We are in weird times. There are a lot of stressors, but the majority of the tech community has more opportunities than ever to do what we do working from home. Just last week Google and Twitter announced that employees can work from home for the rest of the year, or even indefinitely. For The New Stack founder and publisher Alex Williams, there’s one resounding reason why: the internet is awesome. And what’s driving much of that awesomeness right now is Kubernetes and its highly distributed community.
In this episode of The New Stack Makers, Williams talks with two grounded frequent fliers — Diane Mueller, director of community development at Red Hat and co-chair of OKD, Red Hat’s distribution of Kubernetes, and Paris Pittman, developer relations program manager at Google and a leader in CNCF’s Kubernetes contributor strategy. They spoke just after running a particularly successful, inclusive — and very big — Red Hat Summit.
Now, it’s virtual, there’s no reason for them not to participate. And so we saw this phenomenal exponential growth of people coming and participating at Red Hat,” Mueller said.
She remarked that the OpenShift Commons event alone, which usually sees about 700 to 800 participants, had about 8,000 logins. She continued that going virtual is “leveling the playing field of who has access to the information.”
Pittman says they are also witnessing a huge jump in new open source contributors who are perhaps unemployed or just looking for something to fill their time.
“We’re seeing a spike in open source with folks who are just interested in joining and figuring out what’s up and how to contribute and where to contribute and what a SIG [special interest group] is,” she said.
Pittman says that, like when she first started exploring online at age 12, again she sees people looking to the internet, including the Kubernetes space and games like Animal Crossing and Destiny, to find “common unities” — a clever reflection on the origin of the word “community.”
But of course, there’s a downside to that, as Pittman says, she felt always-on before while traveling the world for her job, but now she is really, truly always on, always busy, and making herself always available. And a lot of community members are having trouble disconnecting too.
After all, there is more work than ever to do, including exponential growth, like 400 new people added to the OpenShift Slack in one weekend. In response, they are adding more ways to virtually reach all of these new users over platforms like Facebook Live and Twitch.
Open Source Culture Is Distributed
In this episode, they also talk about how much of open source has been highly distributed, highly transparent, and asynchronously communicative for decades now. But what’s par for the course in OSS is an exciting new development in corporations. Even Fortune 100 companies are hosting open source favorites like AMAs — Ask Me Anything sessions with leadership — and fostering more mentoring programs. And open source communities are adopting new ways to further foster communities without in-person events.
“The kind of culture I think you want to thrive in a community is the ability to ask any kind of question, anywhere at any time,” Pittman said. “So I think that a lot of mentoring now is going towards creating these intentional spaces for people to ask their focused questions. And then also, group type of peer-to-peer mentoring virtually.”
She sees an increase in contributor ladders — which help clarify how people level up within an OS community — and documentation at this massive scale.
Mueller says she’s also seeing a massive acceleration in development and, particularly, in testing, including in creative ways like on bare metal in home labs.
“I see an explosion of projects that are tangential or part of the [Kubernetes] ecosystem,” she said. “You see that in the growth of things that are being donated to the CNCF through the sandbox.”
But with everything, there’s an up and a downside, and new questions are arising. Are open source projects growing too fast and risking the quality? Can a majority volunteer community actually get too big? How can it all be managed? Listen to this episode to learn more about how they are trying to answer these questions and more in the Kubernetes open source ecosystem.
Red Hat OpenShift is a Sponsor of The New Stack
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash