Richard Littauer | Ben Nickolls | Eric Berry
Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. We are very excited for today’s podcast. Our guest is Amanda Casari, who is a Developer Relations Engineer and Open Source Researcher at Google Open Source Programs Office (OSPO). Today, we learn about some open source work Amanda is doing with her research team at the University of Vermont Complex Systems Center, she tells us about a project called ACROSS, and a paper that was written by her team that was actively looking at contributions that are measured for code centric repositories. Amanda goes in depth about what open source is to her, she shares advice if you’re looking to collaborate more effectively with people in open source, she talks more about how we can support projects financially to other parts of the world and mentions some great groups she worked with. Go ahead and download this episode to learn more!
[00:02:00] Amanda fills us in on the open source work that she started working on with the University of Vermont Complex Systems Center.
[00:06:43] Amanda explains the “assumptions we have that aren’t verified,” as well as a paper that came from their research team and what they examined.
[00:09:52] We learn more about how people interface with closed decisions behind doors and open source.
[00:13:30] Ben asks Amanda to tell us what kind of behaviors and differences she sees between communities that emerge and continue to exists off of platforms like GitHub and GitLab.
[00:15:50] Amanda tells us about a project their team is working on called ACROSS, and a paper that won a FOSS award last year that was about actively looking at contributions that are measured for code centric repositories.
[0019:18] Eric wonders what type of responsibility Amanda sees that would come from GitHub and if that’s going to affect us long term.
[00:23:01] Amanda explains working as a Control Systems Engineer, and she explains how she sees open source as blocked diagrams and feedback loops.
[00:27:53] We hear some great advice from Amanda if you are someone who wants to make the world of open source a more complex and beautiful place with what you have to offer.
[00:32:08] We hear some thoughts from Amanda for people working in open source who don’t have a huge amount of privilege to have the ability to share their energy and find it harder to think laterally.
[00:35:27] Ben wonders what we can do to support projects financially and what we can do to support the next generation from the different parts of the world who haven’t had the opportunity to benefit yet. Amanda shares her thoughts and mentions some really great groups she worked with such as Open Source Community Africa, PyCon Africa, and Python Ghana.
[00:39:24] Find out where you can follow Amanda online.
[00:09:01] “A lot of open source decision making is really behind proprietary or closed doors.”
[00:19:59] “When it feels like there is only one option for any kind of tool, infrastructure, or access, that’s when I always start getting concerned.”
[00:24:58] “Open source is a ___ system.”
[00:29:59] “Open source is not one thing, it’s many interactive parts that fit together in different ways.”
- [00:40:10] Eric’s spotlight is an article Amanda submitted on “Open source ecosystems need equitable credit across contributions.”
- [00:40:39] Ben’s spotlight is a shout out to Jess Sachs and the maintainers of Faker.js.
- [00:41:22] Richard’s spotlight is Red Hen Baking in Vermont.
- [00:41:47] Amanda’s spotlights are two books_: Data Feminism and _The Data-Sitters Club that she found on The Executable Books Project.
- SustainOSS Twitter
- SustainOSS Discourse
- Amanda Casari Twitter
- Amanda Casari LinkedIn
- Open Source Stories
- The penumbra of open source: projects outside of centralized platforms are longer maintained, more academic and more collaborative
- Getting the Giella source code for your language
- Julia Ferraioli Blog
- What contributions count? Analysis of attribution in open source (article)
- ACROSS Taxonomy-GitHub
- RubyConf 2021- Black Swan Events in Open Source-That time we broke the Internet
- All Contributors bot-GitHub App
- All Contributors
- Open Source Community Africa
- PyCon Africa
- Python Ghana
- Open source ecosystems need equitable credit across contributions (article)
- Red Hen Baking Co.
- Data Feminism
- The Executable Books Project
- The Data-Sitters Club
- Produced by Richard Littauer
- Associate Producer Justin Dorfman
- Edited by Paul M. Bahr at Peachtree Sound
- Show notes by DeAnn Bahr Peachtree Sound
- Transcript by Layten Pryce
Richard [00:11]: Hello, and welcome to Sustain, the podcast where we're talking about sustaining open-source for the long haul. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are we going to talk about today? Very excited for today's podcast. We have an amazing guest. One of the few guests from the state I am in, which is really fun for me. I just feel like saying that first before anything else, because I don't know why, but before we introduce her, I want to make sure we also talk about the other people you're going to be hearing on today's podcast. So I am Richard [name]. Hello everyone. And then we also have Benjamin Nichols, sometimes known as Ben, how are you?
