Joomla at FOSS Backstage 2023: A Recap
FOSS Backstage is an annual conference in Berlin that is all about the behind-the-scenes work at open source projects, from community management to leadership. Robert Deutz, Sigrid Gramlinger, Jules Weigel, and I were lucky to attend on March 13th and 14th on behalf of Joomla. We all learned a lot from the diverse and engaging sessions, all of which were recorded and are freely available. Here are some of my top takeaways from the two days of learning and networking!
The first day opened with "Cooperation and Inclusion in Open Source" from Laura Dornheim, who is an IT officer and champion of open source for the city of Munich. I found this talk really interesting, and it introduced me to some of the challenges that cities and governments have when trying to introduce new technology and change.
The next talk I attended was "The F in FOSS: Affording Open Source in Developing Countries" by Ahmed Sobeh. He pinpointed three main challenges for FOSS to thrive in developing countries: society & culture ("FOSS feeds off the culture where it exists"), resources & infrastructure, and governance.
There are no easy answers, but Ahmed's points were very thought-provoking and he made some good suggestions on how to foster open source communities. Ultimately, what can we do to help? "Let them in!" This talk made a huge impression on us and is on such an important topic; I encourage you to watch it if you can.
After an amazing lunch of vegan lentil chili and corn bread, I attended "Sustainability beyond funds: Extrospective OSPOs" by Josep Prat. It seemed to be written more for companies who depend on open source themselves, but was a valuable look at some of the ideas that motivate larger organizations to sponsor developers in FOSS projects, or sponsor employees to occasionally work on FOSS projects that they depend on.
To my knowledge, this doesn't really happen in Joomla. (Am I wrong? Please correct me in the comments if so!) However, it's an interesting thought and could be a way for larger web agencies or other companies to give back to the Joomla community, if they don't already. I definitely got some ideas and brainstormed in my notes for a good portion of this session!
The next session I attended was "Designing Your Governance with CommunityRule" by Nathan Schneider. This was a long workshop that unfortunately wasn't recorded (to my knowledge), but essentially we learned about a new governance toolkit and generator that Nathan has been working on called CommunityRule. It was an interesting exercise to map out the Open Source Matters leadership structure and compare it to the other options the toolkit provided. (But don't worry...we're not restructuring again!)
After the workshop we also met the folks behind the Governance Game, a card game that can be used for fun or used in a workshop to help define how you might react to various situations as an open source community. The scenarios looked really fun, and it's a clever idea!
The day closed out by looking back at the past "Five Years of FOSS Backstage", from founders Isabel Drost-Fromm and Stefan Rudnitzki. It was a short and sweet reflection of the history of the conference and how far it has come. The day ended with pizza, beer and ginger or rhubarb lemonade, and eventually for a few of us...karaoke!
The second day started with a talk I had been looking forward to since it was announced: "Open Collaboration and our Lizard Brains" by Clare Dillon. Clare dug into the physiology of the brain and the psychology of why people react to change the way they do. She also gave some excellent pointers on how to introduce change (like cultural change) without triggering people's flight response and ensuring they feel safe and supported through the process. This is definitely one of my favorite talks from the event; I strongly recommend you watch it if you have the time. Clare is an engaging and funny speaker, and I learned a lot!
Next, Sigrid and I presented a talk we put together called "Open Source Dystopia". We discussed Joomla in a very transparent manner and talked about some of the things we have learned as an established open source community that has had it's fair shair of ups and downs. The main takeaways are about removing barriers to contribution; if this is something that interests you, give it a watch! We'd love to know your feedback and questions.
I took a break to recover from presenting and fuel up on coffee, then attended "The code of conduct has been broken. Now what?" from Paloma Oliveira. She reminded us of a paragraph on the website for the Contributor Covenant, a popular code of conduct used by open source communities:
"As a leader you are responsible for the safe, fair, and transparent enforcement of your community’s code of conduct. A code of conduct without such enforcement sends a false signal that a community is welcoming and inclusive, which can have a disastrous impact on marginalized or otherwise vulnerable people."
Paloma then suggested that the responsibility of good conduct is not on leadership alone, but on the community as a whole, and dove into why that is. It was a very thoughtful and interesting talk with solid steps for communities who want to do better.
The next session I attended was a panel on "Funding FOSS", hosted by funders from various organizations that support open source projects. They answered many questions on how such funding organizations decide on projects to support, common challenges their projects face, and more. I didn't take good notes but it was a very interesting peek behind the curtain at a part of FOSS I didn't realize existed.
Next up was lunch (an amazing vegan root vegetable soup, for those keeping track), after which I attended "Diversity in Open Source, an Asian Perspective" from Masae Shida. Another excellent session which focused on why diversity efforts take longer in open source, and why there is often untapped potential in many APAC countries for open source projects.
Masae showed us that Asia is the most populated continent, but that very few open source contributions come from the culturally diverse 20+ countries in the region—with India being a notable exception. We dug into some of the barriers for Asian contributors and what we as open source projects can do. She noted that "change needs to happen on both sides", and that FOSS projects must be genuinely inclusive in order to help contributors from the APAC regions feel more welcome.
The final session I was able to watch live was "LibreOffice: Improving a Large FOSS Project Sustainability" from Italo Vignoli. LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice some years ago. Italo talked through the history of the fork from OpenOffice, as well as some of the ways they are planning on ensuring the project remains funded as an independent FOSS project. While there are notable differences to how Open Source Matters is set up vs the Document Foundation (and we have taken different approaches to funding), it was comforting to see we are not alone in the challenges we face.
10/10, would FOSSBack again.
Bravo to the organizers!! Overall this was a well-organized, inclusive conference that was incredibly educational and helpful as a leader in open source. I'd recommend attending it to anyone who is interested in the more 'backstage' elements in open source projects. We connected with some amazing talented people from other projects, and took home ideas that I hope will help Joomla grow as a community.
Did you watch any of the sessions linked above, or some others available on the site? What did you think? Let's discuss in the comments!
Interesting links on the governance level. I find it a bit hierarchical, strange at OSM with these levels!
Good luck with this mandate
Hi Herve!! I'm not sure I understand your comment about "strange at OSM with these levels". Could you clarify? Or do you mean the tool is too hierarchical for OSM?
First of all, thank you for taking the time to reply. I apologise, I must have thought I was commenting https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/april-2023/leadership-interview-crystal-dionysopoulos but it's true that it's related :-)
I'm talking about my feelings. I have been reading the magazine for a very long time and have followed OSM from afar.
What I find strange is especially the elective mode with these 3 levels.
I wonder if this does not have a negative impact that would not legitimise OSM?
After that, I won't go into the internal workings of the organisation, which I don't know. It's just a slightly critical feeling, which is perhaps not fair?
I prefer to talk about what speaks to me. All my life I have been in associations (more or less conventional or hierarchical), sometimes as a leader or active member.
Today, I am convinced that times are changing.
Horizontality, transparency and inclusiveness are fundamental to attract new people, help them to get involved and avoid them leaving.
The conferences you have attended seem super interesting :-) https://communityrule.info/templates/circles certainly give you good intentions :-).
Finally, I'd like to see general polls (uservoice) on adding new features again, although I think it's right that the developers have the final say (but explain it to us nicely).
Sorry for the poorly translated English.
I guess your comment that its obvious not to schedule event on major religious/cultural holidays is really not that obvious at all as it keeps happening in Joomla.