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Jussi Pakkanen

The 9 phases of an open source project maintainer

Running an open source project is more than just writing code. Jussi Pakkanen says “…most of all work has to do with something else,” which if you listen to The Changelog, our Maintainer Spotlight series, or Request for Commits then you know this all too well.

This places additional requirements to project maintainers that are often not talked about. In this post we’ll briefly go over nine distinct phases each with a different hat one might have to wear. These can be split into two stages based on the lifetime and popularity of the project.

Twitter Icon Twitter

Guido van Rossum comes out of retirement, joins Microsoft

Guido van Rossum:

I decided that retirement was boring and have joined the Developer Division at Microsoft. To do what? Too many options to say! But it’ll make using Python better for sure (and not just on Windows :-). There’s lots of open source here. Watch this space.

Late last year Guido left Dropbox to head into retirement. Apparently “retirement was boring.” I’m curious to see how coming out of retirement changes things at the steering level of Python.

We talked mid last year with Brett Cannon about Python’s new governance and core team. I don’t recall their plan accounting for the possibility for their BDFL to come back from retirement. 😱

I’m sure whatever is to come for Python with Guido being back, it’ll be a net positive. Icon

Improve open source community sustainability by tracking these two metrics

Kevin Xu:

There are plenty of metrics you can track—stars, forks, pull requests (PRs), merge requests (MRs), contributor counts, etc.—but more data doesn’t necessarily mean clearer insights. I’ve previously shared my skepticism about the value of these surface-level metrics, especially when assessing an open source project’s health and sustainability.

In this article, I propose two second-order metrics to track, measure, and continually optimize to build a strong, self-sustaining open source community

Those two metrics? Breakdowns of code reviewers and leaderboards of different community interactions. (He also explains why. Worth a read.)

Peter Wang

Anaconda's dividend program helps sustain the open source DS/ML community

Anaconda CEO (and Practical AI guest) Peter Wang:

I am excited to announce the Anaconda Dividend Program, which formalizes our commitment to direct a portion of our revenue to open-source projects that help advance innovation in data science. We are launching the program in partnership with NumFOCUS, and will kick off with a seed donation of $10,000, as well as an additional 10% of single-user Commercial Edition subscription revenue through the end of this year. Going forward, we will fund the dividend with at least 1% of our revenue in 2021, with a minimum of $25,000 committed for the year.

We’ve been beating the successful-businesses-that-thrive-in-large-part-due-to-open-source-software-should-set-aside-revenues-to-support-those-projects drum for years now, so it’s exciting to see forward-looking companies like Anaconda step up and do just that. More like this! 🙏

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

An open source leader is gone, a remembrance of Dan Kohn

Thanks to Alex Williams over at The New Stack for doing a great write up remembering Dan Kohn and the tremendous mark he has left on open source and Cloud Native. Of course Dan had help along the way, but by-and-large the CNCF and “cloud native” as we know it are the direct result of Dan’s vision and leadership.

Thank you Dan. You will be missed.

We knew little in 2016 about what Dan was up to but we soon got a hint. The CNCF was already established but what it represented was still a bit unclear. If anything, Dan was a businessman and a computer scientist. He knew the economic importance of at-scale computing and the technical complexity that made it so fascinating.

The technical community was ready for someone like Dan — they needed help. Open source cloud native projects were growing but the resources were essential to keep progress moving. He was there to make sure the work got done that technologists should not have to do: Building awareness, supporting the publicity of new projects and perhaps most of all, smoothly running the conferences.

We’ve had Dan on The Changelog a few times. Go back and listen to episode #276 and episode #314 to hear from Dan himself about the journey of the CNCF and Cloud Native.

An open source leader is gone, a remembrance of Dan Kohn

Markus Hatvan

Why you should start contributing to open source software right now

Markus Hatvan:

There are outstanding advantages to contributing to open source software. As a firm believer in making software better continuously, the main reason for writing this article was to motivate and get more developers into the field.

The reasons might be obvious to us, but they’re well-explained here and worth a share to you friend/colleague who could use a nudge.

The Changelog The Changelog #418

Maintaining the massive success of Envoy

Today we welcome Matt Klein into our Maintainer Spotlight. Matt is the creator of Envoy, born inside of Lyft. It’s an edge and service proxy designed for cloud-native applications. Envoy was unexpectedly popular, and completely changed the way Lyft considers what and how to open source. While Matt has had several opportunities to turn Envoy into a commercial open source company, he didn’t. In today’s conversation with Matt we learn why he choose a completely different path for the project.

Josh Aas

Memory safe ‘curl’ for a more secure internet

We recently talked with Josh Aas on The Changelog #389 about securing the web with Let’s Encrypt. At the tail end of the conversation Josh shared his passion for memory safety, saying “we need to rewrite all the software that we already wrote in C and C++, and replace it. “ My guess is that this move with Daniel and curl takes us several steps further in this direction.

