Conservancy News Round-up June
byon June 28, 2019
Summer in the northern hemisphere means lots and lots of busy time with interns and quite a few FOSS events. We've got plenty of blog posts for your edifying summer reading and plenty of opportunities to catch up with Conservancy folks in person.
New FAIFcast episode: Bradley and Karen enjoy and discuss Molly De Blanc's keynote at the first annual CopyleftConf, entitled The Margins of Software Freedom, followed by an exclusive interview with Molly! This show was released on May 31st, 2019.
OSCON in Portland next month
We've got our pub night, two talks by staff and two days of expo floor. We hope to see you there!
Monday, July 15thJoin us from 7pm -10pm at McMenamin's Broadway Pub! The address is 1504 NE Broadway St, and it's about a 20 minute walk (or an 11 minute bus ride) from the Oregon Convention Center. Deb and Bradley will be there to meet with Supporters and to talk about software freedom! There is nothing we'd like more than to spend an evening talking about the future of free software and its toughest problems with supporters and friends. Light snacks will be provided.
Expo Hall Hours
- Wednesday, July 17: 10:15am – 5:45pm / 5:45pm – 7:00pm (Sponsor Reception)
- Thursday, July 18: 10:15am – 4:15pm
Volunteers are essential to the success of a booth at a large event like OSCON. Let us know if you can help out by committing to a few hours of booth time. We'd really appreciate it!
Wednesday, July 17Deb Nicholson, "FOSS governance: The good, the bad, and the ugly" at 2:35pm–3:15pm
Thursday, July 18Bradley Kuhn, "If open source isn't sustainable, maybe software freedom is?" at 1:45pm–2:25pm
More upcoming talks from staff
Bradley Kuhn, our Distinguished Technologist will be at the Ninth Annual RacketCon in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 13 & 14, where he will give a talk titled, "Conservancy and Racket: What We Can Do Together!"
The 20th Debian Conference will be held in Curitiba, Brazil, from July 21st to 28th, 2019. Our Director of Community Operations, Deb Nicholson is giving two talks there and will be around for formal and informal discussions.
Deb is also speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Developer Conference on August 1st.
Our Executive Director, Karen Sandler, will be a featured speaker at Abstractions on August 21-23, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA
Bradley is keynoting the 8th edition of Kernel Recipes in Paris on September 26 & 27. Conservancy is this year's featured non-profit beneficiary. Registration opened this week.
Outreachy: Blogs from this year's amazing interns
- The Mercurial Commands That Saved My Workflow By Danielle Leblanc-Cyr
- Outreachy : Understanding my project and contributing to Mozilla by Nupur Baghel
- Let’s talk mUzima by Priscillah
- Outreachy Week 5: What is debci? by Candy Tsai
- Outreachy Internship: Improve suricata-update by Vagisha Gupta
- Jaegertracing in Ceph 101 and my struggles till now by deepika
GSoC students are also working on Conservancy projects this summer
- Ghidra firmware utilities, week 5 by Asami (at Coreboot)
- Google Summer of Code ’19 With phpMyAdmin by Apoorv Khare
Even more code!
- Backdrop 1.13 Released
- BusyBox 1.31.0 (unstable)
- Security fix: phpMyAdmin 4.9.0 is released
- Samba 4.10.5 Available for Download
- Twisted 19.2.1 Released
- Wine 4.11 Released
Our Member Projects Have Been Busy
- Reproducible Builds in May 2019
- WebRTC support, progress report #3, includes tutorials, demos and a peek at future work.
- Homebrew shared some nice pictures from their first-ever maintainers meeting!
How We Worked on Eliminating Bias in Our Hiring Process: A Small Organization's Story
byon June 20, 2019
We recently hired our newest employee at Conservancy, a Technical Bookkeeper. Adding one more employee to our small staff is a significant change for our organization and we wanted to conduct both an efficient and as unbiased as possible hiring process. This can be a challenge for small organizations and there must be agreement around this goal as well as a willingness to stick to a slightly more formal process. Everyone here at Conservancy was committed to crafting a process designed to remove as much bias as possible from the equation, so here's what we did.
Posting the Job
This is the posting that we shared with our networks. We specifically never implied that we expected applicants of any particular age or gender. We weren't looking for any particular type of educational history, so there's no mention of schooling here. In fact, we proactively stated that we were open to applicants from all different backgrounds. Since it's an unusual role, we were willing to train applicants who had a non-complete mix of the skills the job would use and we said so. Finally, we strongly encouraged folks from under-represented groups to apply -- not as a short-hand CYA, "EOE!" but in a specific way that we hope conveyed our belief that diversity is critical for our organization and our mission. We were so happy to be overwhelmed by strong applications from over thirty people who are passionate about software freedom.
