Episode 15

Open Source Leadership With Abigail Cabunoc Mayes


October 22nd, 2019

46 mins 45 secs

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About this Episode

This episode of Sustain our Software features Abigail Cabunoc Mayes. Abigail has a background in bioinformatics and computer science and has an interest in using computers to solve problems in biology. She works for the Mozilla Foundation where she is a practice lead working Open. She has been named in “100 Awesome Women in Open source” and mentioned in Github’s State of the Octoverse 2016. Abigail begins by sharing some of how she got started and what interests her in technology. The discussion then moves to altmetrics and how Abigail helps people publish code and get recognition for their work. 

Richard asks Abigail how her work for mozilla fits into the type of work she is known for. Abigail shares that Mozilla is much more than the Firefox browser that it is known for. Abigail shares that “Mozilla’s mission is to ensure that the Internet is a global, public resource” that is “open and accessible to all”. This mission at Mozilla goes back to the browser wars of the early 2000’s when they created Firefox to ensure that a web browser was available to all. Abigail goes into further detail how the Mozilla foundation helps to further the internet and open source as well as what she is currently working on. 

The next topic covered by the open source experts is the tooling used by Mozilla to maintain privacy. Abigail notes that some of the issues that prevent a healthy internet are privacy and security, openness, decentralization, web literacy, and digital inclusion. She shares that Mozilla is very conscious of protecting users and how they walk the line between privacy and openness. They also discuss how Abigail grows leaders in the community. She shares how it starts with identifying potential leaders and how she finds them. Currently Abigail is teaching a course on how leaders can run their own versions of Mozilla’s Open Leaders through an online program that meets every two weeks. Abigail goes through the details of how the Open Leaders program works. 

Eric then asks Abigail to explain what openness means to her. She shares that openness and movement building really work together. They are means of rallying people together and empowering them to work towards a shared goal. Openness means to both be public and participatory and be active in the community. Richard follows up by agreeing that openness means to be participatory and is a pillar of open source. Abigail adds that as a leader it is very important to be able to delegate tasks and entrust responsibility to other members of the group. She goes on to say that it is vital to open source sustainability for others to be able to contribute to a project. 

The panelists then lead into a discussion on why maintainers leave a project and what happens when they do. Eric asks Abigail how to teach someone to delegate to which she explains that it is important to help people see how a broader community with diverse perspectives can help propel a project forward. To get contributors to stick around, it is important to give them ownership over a piece of a project. The panelists conclude this episode with covering how to avoid abstracting too much and talking about what’s coming up next for Abigail.


  • Eric Berry

  • Richard Littauer


  • Abigail Cabunoc Mayes




Richard Littauer

Eric Berry

Abigail Cabunoc Mayes

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