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CNCF Contributor Strategy: Helping Open-Source Projects Level Up


Guests: Carolyn Van Slyck (LinkedIn) | Josh Berkus (LinkedIn)
Organization: CNCF (Twitter)

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is a nonprofit that supports and fosters a large number of cloud-native projects. The Contributor Strategy committee advises CNCF projects on strategies related to building, scaling, and retaining contributor communities, including governance, communications, operations, and tools.

In this episode of TFiR: Let’s Talk, Swapnil Bhartiya sits down with Technical Lead – Contributor Strategy Carolyn Van Slyck and Chair – Contributor Strategy Josh Berkus to talk about how the committee helps communities have smooth journeys throughout their CNCF project lifecycle.

Key highlights of this video interview:

One of the requirements of being in the CNCF is finding a diverse group of maintainers to ensure a healthy project. It is crowdsourcing solutions and strategies for building a healthy, inclusive contributor base, and making sure that these projects are sustainable year after year.

Common problems in the CNCF Sandbox: 1) how to find more people to work on the project, how to encourage and engage them to help design solutions and become maintainers for the project, i.e., how to avoid becoming a one-company project, and 2) potential contributors find it difficult to confidently contribute and be a participant in the open-source ecosystem when they don’t know what the rules are and what’s expected of them.

The Contributor Strategy committee helps:

  • document common norms in the CNCF.
  • encourage projects to write down how they’re different, their rules around contributions, who gets to make decisions, and how things get reviewed. This gives potential contributors confidence that when they engage with the project, they won’t be embarrassed and won’t have the wrong idea of how things work.
  • ensure smooth interactions between projects and contributors.
  • create templates that just get people thinking about how they’d like their project and its community to work
  • identify areas where projects could use some help (even non-coding contributions such as project management, roadmap, content materials, etc.).
  • provide opportunities and forums such as the Maintainers Circle to share information about what worked and what didn’t.

Like the other technical advisory groups (TAGs), the Contributor Strategy committee is all-volunteer. Areas that need volunteers include Governance, Contributor Growth and Contributor Tools, Mentoring, Diversity, and Maintainers Circle.

If interested in becoming a contributor, a really great way is to show up to the meetings, listen to what people are asking for help with, and just pick a task and help with that one task. There is also a repository that has a list of open issues. Just pick up one of those issues and submit the document or piece of automation code without directly interacting with the committee.

If interested in leadership positions: contribute to one of the repositories in the project and then become a reviewer, a maintainer on that repository. You will learn other stuff about the project and then become a maintainer on the whole project. To help lead one of the larger initiatives, a commitment of at least 6 months with an hour a week to attend the meetings and help coordinate people.

Next steps: For Contributor Growth, CNCF has launched a beta site that collects “help wanted” issues from across the CNCF projects. Potential contributors have been requesting to have this “jobs board” for a while. For Governance, they are creating a formal governance review as part of the graduation review. They are looking to restart the Diversity subcommittee.

This summary was written by Camille Gregory.

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