Ben [00:48]: I'm good. I'm a bit enjoying the sun. Thank you.
Richard [00:51]: Cool. Okay, great, Eric, how are you doing?
Eric [00:54]: No sun, but I'm really happy to be here. I'm very well caffeinated.
Richard [00:58]: That is very good. I'm going with apple ciders today. I don't know why, I think it's because I already have caffeine. Great. So that's the little tiny stuff at the beginning to set the mood for the show. And now the actual content. Our guest today is the amazing Amanda Casari. Amanda Casari is a lot of things. She doesn't like titles very much, which is cool. So I'm just going to say what she wrote down in the prep doc, DevRel engineer, plus open source researcher at Google open-source programs office, which we're going to shorten to the Google OSPO for the rest of this conversation, because that's just too much of a word. She also lives in Vermont and has a long and storied career. Amanda, how are you doing?
Amanda [01:39]: Hi, I'm doing great. It's so good to be here today. And I'm also absolutely thrilled Richard, that you also live in Vermont.
Richard [01:47]: I know we have this small thing in Vermont where we really like talking about being in Vermont. I think it's because we're in a little man's complex because it's a very small state and so it's just nice to be like, oh, someone else, Amanda, actually that might be a good intro. So you've been active in open source communities for over a decade. You've organized local community groups. You've filed issues. You've cleaned the documentation, you've tested fixes or fixed tests. You've done all the things. You move chairs around, but like you're really a systems level person.
[02:14] You're all about thinking about what open-source is and how can we make sure that the entirety of open-source regenerates builds better, is more sustainable, is more resilient, is more better for the people inside of it. Part of that work has been working directly with UVM, which is confusingly, the University of Vermont and it's based in Burlington. And it now has, I believe some sort of OSPO. Can you talk about what that is and how that happened?
Amanda [02:40]: Yeah, so as brief as I can make it, because otherwise I will spend the next 45 minutes talking about this. I switched into the Google OSPO office because I started and worked on a partnership and a research group with the University of Vermont complex system center. So we started to look within Google and understand how can we really begin to picture, strategize, think about, learn from open-source, like you said, from a systems and ecosystems and networks perspective, which is in line with my background.
[03:16] So in the way, way before, I'm a actually a control systems engineer. So problems that are dull, dangerous or dirty fit right with that robotics line of thinking and examining infrastructures and legacy infrastructures and how things interconnect and where they need support and where they don't, is absolutely aligned with what I used to work on. And then I did go to the University of Vermont and I was a fellow at the complex system center. When I was studying power systems and I actually looked at electrical engineering and applied mathematics.
[03:48] And so a lot of that is fundamental for the reason why, like my brain is really shaped to examine and look at things, as to what scales and what doesn't, but not from some of the software perspective of how do you scale things, but where do you actually, and can you find rules that may or may not apply at different scales and may not work? So we may try to apply things that work at a smaller group, at a larger scale and they break down and that's when they actually don't scale. So working with the University of Vermont, we started in early 2020, which was a really interesting time to get a new research line started, especially when one of your core researchers is an infectious disease modeler. But I would say the benefit from starting at that time is that we really got lucky in a few places.
[04:37] So one of the places that we got lucky in early 2020, is we took everything that we were thinking about for the next two years of life. And we said, this is probably going to change. And we fundamentally moved some of the money and the grant money around to start instead examining who needs support now, what can we do now? So if we're not going to be able to travel, we're not going to be able to hold community workshops. We're not going to be able to invite open-source people together to talk to us, what should we be doing instead?
[05:08] One of the things that we did is we hired another researcher. So we took some of the travel money and some of the budget for commuting. We moved that into a position at the time and that, one, was wonderful because that person is brilliant. But second, it really worked out well because I don't remember if everyone remember early 2020 academic institutions were shutting budget and roles and department shut down. And it was really a crisis mode, but we were sheltered from a lot of that because of the structure we set up.
[05:33] But there's been a lot of great research coming out of that group and that team. One of the fundamental things we've been just trying to figure out is where's the information you would need to understand and what's happening at open-source at a large scale level? And we found there are a lot of assumptions that are made that we can't verify. So we find that we are looking for information always in a way that respects individuals and respects people in open-source as humans. And doesn't observe them in a way that is without their consent, but it's very hard to find the information you need that doesn't just result from conveniently available information on the internet.
