Episode 174

Maintainer Month with Bob Killen & Navendu Pottekkat


May 9th, 2023

33 mins 48 secs

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Special Guests

About this Episode


Bob Killen | Navendu Pottekkat


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. This is a special podcast and one of several in this series for GitHub’s Maintainer Month. We’re interviewing maintainers to ask them about what their experience is of maintainership and open source. Today, we’re very excited to have two guests joining us. Our first guest is Bob Killen, who’s a Program Manager at Google, serves the Kubernetes project as a Steering Committee member and chair of the Contributor Experience Special Interest Group. Bob talks about the mentoring cohort approach the Kubernetes community has, the importance of titles, and the value of a defined contributor ladder to recognize and motivate contributors. Our next guest is Navendu Pottekkat, who’s a Maintainer of Apache APISIX, the Cloud Native API Gateway. Navendu tells us about his experience in contributing to building, scaling, and maintaining open source projects, his involvement in mentorship programs, and the importance of people focusing on balancing the code with the community aspect. Download this episode now to hear much more!


[00:02:00] Bob’s role at Google encourages him to contribute and to be active in the Kubernetes community and being part of the OSPO, where he’s focused on maintaining the overall health of the project and keeping track of various services.

[00:03:02] He’s been in the open source space since mid-2000s and was already working on Kubernetes before joining Google.

[00:04:16] We hear about the Contributor Experience Special Interest Group, what Bob does there, and the mentoring cohort approach the Kubernetes community has to help grow people into maintainer roles.

[00:07:56] Since Kubernetes avoids private Slack channels, Bob explains how he asks questions in an open place.

[00:08:45] Bob finds it challenging to maintain his role in special interest groups while working full-time, as there is always an endless backlog of issues and prioritizing and triaging can be difficult.

[00:09:45] What keeps Bob working there? Well, he enjoys the people he works with and going to KubeCon events has helped him connect with so many people.

[00:11:45] Something Bob is looking forward to doing is stepping down from some of his leadership roles and mentoring others to replace him.

[00:13:15] Bob shares some advice to his potential replacement, and he discusses the importance of titles in helping people understand the time investment and leadership responsibilities of being a maintainer.

[00:16:12] He explains the value of a defined contributor ladder to recognize and motivate contributors.

[00:16:50] Find out where you can read more about Bob and his work on the web.


[00:19:29] Our next guest is Navendu, and he tells us about APISIX.

[00:21:03] Navendu talks about how he got involved in open source and how he mentors students and new developers who are interested in building stuff in the cloud. Also, he tells us about being a part of the Linux Foundation mentorship program.

[00:23:35] We hear about Navendu’s involvement in mentorship programs like Google Summer of Code and the Linux Foundation mentorship program.

[00:25:30] There’s a discussion on the importance of stipends for students and how mentorship is an important aspect of open source projects.

[00:26:42] Navendu mentions that it’s easy to convince him company and the APISIX community about the importance of mentorship and community in open source.

[00:28:24] What’s hard about open source for Navendu? He mentions that working on open source projects can be overwhelming especially when there are always issues that need to be addressed and pull requests that need to be reviewed.

[00:30:11] We hear some tips for people to step up to take of the community, and Navendu encourages users and community members to get involved.

[00:32:20] Find out where you can learn more about Navendu and APISIX online.


Quote from Bob:

[00:14:23] “That title winds up being a much bigger thing because it’s easier to explain than hey, I’m a lead of this.”

Quotes from Navendu:

[00:23:11] “Being online 24/7 is taking a toll on my health and is not sustainable.”

[00:26:52] “There is always some aspect of mentorship when you’re working on open source projects.”

[00:29:46] “If you have people focus on community it helps.”

[00:30:41] “At some point, some maintainers have to step up and take care of the community.”



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