Posts

Building a sustainable open source community: training and certifications

Training and professional certifications are an important part of how open source technologies establish themselves as industry-leading solutions and adopted in commercial ecosystems

Introduction

In an earlier piece, we discussed how, over the last 20 years, the Linux Foundation has grown from a single project, the Linux kernel, to an organization that has helped to convene and host hundreds of the world’s most important open source communities. 

The Linux Foundation’s support programs add value for our communities as they enable our projects to engage and grow a technology ecosystem worldwide.  

The Linux Foundation has over 1,600 member companies, representing 100% of the Fortune 100 tech and telecommunication firms, small businesses and startups, hundreds of end-user companies, and everything in between. It also has over 25,000 software developers contributing code, a shared investment that we estimate to be valued at $15.7B – and growing. Our hosted projects enable advancements in many technology areas and across many vertical industries, from security to networking, edge computing, cloud, automotive, blockchain, embedded systems, and web applications.

With the increased demand and adoption of open source technologies comes the desire for professionals with the skill sets to deploy, manage, and operate systems and support end-users. According to the Linux Foundation’s most recent Jobs Report, some key findings were revealed about open source employment opportunities:

Building a sustainable open source community: training and certifications

  • Hiring open source talent is a priority for 83% of hiring managers, a 7% increase from 76% in 2017. 
  • Hiring managers cited cloud (66%) as the technology most affecting their hiring decisions. Containers placed second at 57%, followed by security (49%) and networking (47%).
  • Finding the right mix of experience and skills is difficult for 87% of hiring managers. That included the 44% who rated it very difficult, a percentage that leaped from 34% in 2017.
  • Thirty percent of respondents working in open source technologies improved their ability to work on exciting projects, collaborate with a global community (19%), and work on the most cutting-edge technology challenges (16%). 

This report will be updated this autumn, and early indications show that these trends are accelerating given current market conditions.

The Linux Foundation provides a complete portfolio of support programs for training and certification, which align with the technologies that its communities develop. The support programs currently focus on eight primary domain areas:

  • Linux Internals
  • Open Source Developer Compliance
  • Systems Administration
  • Security 
  • Networking/Edge Computing
  • Cloud
  • Web Development
  • Blockchain

These programs are co-developed with the communities, and we add programs all the time as communities request support. 

Why training and certification are critical for open source communities

The Linux Foundation’s communities request support for training and certification because it creates a cadre of professionals that can implement solutions using their collaboratively developed technologies, with demonstrated expertise. Additionally, without trained and certified professionals, these technologies will face challenges achieving or scaling both industry adoption and commercial ecosystems supporting them. Having end-users adopt the technology, and commercial solution and support providers also provide a pipeline of future contributors back to the project’s codebase. As the open source technology is deployed, it gets tested, bugs are found, new features are requested, and all that feedback cycles its way into the upstream project, sustaining and making the project better for everyone dependent on its continued success.

For many open source projects, to gain adoption and generate a commercial support ecosystem, they will ultimately need to have training and certification programs. While this may sound similar to how other professional communities have matured and have become validated for developer and engineering certifications for commercial clouds and proprietary software systems, there are some important distinctions as to why a commitment to developing training and certification for open source technologies is critical to their long-term success.

The open source community works more organically and cyclically, which necessitates that a cadre of expertise is built for it not just to be deployed (as the commercial training and ecosystem have worked historically over the past 40 years) but also as part of its continuing development and for it and all of its participants to thrive. 

An open source software community develops software, and it gets deployed by professionals. Those professionals often eventually move on to different organizations and implement the same software. Those organizations will ultimately need more people to support deployments and write applications to extend and customize the software. These organizations also need system administration professionals and cloud providers to support solutions based on these open source software systems.

Why should communities create training and certification programs with the Linux Foundation? 

Straight from the source, and integrated into how communities are built and run. As the home of Linux and other major open source technologies, nobody is closer to these projects than The Linux Foundation itself — its training programs are uniquely integrated with our communities and projects. We understand how to align instruction with a community development model. Training is one of the support pillars that also enable the developers and engineers to focus on the open source project’s development and leave educating users and implementers of the code to the Linux Foundation’s training team. 

Accelerating community growth through free training. Thanks to our members’ support of the Linux Foundation and its projects, we are often able to provide free training courses from our communities. Free training is one of the fastest ways to bring more people into our open source communities as they learn, test, deploy and support solutions based on the open source technology, as they usually come back to offer suggestions, feedback, and fixes.

Vendor-neutral courseware. The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit organization and does not promote any particular commercial product, solution, or service.

Excess funds received go back to the project community. Although the Linux Foundation keeps pricing affordable and frequently offers further discounts, the overall program does generate a surplus. Since we are a nonprofit, the surplus is invested back into the open source community in a variety of ways: we provide scholarships to deserving individuals to become trained and certified at no cost, and the Foundation supports projects that are important to the world but do not receive individual or corporate financial support. Surplus funding is also used for linux.com as well as other digital assets and key initiatives such as CommunityBridge. 

