My highlights from the Open Source Summit North America

Three weeks ago, I got up in the middle of the night, made myself a pot of tea and sat down in front of my computer to attend the first virtual edition of the Linux Foundation’s Open Source Summit North America.

Community Leadership and Open Source Programs Office tracks

Most of the talks I watched were part of the Community Leadership track and of the Open Source Programs Office track. Here’s a brief summary of my personal highlights:

Dawn Foster: Growing participation in your company’s OSS Projects

Excellent talk by Dawn, who is the Director of Open Source Community Strategy at VMware

Key takeaways:

  • Companies need to choose wisely which projects they should make open source. Don’t make projects open source that are old and unloved
  • Importance of Transparency: Communicate clearly how decisions are made, which decisions will be made by the community, which ones by the company
  • Make it easy to participate: document contribution policy and process, leave space for external contributions, train your employees how to give good feedback and point out easy tasks for newcomers to your project

Panel: Succession Planning for the Open Source Movement

This panel with Georg Link (Bitergia), Dawn Foster (VMware), Maria Cruz (Google) and Michael Downey (Digital Impact Alliance, United Nations Foundation) discussed a broad range of issues and approaches related to succession planning.

Key takeaways:

  • Succession is an important topic for any Open Source project, big or small. Maintainers quit for a number of reasons, for instance burnout, life changes, age, and more.
  • It can be difficult to convince people to step down when they are getting overwhelmed. Being a maintainer/project leader is associated with status and reputation. One idea is to introduce roles and titles that reflect the merits and experience but is tied to less responsibility and focusses more on advice and mentorship
  • Governance models are important and necessary
  • Take a look a your community and understand whose voices are missing and address this by bringing in those groups
  • Mentorship is crucial for succession and overall project health

Jason Hibbets: 10 Things I wish I knew before Experiencing Burnout

Jason, who is a Senior Community Architect at Red Hat, shared his experience with burnout and some lesson he learned along the way.

Key takeaways:

  • Burnout often starts with passion, e.g. for your work or your hobby
  • Contributing factors can be unclear expectations or a toxic culture
  • In order to prevent burnout, it is very important to regularly unplug aka take time away from work or your project, don’t check emails, avoid feeling and being “always on”.
  • Define “core working hours” and limits and communicate them
  • Be mindful of how you spend your time. Understand how you spend your time by writing down what you did and analyse.
  • Learn how to delegate.

Deirdre Straughan & Rikki Endsley: Marketing Open Source

Deirdre and Rikki both work at Amazon Web Services. Deirdre is an Open Source Product marketeer and Rikki is the community manager for AWS Open Source. In their talk they explained why marketing is important for Open Source projects and gave many concrete tips for getting started.

Key takeaways:

  • You can start with small things. Design a logo for your projects and print stickers that people can put on their laptops.
  • Focus on quality marketing content, not quantity – especially if you have limited resources
  • Understand where the audience for your project consumes content. Is it on Twitch? Are they on IRC? Do they use Stack Overflow?
  • Once you understand who your audience is and how they consume content, you can focus on these specifics: should you create FAQs, tutorials, or do live coding etc.?
  • Make it as easy as possible for your potential audience to find the information they want to see.

Carol Chen, Connect and Grow your Community through Meetups

Carol, who works as a Community Architect for Red Hat, gave a presentation full of practical tips for in-person and virtual meetups.

Key takeaways:

  • Regardless of how big or small your local meetup community is, resist the urge of only having deep-dive talks over time, once you think you covered the basics of your communities particular topic. If you regularly host beginner or refresher talks, you will keep your meetup accessible to newcomers
  • If you want to start a new meetup group, don’t feel overwhelmed by all of the things that need to be done. Reach out to your network for help, ask companies that work in this area for help with sponsoring venues or drinks. And by asking for help you will also grow your own network.
  • Try to provide concise and compelling talks and discussions. This is especially important if you organise a virtual meetup since our attention span is very short.

The “hallway” track

Usually, my favourite thing about attending conferences is the so-called hallway track: meeting people during breaks, skipping sessions because I’m enjoying chatting to people outside the session rooms. I was curious to see if and how this can be translated for a virtual event.

There were more than 4000 people signed-in to the Slack workspace for this conference. I actively searched for a couple of people that I wanted to have a chat with and who I expected to have signed-up for the conference, I also met people in the channels dedicated to those tracks that I was particularly interested in. I really loved the discussions in those channels, people were very helpful and friendly.

Would book again 😉

It would have been great to have track hosts that act as moderators between the sessions and facilitators for the discussions in the slack channel.

That said, the quality of the talks was very high and the conference platform ran smoothly. Thanks to the LF Events team, all of the speakers and attendees who made the event so lively and engaging.