[06:12] But for the OSPO perspective at the University of Vermont, UVM is a recent recipient of a Sloan tech grant that is going to be establishing an open-source programs office and also has a research component to understand and look at open-source communities as they emerge, especially as they emerge in local communities who have a directive to really support local effects rather than maybe like a global effect or a corporate good
Richard [06:36]: So much in there. Most interesting was there were assumptions that we have that aren't verified. What assumptions are you talking about regarding open-source and what have you looked at?
Amanda [06:47]: So I rant a lot amongst researchers and groups of people, Richard, as you know, and I don't have time to verify all of my ranting or all of my hypothesis. But one of the research lines that I am most excited about learning and exploring more. There's a paper that came out from our team and I will add it to the show notes late,r is called the penumbra of open-source. And so the research team and I was not on this paper, but the research team examined whether or not the sample that we used from GitHub is actually representative of the larger open-source ecosystem.
[07:24] And so they went about looking for individual hosted, but public and open Git servers to be able to start to look at whether or not, if you choose not to be on a platform like GitHub or GitLab or any other hosted platform repository, does your open-source project organization, metadata, community, organization, decision making, does that look like what's hosted on GitHub? And they found that it wasn't. So GitHub itself, they called the convenient sample. It's something that's used because it's easy for researchers to get to, which I would also challenge the convenience and ease of getting specifically that data access, because most of that data is accessed by researchers, by aggregated collections like the GitHub archive, or there's a few other aggregation projects, but they're all open-source or research projects.
[08:15] They are funded by groups like Google or groups like Microsoft. But if you actually wanted to do aggregated research of what is happening in open-source and trends in time. That's something that is a huge data engineering project. And the best that we can do right now is samples off of those aggregated platforms. But it's not clear in a way that it used to be. So if you look at a lot of the studies that are coming out, they may look at something like the Linux kernel, or they may look at something like projects from the Apache software foundation, because all of the tools that those developers use are in a much more aggregated and less distributed format and also less proprietary systems.
[08:57] So that data is actually accessible and is more transparent. Otherwise, a lot of open-source decision making is really behind proprietary or closed doors. And that might be the decision of the community. They may not also realize that like the effects of those decisions.
Richard [09:12]: I don't know of a lot of projects that are outside of GitHub. I used to know of one, I just checked and Gela Techno Finn minority language documentation has now moved to GitHub, which seems to happen a lot, I assume. And so it's always shocking to me to hear that people have projects elsewhere and they think about it elsewhere. One of the things I want to focus on though, besides that, which always blows my mind, is you talked about open source decision making happening behind doors. And it seems to me to be at ends with what we think of as open-source naively when we begin learning about open=source, we think, oh, open-source, everything's out in the open.
[09:50] It's great. freedom of speech, freedom of everywhere. I want to know more about how people interface with closed decisions behind doors and open-source, and whether everyone knows that, and we're just not talking about it openly, or whether that's something that actually causes fractures in communities when they realize that the power is elsewhere. I'm just curious about your opinion on this.
Amanda [10:13]: So to be perfectly frank and clear, decisions about open-source have always been behind closed doors. So there is an illusion of access, but not everybody has always been invited to those meetings. So talking with folks who have been involved in open-source even much longer than I have, we've talked about these different kinds of cyclic patterns and community and transparency and in governance, different kinds of governance models. So it used to be that folks would show up a few days before a conference, ahead of time or stay afterwards for a few conferences.
[10:49] And if you were invited to those meetings, you were part of that decision making group. But I would like to point out that the first person that became a core dev programmer contributor for the Cython kernel is actually Mariatta Wijaya. And she just joined that a few years ago. So she was the first person who identified as a female who was even invited for this programming language that's been around for 20 years. And I will say, I feel like that community's done a wonderful job in understanding their limitations and where they have and have not been transparent and open.
[11:21] And Guido van Rossum has the creator of the language has also been one of the staunch supporters, allies, and movers of change for that. But it took a long time for that to happen. So the idea that there are these close off areas where decision are making is nothing new. However, there was always this idea that at least conversations and decisions and communication happen as something as open as a mailing list, and everybody had access to something like the mailing list. Maybe it was cell hosted or maybe it was hosted on a centralized platform, but at least you could see it. That's not the same case anymore.
[11:54] We have a ton of developer platforms now that people choose to have conversations on. Sometimes those communications get centralized with things like repositories. And that is for trying to make communication and understanding more atomic, which is totally understandable. And every community gets to make these decisions for themselves. And if you are trying to piece together all of this information, it's a huge data archeology problem. This is something that Julia Farole and I talk about a lot, is if you just want to understand what's happening in a community, who is making decisions, who has access, who is even doing any of the work, like if we just want to understand what work is even visible or valued in a community that's very challenging to see right now. And that's another one of our core research areas that we're working on, is just making labor visible across open-source.