Up-to-date Curriculum. Linux Foundation courses are current with the most recent version of the software or technology. As the host of many of the most critical open source projects that are continually changing, the Linux Foundation is in an excellent position to find experts and ensure the materials are maintained and updated alongside the project’s evolution. Additionally, enrolled students receive access to the latest course versions at no additional cost.

Current and cutting-edge technologies. The Linux Foundation hosts the fastest-growing and most influential open source projects and is the first to release courses about them. 

Expert instruction. The Linux Foundation’s courses are created and taught by some of the top developers and practitioners in open source, with decades of collective open source experience behind their belts and a deep familiarity with our open source communities.

Relevant material. The Linux Foundation’s courses are created using feedback from its massive community of open source practitioners and companies. Students can be confident that the topics they are learning are applicable in today’s business environment. Companies and organizations can integrate certifications in their hiring search and evaluations to find professionals with qualified skills.

Conclusion

With the most popular open source projects receiving upwards of 90% of their code from commercial companies, they are continually seeking trained people with the skills to deploy, support, and operate the open source technology. With Linux Foundation training, in most cases being free to access, our communities can efficiently train a vast ecosystem of people with skills companies are seeking to employ. The online delivery of our courses also makes our training accessible to people from low-income regions around the world, where access to training can provide a considerable boost to their career prospects.

Enterprises especially value certifications as evidence that employees are qualified and have demonstrated their expertise in a particular technology. Enterprises also want to train their existing employees on new technologies in an organized, efficient manner, which professional training courses can provide.

Offering training and certification is one of the best ways to scale any growing open source project community. For a project to continue growing and get more contributors involved, the community will need individuals to be able to gain an understanding of the project in a relatively quick and straightforward way. Our organized training curriculum was designed to fill this expertise gap.

The Linux Foundation’s training and certification offerings, combined with its community-organized events, provides a well rounded and neutral path to build skills and enable people to contribute back to its projects, sustaining their efforts into the future.

Building a successful open source community

Why do you need program management as part of your open source project? We asked a few of the Linux Foundation’s program managers to tell us how they each approach the task.

How does coordination and facilitation help improve my project? 

We tend to think of the primary goals of the Linux Foundation’s projects as producing open software, open hardware, open standards, or open data artifacts — the domain of participating programmers & engineers, system architects, and other technical contributors. 

However, successful projects engaging a broader ecosystem of commercial organizations, particularly when raising funds, benefit from active leadership besides pure technical contributions. Contributors often have work outside the project that often puts demands on their time. It takes real time to build and coordinate a commercial ecosystem, ensure stakeholders are engaged, recruiting and onboarding members, create a neutral governance culture (often amid competitors competing), and to keep various aspects of the ecosystem aligned such as when end users begin to participate.

Many Linux Foundation projects fundraise to provide resources for their community. This is an excellent benefit for the technical community when the business ecosystem comes together to invest and help the community obtain resources to build a thriving community and ecosystem. A typical fundraising model in our community is to offer an annual membership structure that provides a yearly fund for the project. 

The Linux Foundation’s approach to governance separates decisions about funds and business affairs from the technical project’s governance. The companies contributing money to a project’s fund can decide how those funds are spent and any related business decisions. The technical community can operate independently with open source best practices and continue to make decisions about what code to accept, how to build releases, etc. based on the technical merit of decisions in front of them and not based on what companies contributed funding.

We will always have representation from the technical community involved in the budget and business decisions to ensure funding decisions are well informed. This is how the Linux Foundation model preserves the development best practices of open source while enabling a community to benefit from the commercial ecosystem dependent on their work.

Guidance for your community

Within a technical project, there are roles for organizing how releases are built. Often some committers decide which code is accepted, and maintainers decide what to put into a release.  When scaling the project to create an ecosystem around it, there are other key roles and responsibilities that a project needs to stay on track and to continue to scale. These functions include:

    • Planning and Building.  Building a cohesive strategy is critical to the success of a project and requires investments in outcomes the core stakeholders want to see happen, and prioritize
    • Measuring KPIs. Tracking a project’s mission, goals, and objectives while moving those through the swim lanes is key to iterating on things that work and addressing things that don’t.
    • Facilitating. To be successful at facilitating, a coordinator must understand the landscape, and remain neutral. This can be difficult and is often the most challenging part of the job, NOT weighing in unless asked. 
    • Advising. Coordinators are a sounding board for these things with some expertise. To mature an organization, you must craft mechanisms for self-governance and sustainability.
    • Iterating and Reflecting. What happens along the way is that stakeholders in the community want to get things done — but when that happens without reflection, you lose sight of what and where you’re going. It’s essential to see the forest AND the trees, especially from an above-the-canopy view.

In the past, we have had a few communities with respected, neutral leaders who have provided these roles. The Xen Project is one example of a member of the community who has offered to perform this role for many years. There is a significant time investment from the community’s leadership to make it work, which is an excellent benefit for the community to have someone able and willing to spend their work time on this function. 