Memory safety vulnerabilities represent one of the biggest threats to Internet security. As such, we at ISRG are interested in finding ways to make the most heavily relied-upon software on the Internet memory safe. Today we’re excited to announce that we’re working with Daniel Stenberg, author of ubiquitous curl software, and WolfSSL, to make critical parts of the curl codebase memory safe. … ISRG is funding Daniel to work on adding support for Hyper as an HTTP back-end for curl. Hyper is a fast and safe HTTP implementation written in Rust.

Hayden Barnes

No, Microsoft is not rebasing Windows to Linux

Hayden Barnes explains how Windows and Linux exist in a “cosmic duality” and whether or not Microsoft will ever “shift the core of the Windows operating system to the Linux kernel.”

I have a unique perspective on Microsoft’s Linux involvement. I help deliver Ubuntu on Windows Subsystem for Linux in my job at Canonical. … I have become somewhat of an intermediary between the Microsoft and Linux communities. It is something I am glad to do. There are creative, kind, and fascinating people in both communities. Interesting things happen when the lines between them blur. Fostering cross-pollination will make computing better for everyone.

The Changelog The Changelog #415

Spotify's open platform for shipping at scale

We’re joined by Jim Haughwout (Head of Infrastructure and Operations) and Stefan Ålund (Principal Product Manager) from Spotify to talk about how they manage hundreds of teams producing code and shipping at scale. Thanks to their recently open sourced open platform for building developer portals called Backstage, Spotify is able to keep engineering squads connected and shipping high-quality code quickly — without compromising autonomy.

Salvatore Sanfilippo

The open source paradox

Antirez on the strange relationship between money, open source, and the code we write on the job:

Open source is different, it’s an artifact, it’s a transposition in code of what you really want to do, of what you feel software should be, or just of all your fun and joy, or even anger you are feeling while coding… It’s not about money. You can ignore bugs if you want, and ignore their complains, you can do that since you don’t have a contract to do otherwise, but they are helping you, they care about the same thing you care: your software quality, grandiosity, perfection.


Hacktoberfest responds with a commitment to reducing spam

The Hacktoberfest team has responded to the concerns of Hacktoberfest hurting open source, saying…

We apologize for the impact this spam is having on the community. We often talk about intent versus impact and this is a classic example. Hacktoberfest aims to celebrate open source with positive engagement between contributors and maintainers alike. Unfortunately, the actions of some participants led to unintended consequences for all. They’ve overwhelmed maintainers and steamrolled other participants in an effort to receive a T-shirt they didn’t really earn.

Despite this, we are confident that, with your help, we can make things better. We’ve already started making changes to the program to help reduce spam and there is much more work planned in the days ahead.

And specifically to maintainers…

We’re sorry that these unintended consequences of Hacktoberfest have made more work for many of you. We know there is more work to do, which is why we ask that you please join us for a community roundtable discussion where we promise to listen and take actions based on your ideas.

Domenic Denicola

Hacktoberfest is hurting open source

We’re big fans of what Hacktoberfest represents, but maybe it’s time to rethink the model. The burden falls primarily on maintainers, as Domenic Denicola outlines in this post – going as far as to describe Hacktoberfest as “a corporate-sponsored distributed denial of service attack against the open source maintainer community.”

For the last couple of years, DigitalOcean has run Hacktoberfest, which purports to “support open source” by giving free t-shirts to people who send pull requests to open source repositories.

In reality, Hacktoberfest is a corporate-sponsored distributed denial of service attack against the open source maintainer community.

So far today, on a single repository, myself and fellow maintainers have closed 11 spam pull requests. Each of these generates notifications, often email, to the 485 watchers of the repository. And each of them requires maintainer time to visit the pull request page, evaluate its spamminess, close it, tag it as spam, lock the thread to prevent further spam comments, and then report the spammer to GitHub in the hopes of stopping their time-wasting rampage. … The rate of spam pull requests is, at this time, around four per hour. And it’s not even October yet in my timezone.

This screenshot of issues on whatwg/html labeled as spam was taken moments before posting this.

Hacktoberfest is hurting open source

The Changelog The Changelog #414

Gitter’s big adventure

Gitter is exiting GitLab and entering the Matrix…ok, we couldn’t help ourselves with that one. Today we’re joined by Sid Sibrandij (CEO of GitLab) and Matthew Hodgson (technical co-founder of Matrix) to discuss the acquisition of Gitter. A little backstory to tee things up…back in 2017 GitLab announced the acquisition of Gitter to help push their idea of chatops within GitLab. As it turns out, the GitLab team saw a different path for Gitter as a core part of Matrix rather than a non-core project at GitLab. We talk through all the details in this episode with Matthew and Sid.