Ben [12:47]: So I just wanted to kind of pick up and extend Richards question to a degree. And just, if you can talk a little bit about the difference that you see in communities that are based on more kind of some might say modern traditional platforms, like GitLab, maybe [13:06 inaudible] to a certain degree, but versus those projects that exist kind of, I would say off-platform and behind kind of mailing list and so on, because I think a lot of people would say that some communication methods like mailing list, mailman and so on could be argued to be less accessible than say, like GitHubs, that's now got a lot more kind of discussion based features and so on. So I was just wondering like what kinds of behaviors you see and what kind of difference do you see between communities that emerge and continue to kind of exist off of platforms, like GitHub and GitLab?
Amanda [13:43]: So I will say, I feel like the differences between centralized platform centric communities and non platform centric communities. I feel like that actually is still an open research question because of the fact that again, like the data collection for it is pretty hard to do, so you have to start like adding layers at a time. So you can look at things at just like maybe how the repositories are structured, but that may or may not be indicative of how decisions are made, which may or may not be indicative of communication layers.
[14:12] But when we start thinking about this in terms of how do you model that? These are all actually separate modeling techniques that you use for each of these different kinds of layers. And I think that is something our team is actively interested in and working on. I have a lot of theories that are not founded on that right now. I would love to start looking at what kinds and if any, are there heard cultural norms, values, but I would really love to start understanding and seeing when a decision is made to choose one technology over the other for dev tool stacks for a community, because there's a lot of porting that's happened in the last few years.
[14:51] How has that worked out? So not even like the initial choice to choose that dev tool or that infrastructure stack may have been made five years ago for different reasons that they would be made now. Has that worked out to meet the community's goals? Has it changed who has access and who has voice? Has it changed who's work is visible or is that something that's still an unsolved problem for the community? And are there ways that we need to think about focusing on that so that they get more visibility and transparency regardless of their decision?
Ben [15:21]: I kind of feel like those latter points about whose contributions are recognized and valued and so on is a little bit of a, hidden nugget of another point, because I would say that my opinion, which is also not based on fact, but my experience to date has been communities that are based around platforms like GitHub are maybe a little bit more code centric and communities that aren't are possibly a little bit more interpersonal. And I think that there's a whole load of issues that we could potentially unpack there. Do you see any of that already? Is that something that you are already kind of thinking about or working on?
Amanda [15:56]: Yes. So our team has been working on, we call it the across project and I always forget what the acronym stands for, but it basically comes to like better attribution and credit in open source. So we have done research on that. The paper actually won the Fass award at Minimg Software Repositories conference last year. And it was actively looking at contributions that are measured for code centric repositories, as you said, because this is what we're really trying to show, is that when you're only looking at code and acknowledging that a lot of people are trying to shove a lot of things into repos these days that maybe they weren't intentionally designed for, for, but again, going along with that idea of atomic information, about a project or about a community or about an ecosystem.
[16:38] So looking at a repository centric view, we evaluated the difference between how GitHub contributors shows actions and gives attribution how the events API does it. There's a tool that one of my colleagues, Katie McLaughlin wrote called octohatrack, which looks at a code repo on GitHub and produces a list of contributors for anybody who's ever interacted with that repository, which is different than what the GitHub API shows. And then we also compared that against repositories that were using the all contributors bot. So the all contributors bot for those listening who are not familiar with this, the bot it is a way that you can manually add in or add in through different actions. So it's, auto plus manual.
[17:19] Ways that you can start to give people credit and attribution for things that may not be reflected by a change in the repo. So we started to look at the difference between for communities and projects, what kind of things were getting added manually versus what automatic contributions would show. And we were able to see that folks that were using manual additions were giving credit from more of the kind of work that would never show up in an API. And so part of this is really starting to think about what kind of mixed methods tooling, changes to tooling we should be thinking about as a community to really start to give that visibility into all of the work that happens like this podcast itself, unless it's in a repo is not going to be showing up as a part of the open-source community if you're doing archeology around open-source contributions.
[18:12] But I would argue that discourse and thought and community should be something that would be recognized. And so we held some workshops. I mean, we're going to have some more results coming out from that. But one of the things that we did find, which we can talk about is that getting everybody in open-source to agree on what a project is, an organization is, or an event is a very hard problem. So standardized definitions is not something that carries across as a global ecosystem level. And so when we talked earlier about examining different projects, I think drawing boundaries and open-source is a very challenging problem. So you have to be very distinct when you talk about where the boundaries around people are or around technology is as opposed to being able to say open source is like this big, broad thing.