Many other projects are not able to find someone in the community to help. This is often where the Linux Foundation builds a support program to assist the projects we host that need help to obtain neutral coordination and facilitation professionals. We call the people who provide this support Program Manager (PM). PMs are often the first point of contact for community participants and potential members, and are usually involved in the following activities:

    • Program Managers help the governing and technical boards shape the project’s directions and goals. 
    • Program Managers will work with a project’s technical leadership to understand their technical goals. 
    • They work with the members to fill positions such as Chair and Treasurer and are involved with the voting process.
    • They ensure that both the governing and technical boards act within the agreed-upon guidelines of the project’s charter. 
    • They help onboard new members into the project community. 
    • They will engage resources from the Foundation’s Marketing, PR, Events, and Training teams to coordinate the support programs delivered for a project.  
    • Program Managers also oversee the delivery of other support programs provided by the Foundation and any services provided by vendors or contractors.
    • Program managers will pull in the Foundation’s IT service team members for a consultative discussion on the right development infrastructure, tools, and managed IT support programs based on the project community’s needs and roadmap. 
    • Program managers actively engage in community management and help the project’s leaders coordinate meetups, developer hackfests, and participation at events.

Setting strategic goals for your community

Identifying and articulating a project’s mission is essential with an open source project as it is with any business activity. Setting concrete goals enables the participants in a project to discuss and align around a single narrative that can guide their activities and inform decisions. 

Program Managers work with the project’s membership and technical leadership to define a strategy with goals, milestones, and metrics for the project. They coordinate discussions to assist the governing board in coming to a consensus on a budget that supports the technical community’s needs and aligns with the project strategy. 

For open source, very often, the goals include maximizing a project’s footprint in order to help the most people. Goals are often articulated to a fine granular level — enabling contributors to engage more easily, growing the membership from a particular sector of the ecosystem, or increase contributions from end users. 

The CHAOSS project is a community focused on defining community metrics around engagement, risks, etc. that are often helpful to project leaders in setting and establishing goals for measurably improving their ecosystem. 

Implementing a project lifecycle for your community

Open source projects often have subprojects and various efforts to innovate on new ideas that may not be ready to be included in an official release or as their independent release. We often refer to these communities as using an “umbrella” model with several coordinated sub-projects within the community. Within an umbrella community, the projects will typically follow a lifecycle. The lifecycle generally follows a path from imagination to planning to initial execution, expansion, and eventually maintenance and eventual retirement. 

Program managers often work with the technical leadership to codify this lifecycle according to milestones so that participants in the project can immediately understand where a project stands in terms of maturity and resources. CNCF, for example, has project phases that include Sandbox, Incubation, and Graduation. OpenJS Foundation has project phases that include Incubation, At-Large, Growth, Impact, and Emeritus, which map to the needs of their community.

A project lifecycle is an essential tool for a foundation to signal the maturity of multiple projects and identify for the community what the path towards a fully mature project requires. It is both a pathway and a signal, noting that projects grow and change, and what the community thinks a project should rely on to guide itself. 

In most projects, there is an entry-level, a mid-level, and a graduate level. The entry-level projects indicate a promising start for an emerging project and something to be considered. Mid Level projects show growth and development for an audience that might consider using this project, and graduated projects indicate full maturity and a project that many in the ecosystem rely upon.

“Within the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the various project stages have been beneficial for encouraging projects to grow, not only from a development standpoint but from a community standpoint. A project looking to graduate has to demonstrate both a strong codebase and a strong community.”

Amye Scavarda Perrin, CNCF Program Manager

Linux Foundation Networking (LFN) Program Manager Trishan De Lanerolle notes how the Technical Advisory Council plays an active role in a project’s lifecycle management:

“Linux Foundation Networking project (LFN) technical leadership (Technical Advisory Council) developed and published a model that lays out criteria and checkpoints for projects in various stages of maturity, including an LFN Entry review and evaluation for new candidate projects to the LFN umbrella. The entry process provides a mechanism to amicably and fairly assess upcoming projects. In LFN, that entails asking whether a proposed project: falls within the LFN scope, provides a snapshot into the status or health of the community, and ensures the project’s documented governance is clear, complete, and easily accessible.”

Through facilitating the work of the Strategy Subcommittee, whose primary goal is to assist the Governing Board with developing and implementing Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF) strategic planning, Program Manager Dan Lopez was able to guide CDF toward sustainable, long-lasting strategic goals. 

“The immense value of a Program Manager lies in their ability to foster a space for progress to happen. It’s not their role to necessarily make the tough decisions, but rather be the ‘glue’ of a program, ask the tough questions, and spark inspiration and critical thinking within their stakeholder group to create, in this case, sustainable goals that will create long term value for the CDF,”

Dan was able to approach strategic planning, as a neutral party who understood the landscape of the CDF, and assist the Governing Board in creating well-aligned goals that mapped to key performance indicators that can be measured and managed over time. 

The importance of open governance in your community

The Program Manager is also a vital member of the leadership team, working collaboratively to facilitate and operationalize the wants, needs, and priorities of the governing bodies. Each Linux Foundation Program Manager works with each project community to establish a transparent, open governance model for the technical community.

