Memorial Day in the US is traditionally the unofficial start of summer, but ironically it’s also the start of a busy community season around the world.
With more students out of school, code contributions on various projects tend to rise. Conferences also tend to increase in frequency (particularly towards the end of the season). But even as life gets busier, it’s important to remember to pace yourself.
Let’s not kid ourselves: the free and open source community is not all laurel (yanni?) leaves and Kumbaya. There are arguments all the time.
Vi vs. emacs. Restrictive vs. permissive. Open vs. proprietary. Heck, on most days, I have had discussions about one or more of these topics before I’ve finished my morning coffee.
When you add business interests in the mix, the arguments add a whole new layer of motivation because now we’re talking about money and sales.
It’s a pretty violent metaphor, this notion of what happens to your open source software project if one or more of its members might get hit by a bus. Or a truck. Or whatever motor vehicle of doom happens to be barreling down the road of fate. At first thought, one might simply want to urge people to look both ways when crossing the street.
But the bus factor is a real concern for many open source projects, because too often a lot of the work finds itself in the hands of just a few people, who in turn become very critical to the project’s success.
Whether it’s a favorite sports team, a school, or just a group of friends, there is something about human nature that seems to drive many of us to display our affiliation.
We do this, typically, by displaying plumage that is synchronized. If I am a fan or a particular team, and I see someone wearing a matching jersey, then I can identify with that person in some way, even if it’s the first time I have met them.
This week is our annual Red Hat Summit, a time when many of our nearly 12,000 employees put their work down and come together to work with customers and determine how best to work together moving forward.
This may seem pretty antithetical to the goals of a team like ours, where free and open source projects are the focus, not commericial support and training. But actually customers get just as much benefit talking with the community projects as they do the sales and engineering teams.
Throughout IT is the notion that when you are promoted to being a manager, you should somehow be able to do the things you have been doing. If you are a coder, you should be able to code and manage. If you are a writer, writer, sysadmin… the same theory holds.
The manage-from-within notion is something a lot of community managers have to contend with every day. It is an especially fuzzy boundary because, typically, community managers aren’t really managing people at all, but rather guiding resources and providing support. So why shouldn’t they get to also work to their strengths?
Because nothing could be further from the truth.
Given the rapid growth of open source, it seems reasonable to expect that undergraduate students in computer science or software engineering programs would graduate with an understanding of open source and the ability to make project contributions. However, most students are not being taught core tools and concepts such as licenses, version control, and issue trackers as part of their degree program.
This special episode of Community Central shares the results of recent research anthropologist Matt Bernius conducted for Mozilla on the state of undergraduate education around open source software. Matt will also discuss the gap between undergraduate computing education and community expectations, and explore both the reasons for the gap and approaches to bridging it.
One of my biggest pet peeves is coming into a meeting somewhere or talking casually with co-workers and realizing that a decision was made on a project that I was involved with and I didn’t know about it.
I will say right up front that 99% of this peeve are my own hang-ups: a combination of a lot of FOMO and more than a little frustration at myself for not keeping up with my own e-mail deluge. Most of the time, it turns out, the decision was made out in the open in an e-mail thread or chat session and I just didn’t see it.
Plus, I just need to loosen up a little.
It’s a bit like the turning of the leaves, or the return of the swallows at Capistrano. Invariably, the wheel of community management will always slog back to the the topic of “which is the best communications platform for my users?”
In the past, and for the most part in the present and future, the answer is usually something along the lines of “whatever your community prefers.” If you have a community that does most of its communication on a mailing list and communications are active and vibrant, why change what works?
But is this don’t-rock-the-boat attitude potentially keeping some new community members away?
It was one of those moments where you weren’t quite sure you heard something right.
It was day-whatever of the Supercomputing Asia conference in Singapore, and I was halfway listening to one of the speakers explain his company’s advances in deep learning and artificial intelligence. “Halfway” because the material of this particular talk was soon way, way over my head and on my laptop I was trying to figure out why Travis seemed to be borking on the update pull requests for the new Red Hat on GitHub site.
But I snapped back into the room when I thought I heard what sounded like a full-tilt FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) rant about open source. I glanced at my colleague Rich Bowen, also in attendance, and he was shaking his head.
Yep, it was FUD all right. Suddenly, it was 2000 all over again.