Ben [19:01]: I was wondering the role of GitHub. And I'm curious your thoughts on how much control we actually have as an open-source community to make really effective changes when the tool that basically we all kind of go to for open source is a private company with their own interests. I was wondering what type of responsibility you see that would come from GitHub and is that going to affect us long term and how so?
Amanda [19:26] : I mean, obviously I work for a for-profit company. I don't work for a nonprofit, I don't work for, I'm not an independent consultant or contractor. So for me, I do look at the question of what is the goal of a community to moving to a centralized platform at any time. And I think that when done intentionally and if always done with a feeling of independence and autonomy, that's the right decision for that team to be able to move and choose which dev tools and platforms work best for them. When it feels like there are only one option for any kind of tool or infrastructure or access, that's when I always will start getting concern.
[20:10] So for me, when we think about centralized platforms, I think the trade offs for that is considering whether or not this is serving the community, or is this serving the platform and the product? And always taking the perspective and understanding that whenever you choose to be on a product, even if it's a free tier, it's not that are giving nothing in response for getting everything. So in the before, like before I used to, I had this job, I think one of the jokes I used to have with my friends is, if you would like me to tear down your terms and conditions from a data perspective, I'm happy to do that for you to talk about what kind of things the data teams may be working with based on what you sign off as a user.
[20:51] It's something I've been highly aware of my entire career, but I don't know if everybody else views it that way. So I also know that when I talk with folks about doing productivity studies of open-source, it makes people feel a little bit nervous. Nobody wants to observed in a way that they are not opting into. So when I try to think about the work that we're doing and where we encourage and think about transparency, not just as a cultural communal trait, but as a source of representation and census.
[21:21] So when we hear or think or talk about the larger effects that open-source has in the world, who gets to be represented in that, how is their work represented in that? Your decisions around transparency and proprietary information, how is that influencing or changing the way that larger view has? How does it change the conversation? How does that change the global business and how investments are made? And I think that we can want to pretend that all of those analogies and realities don't exist, but the fact is that they do, and individual efforts can add up to collective and cumulative effects.
[22:04] But that's when we really have to start talking as to who does it serve and why. And so I think for me, when I think about centralized platforms and whether or not that gives access, or it removes access, as long as communities are understanding that and understanding who it leaves out and who it includes, that's really the decision that I look for when I'm trying to see why and how people are choosing to be on different kinds of managed services.
Richard [22:33]: I'm really enjoying this conversation and I'm really enjoying listening to you, but it's been difficult for me to formulate a question effectively, partially because a lot of the words you are using are not things that I have here on autopilot. A lot of our guests, no offense to them, they're wonderful guests, but I can just be like, cool, where is your business model coming from? How's that going? How are you making things better? And with you, the concepts that you're throwing out during the conversation are ones that I don't regularly wrestle with, using this verbiage which I find very effective. One of the things that I know we've talked about before is open-source as different types of systems, open-source X kind of a system. You mentioned earlier that you worked as a control. I, don't even remember the term because I don't really know what it is, like a control engineer or something I'm guessing that's more like low level.
Amanda [23:22]: Okay. I will give you a little bit of a break Richard in that, control systems engineer comes up on exactly zero drop menus. Anytime I've ever had to input. So I don't even know how many programs have that, but it is what's on my bachelor's degree and it's not something that is, and to be quite fair, it's weapons and control systems engineering. Because I went to the United States Naval academy. So that definitely not on there, but my focus while I was there was robotic systems and environmental engineering, which at the time was why are microgrids not yet feasible and how much does solar cost? So totally fine. If that doesn't didn't originally.
Richard [24:05]: That's excellent. Thank you for explaining, what did that mean again?
Amanda [24:10]: Well, okay. So the TLDR control systems is how do you take what could be inoperable systems and actually make them work together, in a way where you can abstract enough of the way the physics that you can understand where they interconnect. And for me basically it's how do I now see the world as block diagrams and feedback loops?
Richard [24:29]: So how do you see open-source as block diagram and feedback loops? What is open-source then to you?
Amanda [24:34]: Okay. So I have a full list of these kinds of things and I will say like I have open documents in writing that I have not yet pushed out. And Julie and I do did touch on this in our Ruby comp talk. So we gave a talk last year called black swans of open-source. And that's a research line we're still working on because we're so fascinated by this issue. But the way that we talk about it is open-source. Like you said, open-source is a blank system. And then it's all these different layers and lenses and views that we are looking at this system as.