In open governance, a project is managed by a group of people representing the stakeholders in a project — generally project members and leaders of the project’s technical efforts. The concept of conducting a major technical effort using an open form of governance, in which all stakeholders’ needs must be addressed, and people are required to cooperate to get work done, is founded on the basic concept of democracy. It differs from closed or proprietary governance due to the transparency and coordination required to reach consensus.

Open governance provides a balance that can never be found in a proprietary, restrictive environment — the dynamics of that activity drive creativity and innovation, and significantly increase the speed of development. Program managers and community managers often guide these processes and help keep governance bodies on track with each other.

DPDK’s Program Manager Trishan de Lanerolle discusses how his project is divided into two bodies of equal responsibility:

“DPDK is one model of open governance, with co-equal governing bodies; the Governing Board has ownership and oversight, over budget, marketing, lab resources, administrative, legal, and licensing issues, and a Technical Board with ownership and oversight on technical issues including approval of new sub-projects, deprecating old sub-projects, the project’s technical roadmap, recruiting maintainers, defining the processes for contributing, testing, and managing security. The Technical Board comprises individuals from various organizations, that are not necessarily corporate members of the project, recognized for their technical contributions. The governing board comprises representatives from member organizations, who financially support the project, working hand in hand to make the project mission a reality.” 

Other projects, such as LF Energy, take a somewhat different path towards how their governance is structured. 

LF Energy represents an example of open, representative governance within a rapidly growing open source foundation. LF Energy has a board of directors, like most foundations, made up of Premier members, and includes a representative from the General members and a representative from the Technical Advisory Council (TAC), which is made up of technical project leaders. No single company has more than one representative on the board, which provides corporate as well as cultural diversity and voices from all over the industry, not just focused on one niche. 

The Linux Foundation’s neutral program management support program can help

Active program management and program management support is one of the main reasons why open source projects join an organization like the Linux Foundation. Our program management professionals provide a unique set of operational skills and capabilities that nearly all of our projects take advantage of — which is to offload operational and facilitation work from the community. 

In summary, a successful project should have community coordination and program managers that can plan and build, that can measure a project’s performance, that can act as prime facilitators and advise, and can help project stakeholders iterate and reflect to learn from their experiences in order to move a project forward.

“Managing Open source projects can be compared to nurturing a young sapling as it grows into a mature, healthy tree — or in this case, a community. Our job is to supply it with the right balance of nutrients and conditions for successful growth. Following proven governance models with strategic program management, helps increase the odds of nurturing a healthy community. Program Managers help clear the path, allowing communities to focus on the code and achieving technical goals. We are horticulturalists, toiling away in the background, and if we are doing our job correctly, you shouldn’t notice us.” 

Trishan de Lanerolle, Technical Program Manager & Community Architect, LF Networking

women in technology

Successful women in technology raise more than capital. They raise awareness, they raise the bar, and they raise their voices.

One of my employees chooses a word at the beginning of each year to guide her personal and professional development efforts. Last year the word she selected was “Rise.” She told me it inspired her to elevate not only her skills, but the quality of her relationships, her attitude toward life and her self-confidence. As a female entrepreneur and the CEO of a growing global software company, our conversation led me to reflect on how successful women in technology rise above our challenges.

Raising Awareness

Deb Noller

Deb Noller, CEO and Co-Founder of Switch Automation and EdgeX Foundry member

Research highlights the plethora of internal and external hurdles female technology entrepreneurs face, including limited access to funding, lack of advisors and mentors, sexism and harassment, social expectations, balancing personal and professional responsibility, downplaying our worth and of course, fear of failure. With such a gender gap to overcome, it’s no surprise that in 2017 only 17% of startups had a female founder, a number which has failed to increase in the last five years.

That’s a sobering statistic considering women-led companies perform three times better than their male-led counterparts. Even with compelling research to prove that female leaders drive unprecedented success and higher returns for shareholders, we’re still underrepresented in the industry.

So, how do we reap the rewards of successful entrepreneurship? The answer is raising awareness of our value through increased visibility. Visibility within our networks, visibility of our capabilities (both technical and leadership), and visibility of our triumphs.

Raising the Bar

Fortunately, we’re making progress every day toward building an ecosystem of empowerment. Female entrepreneurs drive more than $3 trillion and 23 million jobs in the U.S. alone. Organizations like Dell are blazing a trail by sponsoring female-centric research studies to showcase not only the value of female entrepreneurs, but the cities where they can thrive.

Initiatives around the world are inspiring women and girls to pursue STEM careers, with events like Galaxy Convention and Women in STEM. And, while mentoring young women remains critical to filling the pipeline of future leaders, research affirms we must continue to support women already in the field who are facing gender stereotypes.

At Switch, we value leading by example and participate in communities like Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), Springboard Enterprises, Rare Birds, Heads Over Heels, SheStarts, and others.

Raising our Voices

As women in technology become increasingly visible figures in our cultural landscape, they serve as a guiding light for would-be entrepreneurs. By authoring books, launching founders groups, mentoring one another and establishing a presence at tech events, we’re better equipped than ever to raise our collective and individual profiles.

