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Open Source / Tech Life

Bots, Emojis and Open Source Maintainers — How People and Tools Make the Difference

VMware's Dawn Foster, Nikhita Raghunath, and Michael Klishin discuss what it is like to be an open source maintainer, to build a community and lead.
Jul 27th, 2020 5:00pm by and
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VMware sponsored this post.

Open source maintainers have a different set of challenges today: Bots help manage overload and emojis are as predominant in open source groups as they are in twenty-somethings’ social circles. Meanwhile, maintainers are deeply involved in governance issues like never before.

In this The New Stack Makers podcast, Alex Williams, TNS founder and publisher, and VMware guests Dawn Foster, director of open source community strategy, Nikhita Raghunath, VMware senior member of technical staff, and Michael Klishin, VMware senior principal software engineer discuss what it is like to be an open source maintainer, to build a community and to be a leader.

Bots, Emojis and Open Source Maintainers Oh My!

The backgrounds of open source maintainers can also serve to provide a window into how one might be prepared for today’s challenges when involved with an organization that has an office to open support open source maintainers.

Foster, for example, first became involved with open source as a sysadmin in the mid-1990s with her newly minted computer science degree in tow. She quickly realized that the “key to open source projects is the community.”

“It’s been such a rewarding career for me over the years — I have friends in different countries and can go almost anywhere and find somebody to meet up with for coffee or a drink, a lunch or something. And it’s really for me about the community,” said Foster. “That’s the part of open source I love. I’ve met so many amazing and wonderful people through the years as part of this  work.”

Raghunath, a Kubernetes steering committee member, quickly began to “really love this community” about three years ago when she started an internship at the Google Summer of Code program while still a student at the university. “I am very lucky to work on open source as part of my day job,” she explained. “And I don’t have to work nights and weekends.”

Since beginning his involvement with open source as a teenager with Mozilla Firefox, Klishin started working as a software engineer in the Ukraine with Ruby and Ruby on Rails projects.

“If you’re looking to contribute to a project… you reach out to maintainers and they will absolutely appreciate your contribution,” Klishin said. “You will get to know them and who knows where it can take you.”

While noting a positive shift in how the conduct of open source communities from, in many cases, being “really hostile places to be, and really not very fun and not very friendly,” to a much more positive climate today, Foster emphasized that more work remains to be done.

“Inclusivity is something that we at VMware are taking very seriously right now,” Foster said.“We’re looking at how we can apply hundreds and thousands of open source repositories and how we can make the language more inclusive… it’s not trivial.”

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