[25:07] And so talking about, I think we talked about before that open-source is a complex system, which is why Vermont complex systems work so well, then I can go through complexity theory or drop some links into the show notes for folks who need to be able to work on that. But we also view the lens that open-source is a sociotechnical system that you cannot divorce the human and social elements and constructs from the technical decisions and effects that it has. Open-source is distributed. It's cooperative. It's an economic system that we don't talk about enough what that means and the effects that it has again on people in it and how it evolves over time.
[25:40] And most recently I've also been trying to parse out in my brain that if we view open-source as a legacy system. The concept of open-source as a legacy system, what does that mean for me and a Jing, like an aging global system construct while still keeping it running and then evolving it moving forward. Where are the magnetic tape mainframes of open-source that we just stick these clients and these things on top of? And then build fatter clients on top of, and then we look at it and we're like, well, everything's fine, right?
[26:20] But then we start to have things like critical vulnerabilities that are deep down in these older infrastructures and it strikes us by surprise. So I think this is where the black swans area moves into is because Julie and I really try to parse apart and understand what are the analogies and assumptions that we use to describe open-source and are those valid, do they exist? Are they just constructs in our minds that we've used as either recruiting tales or onboarding tales or based on life experience, but don't really exist outside of our own time-frame.
[26:56] So this is, I think for me trying to like really take a step back and understand not to is based off of my experience, people ,I know what I can see online, and this was the Genesis for our open-source stories project too. So for those who don't know, Julie and I run a Story Corp project where we are gathering stories from folks in open-source and making them visible in public. And the purpose of that isn't even to talk about people's journeys in open source, it's just to talk about them as humans so that we really start bringing that cultural perspective together, especially before some folks just decide they no longer want to be involved.
[27:31] So these are all the different ways that like, let's say background, current work, everything kind of blends together. How are we actually thinking about this and how does the world that we all love and are apart of work and how can we describe it better so that we could better support it?
Richard [27:46]: I couldn't hard agree more with everything that you're saying around different ways of viewing open-source. One of the main question I have personally, and I'm going to try to phrase it in a way that's not just about Richard, is what advice would you give to someone who has these thoughts about open-source? You seem to be very and looking at a complex system and finagling other people to pay you to work on that complex system and then be able to actually effectively get your ideas about that system out there into the world.
[28:14] I'm curious for those who are doing other open-source projects, for those who want to try a different economic system in their project, who want to talk about open-source is an ethics system, who want to collaborate more effectively with other people about whether open-source is even the term they want to use anymore, et cetera, et cetera. How would you suggest that they make the world of open-source a more complex and beautiful place with what they offer? What should they do?
Amanda [28:41]: First of all, call me maybe, because I love co conspirator and people to talk to and work with. And I would say we talked earlier about how I'm not a fan of titles. Part of that is because so much of my career has been really non-linear, job titles, experiences, roles. And this even goes into, when I talk about thinking of representing labor and open source, I really try to avoid nouns and focus on verbs because it's less about what a person is called and more about the work that they do based on what's needed at the time or required. And so I think one of my verbs I would turn into a noun Richard is professional nerd sniper, and that's hard.
[29:16] I don't want sniper in there. So it needs to be like snippet, maybe professional nerd snippet, because going back to the XKCD comic, I am very good in conversations at picking up on what brings people energy and then trying to examine in my like mind map of files, where is there a gap that I see in the world or in my projects or interests or someone else's interests and how can I help this energetic person fit with the thing that gives them energy?
[29:48] So for other people, I would say that first of all, if you do have the idea that open source is a complex system, keeping in mind that then open source is not one thing. It's many interacting components and parts that interact together in multiple ways, which also tells us that there are local rules you can look at so that there's no one way to go about being in open-source, doing open-source, contributing to open-source, leading in open-source. So giving yourself, first of all, the permission to examine what is it that brings you energy and where can you put that, versus trying to follow someone else's path or pattern to what it is that they think being a leader in open-source looks like. I mean, I started being a data scientist in 2009. Nobody knew what being a data scientist would look like in 2021, 12 years ago.
[30:46] So for people who are trying to examine what to do with their time, energy, talent, is really looking at, I try to view things as we're working in an emergent system. There's no map for what's happening next, especially now. There's so much chaos in what's happening in so many different things that we're working on that if you're trying to move things forward in a linear, like exponential scale, you will probably fail right now. But if instead you're viewing and looking at your work, your contributions, what you want to have as really kind of interacting and nudging things in a way where greater things can emerge from it, I feel like you'll get more satisfaction.