Each of us can contribute to this effort. At Switch Automation, we take a diverse and inclusive approach to building the best team. Currently, 50 percent of our leadership team is female and women represent nearly 40 percent of our company. You’ll find them in in software development, QA, graphic design, engineering, marketing, finance, data science, and product roles.

Successful female technology entrepreneurs raise more than capital.

They raise awareness, they raise the bar, and they raise their voices. But, most importantly, they raise each other and future generations. As we continue to lift one another up, gain traction and celebrate our successes we’re carving out a legacy that doesn’t just benefit individuals, but improves the way we do business on a global scale.

Kubernetes

In his keynote address at KubeCon, Craig McLuckie said the success of Kubernetes has been driven by the community, excited end users, and organizations that have built out the Kubernetes ecosystem.

Kubernetes is one of the highest velocity open source projects around, attracting more than 80,000 commits from nearly 3,000 developers at more than 1,180 companies over the past three years. From the start, the project has managed its success by gauging whether its users are excited about the technology and using it, which they are. Likewise, Craig McLuckie, CEO of Heptio and co-founder of Kubernetes remains excited about the technology.

That excitement was showcased at McLuckie’s KubeCon keynote address, titled The Road Ahead on the Kubernetes Journey (see video below).

McLuckie has been steering Kubernetes toward success since its origin at Google. He has seen it emerge as a standard operating environment for distributed systems development over the past few years, and watched as it has become embraced by almost every significant vendor in the ecosystem. Kubernetes is helping solve tough problems in deploying and running applications and is supporting development of new approaches to building and running applications.

In his KubeCon address, McLuckie discussed the emergence of expert operations and how Kubernetes is driving change at organizations that build and manage distributed systems. He also discussed the increasing importance of cloud native technologies.

3 Driving Factors

McLuckie said Kubernetes’ success has been driven by three things: community, excited end users, and organizations that have built out the Kubernetes ecosystem. He is also focused on efficient development around the project. “Developer productivity really matters,” he said. “Anything we can do to drive even a five percent increase in developer productivity is worth it. Developers are moving from building static code to living services. Organizations should focus on the delivery of living services.”

Organizations everywhere are implementing container technologies, and many of them are turning to Kubernetes as a solution for orchestrating containers. Kubernetes is attractive for its extensible architecture and healthy open source community, but some still feel that it is too difficult to use. For some time now, new tools have been emerging that help streamline Kubernetes and make building container-based applications easier.

Kubernetes as a Service

McLuckie also foresees new security and governance policies taking shape at organizations as they strategize around technologies like Kubernetes. Additionally, he sees them embracing the multi-cloud trend. “I want to recognize the cloud providers out there that have introduced Kubernetes-as-a-service offerings,” he said. “These are providing high levels of assurance that Kubernetes is provisioned and is running exactly as it should. The available clusters feature consistency, and have the same behavior. If you see the certification logo, you can have confidence in this consistency.”

“These services make hybrid cloud deployments more viable,” he added. “And, people are building applications that can, say, run in two clouds. People should have the flexibility to do so, and to be able to pick which clouds they want to deploy their new services into.”

McLuckie has been working directly with cloud providers such as the Azure team at Microsoft to ensure that services around tools like Kubernetes are running correctly and are optimized. He sees such optimization of services growing along with the trend toward deploying applications in multiple cloud scenarios. Players like Microsoft have also built dedicated tools to streamline use of Kubernetes. For example, Microsoft has open sourced Draft, a tool that streamlines application development and deployment into any Kubernetes cluster.

Above all, McLuckie emphasized that Kubernetes will be driven forward by the community, and not by any individual. “If we hold together, there is so much more that we can do,” he said. “We haven’t felt the full potential of Kubernetes, not just around the issues that surround the deployment of software, but as a way to build new classes of distributed systems where Kubernetes is the core development environment.”

Hear more in McLuckie’s keynote address below:

Learn more about Kubernetes at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe, coming up May 2-4 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

open source marketing

In Deirdré Straughan’s talk at Open Source Summit, she explained common marketing approaches and why they’re important for open source projects.

The widely experienced and indefatigable Deirdré Straughan presented a talk at Open Source Summit NA on how to market an open source project. Deirdré currently works with open source at Amazon Web Services (AWS), although she was not representing the company at the time of her talk. Her experience also includes stints at Ericsson, Joyent, and Oracle, where she worked with cloud and open source over several years.

Through it all, Deirdré said, the main mission in her career has been to “help technologies grow and thrive through a variety of marketing and community activities.” This article provides highlights of Deirdré’s talk, in which she explained common marketing approaches and why they’re important for open source projects.

Why you have to market free stuff

So, what is marketing? At its most basic, she said, marketing is about getting people to exchange their money for goods and services. So you might think: “Marketing is about selling. Open source is free. I don’t have to try to sell anything, so why would I need marketing?”

open source marketing

Deirdré Straughan

But, you are selling something. You are selling ideas, and the currency you are requesting in return is something extremely valuable, which is people’s time and attention. That may feel counterintuitive, because open source generally means giving something away, but it does have substance and it does have worth. In fact, it is so worthwhile  that people contribute time, money, talent, and effort to the cause. However, they can only do that if they are aware of your project and convinced of the value of supporting it.

