Package Index, that's a one-stop shop for all of the open-source Python code that you might want to reuse.

The Python Package Index got popular before the code got good. Starting a few years ago, some people thought, 'all right, we need a rewrite.' Volunteers started it. But volunteers, working on unpredictable schedules -- it wasn't working. We knew that we needed help. We needed MONEY! [laugh] Okay.

We needed funding in order to get this piece of core infrastructure deployed. Nobody was just giving us money for that.

We heard about MOSS and realized that we were potentially a good candidate to apply for a MOSS award. It's interesting how MOSS is kind of a hidden gem, that not nearly enough people have heard of who would benefit from it.

The Mozilla Open Source Support program is a fantastic way to get funding from an organization that understands why what you do is important.

Without the MOSS award, Python would be immeasurably worse off right now.

The MOSS Award is what enabled the Python Package Index to launch and move into production.<br/>