[31:28] So I feel like a lot of that disconnect that folks have who view things either as a system or from a complexity point, is that they feel like they keep being shoved into these other expectations and these other expectations of time or scale or the way things work. And I would say if you draw back to the things that you really think to be true and examine that and find other people who value that you'll be much more satisfied.
Richard [31:53]: I know you're a huge fan of DEI work in open source. A lot of what you said strikes me as very easy to accomplish if you're privileged, not saying that was intentional about what you said, I'm just saying that's how it struck me. And one of the things I'm curious about is, how would you ask people who are less privileged in open-source to be able to have the ability to do that and to share that energy and to open those doors. What would you suggest for people working open-source who don't have a huge amount of privilege and may find it harder to laterally?
Amanda [32:23]: So, first of all, I do want to say, I think working in open-source isn't always going to be recognized as a centralized platform contribution profile. So when we're trying to say who and how do we actually recognize that work, please do not use that as the measurement for your own contributions, which is why I talk a lot about how some of my main contributions in open-source have been making pies for people because it makes me happy and it makes them happy. And that just makes general community good.
[32:48] One of the questions I have is when we are looking at understanding what is best and what's next and needed in open-source, I am concerned that we have an increasingly weird bias. And so weird in that case would be categorized as Western educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. I mean, it's something I'm aware of. I talk to people about, and like incognizant of when we are trying to understand the future, are we increasing that or are we decreasing that?
[33:15] And for me that means a lot more connection, outreach and learning from people who don't grow up or contribute or form communities that look like that. And I'll say, I have a ton of work to do there. And I'm very excited to meet more folks who create community, contribute to technology, who don't fit that profile and learning more about what engages them, what keeps them there and what challenges they face, because we know what challenges some folks face. We know that some folks work at technology companies and are extremely talented and rich, but none of their work ever shows up in a public place. And then when they get home, they have other things that they have to do and they will never have anything it's in a public place, but it doesn't make them any less of a contributor in the world.
[34:02] Or maybe even a contributor towards asking questions and clarifications and making documentation improved in a way that their name will never show up. But I do think the centralized idea of finding and connecting with community is universal and ensuring that everyone has access to information and communication networks is a human right. And so making sure that people all have access to global communication regardless of where they live and the devices that allow them those communication is something we should all be concerned with and that we should make sure that we are in a way that increases equity and not in a way that actually separates us even more.
Ben [34:39]: I love this conversation. There have been so many touch points for me that I'm just massively interested in. And to be honest, a little bit obsessed by, and I think there is a moment, an intersection here between kind of a philosophical kind of view of open-source. You kind of get to decide whether it is about the peopl or it's about the code, which for me is kind of like the discussions that you sometimes hear about market economics, is demand and supply actually decided by the demand side or by the supply side, because the supply side creates the demand side?
[35:14] I was wondering with that in mind, and talking about the privilege that people have at the moment to be able to use their free time to contribute to open-source software versus those that necessarily don't, what are your thoughts on kind of emerging ways of being able to support projects financially and things that we can do to support that, to bring the next generation from the developing world, from the global [35:38 inaudible], from however you want to kind of refer to the parts of the world where people just haven't really had the opportunity to benefit yet.
Amanda [35:45]: So I think one of the best things we can think about doing is technology companies can start building more offices in places that are not the United States and Europe and certain countries in Asia. So encouraging, not just offshore or remote job. And I know that the idea of offices right now still feels like perhaps either a scary thing. But the reason I bring that up is because very concretely that also changes tax structures and incentives and benefits for companies.
[36:11] So there's a big difference between being able to hire someone as a contract, which is fine. That's sometimes the job structure that some people want, but that's a very different benefit structure for other people than sometimes being a full-time employee. So when I think about equity, one of the first things I started thinking about is where are you investing in offices? Where are you investing in incorporating your company? Where are you invested in hiring people from? And the very clear economics of link communities in those countries and countries that are not places that other companies do business is sometimes it can be very challenging as you well know, to get money transferred across borders.
[36:47] And in a way where it respects regulatory requirements and actually understands all of those tax incentives. So sometimes one of the hard problems in open-source is getting resources to the groups. If you have resources and someone else needs them moving the thing you have to the thing in need can be very challenging because we only have so many systems that are set up to be able to do that. And being able to do that at scale is an entirely different problem. So when I start thinking about growing places, first of all, I do think about also asking the people who are already there and who are already creating those groups and those challenges.