Additionally, competition is fierce, said Deirdré. To succeed, your project must compete for attention and support with some 25 and a half million other open source projects. Thus, open source marketing is about capturing very scarce attention and resources in a very crowded environment. It’s about attracting people and resources to your project, which can be difficult to do.

According to Deirdré, the main resource projects need is people — their time and effort. They may be people who use your project, or they may be contributors. Of those who are contributors, some will work independently, often in their spare time. Others may be assigned a project by their employer, or, as is increasingly common, be specifically hired to work on a particular open source project.

“And, yes, in some cases, you are also asking for money. We would all like to believe that pure technical goodness will be rewarded, and that we should never have to think about money. However, most of us need some money to survive,” she said.

Open source is increasingly supported by companies, but many companies are unsure about which projects to invest in. To succeed, your project needs to rise above the crowd and to attract not just independent contributors, but also companies that could offer material support.

Common points of failure in marketing

“Even so, marketing often fails to happen in open source. A common reason is that many people in tech despise marketing. But you shouldn’t automatically recoil from the mere mention of marketing, because you need to be doing it if you want to survive. It will be difficult to do marketing well, if you go into it thinking it’s sleazy,” Deirdré said.

Sometimes resistance to marketing comes from a literal machismo, according to Deirdré. Marketing is considered a soft skill, a job for women, as opposed to the (ahem) “manly” work of coding. It is perceived as a lower-status role (until you get to the VP or CMO level). Other reasons for lack of marketing involve lack of funding, or simply the fact that nobody working on a project happens to know how to do it.

At its best, Deirdré said, marketing helps people understand what the technology is about, and how they can use it. It is a form of  communication that is informative, truthful, convincing, and even inspiring.

Marketing tools

There are many marketing tools readily available. First in importance, Deirdré said, is your code. GitHub is your resumé. Your basic code should be architectured purposefully and offer the capability to write libraries or modules so that the barriers to entry for a newcomer are fairly low. It should be well coded and offer tools that help people learn to use and contribute to your project.  

A common pitfall relates to documentation. Many companies don’t bother with it, but documentation will help attract people to your project. Documentation usually explains all the commands and parameters and what the output means. This information is necessary, but insufficient. Additional types of documentation are needed, according to Deirdré, such as, white papers, blogs, video, podcasts, and conference talks.

Once you’ve created all this content, you need a place to put it. Obviously, a GitHub repo is necessary, but you’ll also need a website and/or wiki.

Discoverability is crucial, Deirdré said. You have created all this content, but people still have to find it. Toward that end, you should be cautious about project names. For example, if your project name is also a common word, searching for it is going to be difficult. To maximize results in a search engine, you can use keyword tags and categories that will help people find your project.

Search engine optimization is an arcane art. Being on the first page of search results for a keyword is extremely valuable. For that reason, “SEO best practice changes frequently, as search engines are in an arms race with the black hats who want to game search results,” she said. “You can easily find recent tips and tricks on how to improve your rankings. However, it usually takes about a year to make any real progress in search engine rankings. You’ll need patience.”

Community

Everything that touches the customer is marketing, Deirdré said. For example, consider airlines. Everything about the airline experience affects what consumers  think about the airline. From buying a ticket, the check-in process, boarding, the plane ride and experience, the atmosphere of the airport, timeliness in departures and arrivals, and whether luggage arrived on time and unscathed — all of these processes and experiences help shape the consumer’s opinion of the brand.

“This is also true for technology, and especially for communities and projects. Everything that somebody experiences around your project — good or bad — affects their perception of that project and whether they are going to want to participate in it,” she said.

So, community is important. Community culture is important, as is diversity.  Nurture your community. If your open source community is not diverse, ask yourself why, and think about how you can attract a wider range of participation.

Diversity also means diversity of contribution. Does your project recognize and value contribution beyond just the code? Again, you’re asking people to help you do this work, so make sure that they’re recognized for it.

Kindness also matters

Look closely at the newbie experience. What is it like onboarding someone to your technology? Think, too, about growing pains. Projects, like startups, can reach a critical inflection point, when there is rapid success but things start to fall apart, because there just aren’t enough people to respond quickly.

“In conclusion, I’d like you to take away that marketing is not evil. You may already be doing it. You just may not think of some of what you’re doing as marketing,” Deirdré said.

“And marketing, particularly that which is appropriate for open source, is mostly stuff you’re probably already doing, or at least know how to do. There are even people out there who would love to help. They’re just waiting to be asked.”

Deirdré Straughan is the Content Lead for the AWS Open Source Community Engagement team. Her work for AWS includes the new AWS Open Source blog and @AWSOpen on Twitter. You can find her at @deirdres on Twitter.

Sunday I will partake in something I’ve never tried before: a Tough Mudder (TM).  If you’re not familiar with this event, it’s a 10-12 mile run with an obstacle about every half mile. Most people participate with a team, and it’s generally not timed.  It looks something like this:

(Electroshock Therapy – all pics from http://toughmudder.com)

I’ll admit I’m a little nervous. Will I be able to make it through the obstacles? What happens if I wear out and let my teammates down?