The Changelog The Changelog #413

How open source saved htop

Today we welcome Hisham Muhammad into our Maintainer Spotlight. Hisham is the creator of htop - a well known cross-platform interactive process viewer. This conversation with Hisham covers the gamut of being an open source software maintainer. To set the stage, a new version of htop was announced, but not by Hisham – it was a kind takeover of the project and needless to say Hisham was surprised, but ultimately relieved. Why? Well, that’s what this episode it all about…

David Bryant

Mozilla WebThings ~> WebThings

David Bryant shared the details and transition plans for WebThings as it’s being spun out of Mozilla as an independent open source project. Mozilla is “transitioning control and responsibility to the community,” and the project’s new home will be

Governance of the project will be passed to the community using a module ownership system independent of the Mozilla Corporation’s organisational structure, like the one used by the core Mozilla project 11. … The WebThings project will no longer be directly affiliated with the Mozilla Corporation so will stop using Mozilla trademarks and will instead operate under its own WebThings brand.


youtube-dlc is the new youtube-dl

Open source software shows its resiliency once again:

youtube-dlc is a fork of youtube-dl with the intention of getting features tested by the community merged in the tool faster, since youtube-dl’s development seems to be slowing down.

If you’re unaware of youtube-dl, it’s like a Swiss Army Knife for downloading videos from the web. It’s a great tool and I’m happy to see the community rally around its maintenance.

The Changelog The Changelog #411

Inside GitHub's Arctic Code Vault

Earlier this year on February 2nd, 2020 Jon Evans and his team of archivists took a snapshot of all active public repositories on GitHub and sent it to a decommissioned coal mine in the Svalbard archipelago where it will be stored for the next 1,000 years.

On this episode, Jon chats with Jerod all about the GitHub Archive Program and how they’re preserving open source software for future generations.

Craig Mod

Craigstarter lets you do crowdfunding built on Shopify

The why of the project from Craig Mod is what’s interesting…

Kickstarter is an excellent way to run a crowdfunding campaign. But if you already have a community built up, and have communication channels in place (via a newsletter, for example), and already run an online shop, then Kickstarter can be unnecessarily cumbersome. Kickstarter’s 10% fee is also quite hefty. By leaning on Shopify’s flexible Liquid templating system and reasonable CC processing fees, an independent publisher running a campaign can save some ~$7,000 for every $100,000 of sales by using Craigstarter instead of Kickstarter. That’s materially meaningful, especially in the world of books.

There’s also a step-by-step walkthrough on setting things up here ~>

Max Braun Medium

PiSight brings back Apple iSight

Max Braun thinks today’s webcams are boring, so he brought back a classic. Max took an Apple iSight and retrofitted it with a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, which “fits the iSight’s dimensions almost perfectly.”

The PiSight actually works like you’d expect it to. Just plug in the USB cable and the camera will show up in your video conferencing app of choice. The image quality is quite good, possibly better than the built-in camera of today’s MacBooks.

The best part is you can do this too because Max made all the plans available as open source.

Just in case you’re not completely taken aback by the absurdity of this project and are now considering building your very own PiSight, rest assured that I’m making everything available as open source.

The GitHub repo has a list of parts and where to get them, the 3D-print-ready model of the frame, and the source code. I’m thinking it should be possible to get the total cost down to under $150. I had to spend a bit more than that because I needed to experiment and opted for higher-end materials.

PiSight brings back Apple iSight

The Changelog The Changelog #410

Bringing beauty to the world of code sharing

Carbon is an open source web app that helps you create and share beautiful images of your source code. Whether you’ve used Carbon personally or not, odds are you’ve seen its dent on the universe of social code sharing. Mike Fix has been maintaining Carbon for a few years and he’s embraced the project as an opportunity to experiment and practice working in public.

On this Maintainer Spotlight episode, we chat with Mike about building Carbon, growing its community, sustainability models, and why he loves the world of open source.

Troy Hunt

I'm open sourcing the Have I Been Pwned code base

Troy Hunt:

Let me just cut straight to it: I’m going to open source the Have I Been Pwned code base. The decision has been a while coming and it took a failed M&A process to get here, but the code will be turned over to the public for the betterment of the project and frankly, for the betterment of everyone who uses it. Let me explain why and how.

It’s not open source yet, but it will be and Troy lays out his thinking and the process in this excellent write-up. Since HIBP’s data is both sensitive and the entire point of the software, there will be special consideration taken with it:

I need to really clearly break this part of the discussion out because whilst open sourcing the code base is one thing, how the data is handled is quite another. There’s no way to sugar coat this so I’ll just lay it out bluntly: HIBP only exists due to a whole bunch of criminal activity resulting in data that’s ultimately ended up in my possession.

Then there’s the privacy side of it all: my own personal data is in those breaches and your data almost certainly is too because there are literally billions of people that have been impacted by data breaches. Regardless of how broadly that information is circling, I still need to ensure the same privacy controls prevail across the breach data itself even as the code base becomes more transparent. That’s non-trivial. Doable, but non-trivial.

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