[37:25] So I really have learned a lot and I absolutely love working with the folks from open-source community Africa, and also from Python, Africa and Python, Ghana or some really interesting groups. Python, Ghana is interesting for me because is a countrywide Python community. It's both distributed and centralized in the same way that seems to be working well for folks that they work with. And it incorporates a lot of other kind of groups. Open-source community Africa, I had a chance to go to their open-source festival right before the shutdown in 2020.
[37:56] And they had, I think they were expecting like a few hundred people. And by the final day it was over a thousand. I mean, it was tons of students and people brought together and it was absolutely wonderful. When I think also too, about another thing I'm working on now, I would love to improve documentation transparency and reporting around sponsorships for open-source of just making it more clear, what organizations need in a way that is discoverable accessible and able to be found by groups.
[38:30] I would love the people who have resources to give, to cast wider nets and have better places to be able to connect with those they depend on and in return, I would love transparency reporting for those sponsorships and the impacts of those sponsorships to be accessible in ways that when we see organizations or foundations or very small projects, be recipients of sponsors, giving them the support and the tools they need to be able to show what impact that had also for holding each other more accountable. There's a lot of money moving around in these ecosystems. And the questions that I constantly have is, are those the right places they should be moving?
Richard [39:15]: I think that's probably a really good place to wrap up because it was just so succinct and perfect. So thank you so much, Amanda, for people who want to get in touch with you on the internet to learn more how they can collaborate and get these things done with your help, if you're available, where can they find you online?
Amanda [39:30]: Twitter is the best place to contact me, which I know is a closed platform, but it's the easiest way for me to go through all of the direct contact. If you're curious about the open-source stories project, we are on GitHub, but we also have a website with links to be able to contact there as well.
Richard [39:49]LThank you so much. And Twitter will also be in the show notes for those of you who want to reach her on Twitter. Amanda this has been excellent, but don't go yet. This is the part of the show where we talk about people, projects or things, which we think we should shed light on and or that need more love, that's right. It's spotlight, Eric Barry, what is your spotlight today?
Eric [40:11]: First I got to say, I'm just overwhelmed on how amazing the show has been. So thank you, Amanda. Absolutely incredible podcast episode. I'm a big fan boy. So what I'd like to spotlight is actually an article you had submitted on open-source ecosystems, which need equitable credit across all of the contributions and stuff. I read through that, it was just really fascinating. I recommend anybody to read it. The link will be in the show notes.
Richard [40:35]: Thank you so much. Excellent. Ben Nichols.
Ben [40:38]: This is incredibly timely. So excuse me if it doesn't age too well, but I just wanted to give a big shout out to Jess Sax and the maintainers of [inaudible] JS that have picked up the project and are kind of providing a huge value to the community that depend on that project. We've been working with them over the course of the last week and the way that they have acted to try to kind of set things up in the best interests of all of the users, all of the kind of contributors, the previous maintainers and everything. Like it's just, it's been great to work with them. So I just wanted to kind of call out Jess specifically, but all of the new maintainers of [inaudible] JS.
Richard [41:18]: Awesome. Thank you. In a left turn, I'm going to just give a shout out to Red Hen baking. If you're in Vermont and you want to go to a really nice bakery, there's a place in Middlesex, which is really nice. It's called Red Hen. If you don't have a local baker, I'd suggest looking around because if you're in the United States, there's probably a bakery near you somewhere that makes really good bread. This is mine. So Red Hen baking is excellent. Really like their mad river loaf, highly suggest. Amanda, what is your spotlight today?
Amanda [41:47]: Yeah. So for those who don't know, I'm also a complete library and book nerd. And so I get really excited about the open-access projects and books. And so my recommendation, I couldn't narrow it down. So I'm going to say my recommendations today. I love the data feminism book that came out in 2020. It is available via open-access. I recently found a project called the data sitters club, which attracted to me because I found it on the executable book project, which is a whole community around Jupiter book, open-access and computational publishing.
[42:16] The data sitters club is this group of people who are helping to explain computational text analysis and open data using open-access, open data and actual exploring fair use. And it is completely fair use of the babysitters club that I grew up with. And I absolutely adore the way that they've adopted that. They have a lovely debt of public health posters for the pandemic that they created in 2020 that still bring me joy to read.
Richard [42:46]: Love it. Awesome, Amanda, thank you. Once again, it was great having you on, look forward to talking to you further in the future and best of luck with everything. Thanks.
Amanda [42:55]: Thank you. This is great.Support Sustain