But I think I have a secret weapon. It’s not miles of running or hundreds of pull-ups and pushups. It’s not having the right gear…

It’s participating in open source.

Yep, I think that having participated in open source – specifically in the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project where I’m on the TSC — will be the differentiator in helping me get through the Tough Mudder.  It all comes down applying what I’ve learned in open source to the obstacles along the way…

Lesson #1: You’re going to get dirty

Open source is not always a clean process.  It doesn’t run top-down like software development inside of most companies. There will be things that go wrong. People will have differences of opinion. You have to expect it and find a way to work through it. In ONAP we had to merge two different projects (OpenECOMP and Open-O) into our first release due in November. There was overlap between the projects, and (naturally) pride of ownership.  But the community made the tough decisions and did the hard work to bring the best of each project into the final product.

Knowing I’m going to get dirty, I’m now prepared for the Mud Mile…

Lesson #2:  It can be intimidating

If you’ve never worked in open source before, getting involved can be intimidating. Everyone seems so smart, what can I possibly contribute?  I’ve learned that you can start small with documentation, testing, or easy bug fixes, and as you build up your reputation, you can take on more responsibility.

Knowing that it can be intimidating, I’m now ready for the King of the Swingers.

Lesson #3: You can do things that you’ve never imagined

The great thing about open source is that it’s often tackling new and interesting problems. Many of the best new technologies today are coming from open source, and if you participate, you can say that you helped build it. In ONAP, we’re working on making the network virtualized & running it at a scale never seen, while still keeping the 100-year-old expectation that the network will always work. Big stuff.

Knowing that I can do things I never imagined, I’m ready for Funky Monkey the Revolution

(OK, maybe not… that looks really hard)

Lesson #4: If you work as a team, you can accomplish your goal

Possibly the best part about open source is how people work together for a common goal — not just a group from a single company, but people from around the globe. In the ONAP project, it’s not unusual to be on calls with people from China, India, France, Canada, and the US all at once. Some of us are even competitors. But, we know that only by working together can we build great software and make automated NFV (Network Function Virtualization) a reality.

Knowing that not just my team, but all Tough Mudders will have my back, I’m ready to tackle the Pyramid Scheme.

So, wish me luck on Sunday. If my open source lessons fail me, then I guess it means I should’ve done more pullups!

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Measure success

Measuring Your Open Source Program’s Success is a free guide to help any organization learn exactly how their open source program is driving business value.

Open source programs are proliferating within organizations of all types, and if yours is up and running, you may have arrived at the point where you want to measure the program’s success. Many open source program managers are required to demonstrate the ROI of their programs, but even if there is no such requirement, understanding the metrics that apply to your program can help optimize it. That is where the free Measuring Your Open Source Program’s Success guide comes in. It can help any organization measure program success and can help program managers articulate exactly how their programs are driving business value.

Once you know how to measure your program’s success, publicizing the results — including the good, the bad, and the ugly — increases your program’s transparency, accountability, and credibility in open source communities. To see this in action, check out example open source report cards from Facebook and Google.

Facebook’s open source program office periodically posts the month-over-month results from its open source projects internally and sends an executive report to management. “Reports are just a good way to raise awareness,” said Christine Abernathy, Open Source Developer Advocate at Facebook. “Even though Facebook places a high value on open source (as an organization), it’s still always a good thing to market yourself internally all the time and show your value.”

Existing tools can help you measure program success. You can begin by setting up the right tools for collecting data and make sure the data sources are clean and in a format that everyone can understand. Many organizations create a dashboard of metrics for their open source programs, to track all of the data in one place and provide project snapshots that can help assess progress at a glance. (See our guide on Tools for Managing Open Source Programs.)

Key metrics for measuring open source program success

There are countless ways to measure success and track progress for open source programs. Project health isn’t the only thing to track, but is important. “How do you actually get the smartest people in the world working at your company?” asks Chris Aniszczyk, Executive Director of the Open Container Initiative and COO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (and former head of open source programs at Twitter). “Well, you open source stuff and then you convince them to contribute to your projects.”

It helps to be able to quantify project health. GitHub’s guide on open source metrics gives a great overview of what project maintainers should pay attention to.  Some key project metrics to track are:

  • Number of contributors (and ratio of internal to external contributors)
  • Number of pull requests submitted, opened and accepted (and time remaining open)
  • Number of issues submitted (and length of time remaining open)
  • Number of commits per contributor (internal and external)
  • Number of external adopters
  • Number of projects created or contributed to (program wide)

Other metrics include popularity and awareness, influence, and program costs. As you delve into these metrics, you can concretely report everything from diversity of contributors to your projects to the number of followers you have across channels.

The Measuring Your Open Source Program’s Success guide can help you with all these initiatives and more, and it explores how to set program goals and measure whether or not they are being met. It is one of a new collection of free guides from The Linux Foundation and The TODO Group that are all extremely valuable for any organization running an open source program. The guides are available now to help you run an open source program office where open source is supported, shared, and leveraged. With such an office, organizations can establish and execute on their open source strategies efficiently, with clear terms.

