This post is based on the closing keynote I gave for PyTennessee in February 2018, where I talked about how the governance of an open source project impacts the health of the project, and some lessons we learned in building the OpenStack community that can be applied to other projects.
OpenStack is a cloud computing system written in Python. The project is 8 years old. During that time we have had 18 major releases, and to give you an idea of the size of the community, during 2017, we had 2,500 people contribute more than 65,000 patches. The age and size of the project means our community has been through several transitions and challenges that other smaller projects may not yet have encountered, and my hope is that by thinking about them early, you can prepare for them, and your communities will be able to grow in a healthier way.
I started working on OpenStack in 2012, 2 years after the project had been launched and right at the beginning of a period of increased interest and contributions. It was the leading edge of the up-slope for our hype curve. I started looking at the code with my team at Dreamhost, but my first significant exposure to the community was at a Design Summit, an in-person event for organizing the teams working on different parts of the software. It was an energizing experience.
I had been to conferences before, including open source conferences like PyCon and PyTennessee, but never anything quite like this. We had hundreds of contributors gathered together in one place for a week of meetings, discussions, arguments, decision making, and, just as importantly, socializing. The enthusiasm of the participants was amazing, and the event led me to dive deeper and deeper into the project over the following 6 years.
At that summit I was part of starting two new teams, one based on metering cloud use for billing and one based on building a set of reusable libraries for the different OpenStack services. My experience with trying to help launch those teams within the community sparked my ongoing interest in open source project governance — not just how to build open source software, but how to build the communities around it — in part because, at the time, OpenStack had no system in place for expanding the scope of the project, and the community struggled to work out how to do it. Today, I want to share 9 themes that may help you avoid pitfalls when considering governance in your own projects.