You can read more in previous articles, on How to Create an Open Source Program and Tools for Managing Open Source Programs. We encourage you to check out all the guides and stay tuned for more coverage of them.

Community manager and author Jono Bacon will provide tips for building and managing open source communities in a free webinar on Monday, July 24 at 9:30am Pacific.

In this webinar, Bacon will answer questions about community strategy and share an in-depth look at this exciting new conference held in conjunction with this year’s Open Source Summit North America, happening Sept. 11-14 in Los Angeles.

The Open Community Conference provides presentations, panels, and Birds-of-a-Feather sessions with practical guidance for building and engaging productive communities and is an ideal place to learn how to evolve your community strategy. The webinar will provide event details as well as highlights from the conference schedule, which includes such talks as:

  • Building Open Source Project Infrastructures – Elizabeth K. Joseph, Mesosphere

  • Scaling Open Source – Lessons Learned at the Apache Software Foundation – Phil Steitz, Apache Software Foundation

  • Why I Forked My Own Project and My Own Company – Frank Karlitschek, ownCloud

  • So You Have a Code of Conduct… Now What? – Sarah Sharp, Otter Tech

  • Fora, Q&A, Mailing Lists, Chat…Oh My! – Jeremy Garcia, LinuxQuestions.org / Datadog

Also, if you post questions on Twitter with the #AskJono hashtag about community strategy, leadership, open source, or the conference, you’ll get a chance to win a free ticket to the event (including all the sessions, networking events, and more).

Join us July 24, 2017 at 9:30am Pacific to learn more about community strategy from Jono Bacon. Sign Up Now »

Check out the session highlights for the new Diversity Empowerment Summit (DES), which will take place Sept. 14, 2017, in Los Angeles as part of Open Source Summit North America.

Featured sessions and speakers for DES include:

  • Chaos Theory + Civil Liberties = 21st Century Corporate Practices – Kate Ertmann, GO

  • Open Your Arms to Open Source – Solutions to Bring in Social Innovation to All Walks of Life All Over the World – Arpana Durgaprasad, IBM

  • You’re Not a *Real* Software Engineer – Amy Chen, Rancher Labs

  • CO.LAB: A Collaborative, Mobile Learning Experience – John Adams, Red Hat

Other diversity and inclusion activities at Open Source Summit North America include:

Note that registration for DES is included in Open Source Summit registration fees at no additional cost.  Anyone in open source who wants to learn more about furthering diversity and inclusion in the community, as well as the broader technology industry, is encouraged to attend.

Onsite resources to increase accessibility to the event include:

  • Nursing room

  • Complimentary child care

  • Wheelchair & medical equipment rental from One Stop Mobility

  • Quiet room where conversation and interaction are not allowed

  • Communication stickers to indicate an attendee’s requested level of interaction

  • Non-binary restrooms

  • Strictly enforced Code of Conduct

The full lineup of all Open Source Summit North America sessions, including those at the DES, features more than 200 sessions covering everything from Cloud and Containers, to Security and Networking, to Linux and Kernel Development. Register now & Save $150!

One of the great strengths of open source is that it provides opportunities for everyone. Regardless of background, age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation or religion, everyone can benefit from and contribute to some of the most important technologies ever developed.

Yet we know that many groups remain underrepresented in the open source community, which is why The Linux Foundation engages in efforts such as providing diversity scholarships for our training and events and sponsoring organizations such as Women Who Code, Code.org, Blacks in Technology, All Star Code and more.

As part of this ongoing effort, The Linux Foundation is proud to announce we have entered into a partnership with Girls in Tech, a global non-profit focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of girls and women who are passionate about technology.

This partnership will provide Girls in Tech with free and discounted tickets to a range of Linux Foundation events, free space to exhibit at those events and/or to host hackathons and bootcamps, and more. Our goal is to help more girls and women to become involved in, and contribute back to, the open source community.

The 15 events covered in this partnership include:

• MesosCon Europe 2016
• Cloud Foundry Summit Europe 2016
• OpenDaylight Summit 2016
• ContainerCon/LinuxCon Europe 2016
• Embedded Linux Conference/OpenIoT Summit Europe 2016
• CloudNativeCon/KubeCon 2016
• Apache: Big Data and ApacheCon Europe 2016
• MesosCon China 2016
• Node Interactive North America 2016
• Embedded Linux Conference/OpenIoT Summit North America 2017
• Open Networking Summit 2017
• Apache: Big Data and ApacheCon North America 2017
• Cloud Foundry Summit North America 2017
• OpenDaylight Summit 2017
• Open Source Summit North America 2017
• MesosCon North America 2017

Those interested in participating should follow Girls in Tech on social media for more information and offers.

There’s always more we can do to improve diversity in the open source and technology communities in general. Partnerships such as this one are just one element of that effort, and we encourage everyone in the community to contribute their time, energy and resources to making open source accessible to everyone. Learn more about The Linux Foundation’s community giving initiatives.