First off, we asked all of the applicants the same questions, which we fully formulated in advance. It's important that you don't compare apples to oranges and keep the interview about the skills and qualities needed for the role you are currently interviewing for. For this first stage, no one on staff screened anyone they already knew well. We made an effort to stay on topic so we wouldn't be tempted to bias for "chattiness" or "culture fit." We also did not look at candidates on social media, in order to keep appearance, race and age from informing our first impression.
After the screen, we let all candidates know one way or the other whether we would be advancing their candidacy. Timely communication and a reasonably quick-paced process was part of our overall goal. While we didn't move as fast as we would have liked over the whole process due to our small size and large workload, we made sure to notify our candidates as soon as we knew whether they were advancing or not. A slow process increases the chance that your best applicants will have taken another job by the time you get back to them and there's absolutely no need to string people along that you don't intend to hire. The screen reduced the field to 12 candidates we were really excited to move forward with.
Since this opening was for a technical role, we needed to know about people's technical skills. We wanted to make sure we understood where our candidates were technically, without making assumptions about the experiences on their resumes. To do this, we organized a do-at-home exercise with a time constraint. There was no whiteboard and no audience while the work was being done by each applicant on their own machine. We told applicants they could look things up, because that is what people do when they are on the job. (They know there's a tool or library that could help them, but they don't quite remember the name of it or what the exact argument is that will help in a particular situation.) We allowed applicants to choose a time slot over a two week period to take the test, so they could schedule the exercise around current work or care-giving responsibilities.
Bias is unconscious. While we try to be good, unbiased people, Conservancy staff has all been subtly and not so subtly exposed to racist, sexist and ageist ideas and defaults throughout our lives. The staff members who sent the technical exercise to the applicants gave each person a two letter code name. We wanted the other two staff members who rated each applicant's answers to be able to do so without any information about age, gender, race or national origin interfering with their assessments. This process allowed us to identify our four top candidates, based entirely on their anonymous work product.
For the final candidates, we wanted to schedule a longer interview. Again, we asked all of the final applicants the same questions. We tried not to let the conversation drift into personal anecdotes or irrelevant topics. We also worked to make sure the applicants had an accurate picture of the day to day tasks they would be doing and asked questions about how they would handle that work and the obstacles that are likely to come up during a typical work week in that role. We contacted the candidates' references and also asked all of them the same set of questions. We interviewed some amazing people for the role. The final interviews set up a very tough decision for us and the process strengthened our shared desire to continue expanding Conservancy's staff.
At the end of the day, we were only hiring for one opening and so we chose the best person for our current role. In the future, we might have multiple or complimentary openings that we'd have to jostle, but not today. We're very happy with the result -- welcome aboard Rosanne!
Conservancy News Round-up
byon May 28, 2019
May is for code releases! Check out these videos, blog posts from member projects, code releases and upcoming events.
Recent Videos and Podcasts
Deb's talk on Free Software/Utopia is up, on the Free software Foundation's MediaGoblin server.
Deb was also the guest of honor on Libre Lounge, Episode 19: Community Development with Deb Nicholson. Thanks to Chris and Serge for their dedication to free software and to Conservancy's work!
On Free as in Freedom, Karen and Bradley discuss two additional permissions that can be used to “backport” the GPLv3 Termination provisions to GPLv2 — the Kernel Enforcement Statement Additional Permission, and the Red Hat Cooperation Commitment.
Our Member Projects Have Been Busy
This summer's Outreachy interns were announced. "Congratulations to the 43 interns accepted to the Outreachy May 2019 to August 2019 round!"
phpMyAdmin -- along with several other Conservancy projects -- are excited about participating in Outreachy this round.
MicroBlocks presented at ROBOLOT, an educational robotics conference held in Catalan. The video of their panel is about 75% Catalan and 25% English, so feel to skip around or brush up on your Catalan.
The Godot team attended GDC, aka the "Game Developers Conference" in San Francisco reported on their improved name recognition at this year's event.
The folks at Reproducible Builds, shared" that security and software supply chain attacks were in the news and that this was a busy month for their distro work.
Some recent code releases:
- Kallithea 0.4.1 released
- Mercurial 5.0 released
- QEMU 4.0 adds micro:bit emulation support
- Samba 4.10.4 available for download
- SWIG-4.0.0 released
- Wine 4.0.1 released
Etherpad merged in a big chunk of code to improve recovery from brief server outages. "The resulting code is 15% smaller than before, and is also much easier to comprehend."
What's coming up?
Catch up with staff:
Karen keynotes sambaXP on June 5th at 10:15 local time in Göttingen, Germany.
Bradley will be at the Ninth Annual RacketCon in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he will give a talk titled, "Conservancy and Racket: What We Can Do Together!"
Many of our projects have events coming up:
First talks are announced for Selenium's upcoming London conference, tickets are available now.
North Bay Python has announced their dates for this year's event, November 2 & 3, 2019. Talk submissions will open soon!
Chasing Quick Fixes To Sustainability
byon May 23, 2019
Various companies and trade associations have now launched their own tweak on answers to the question of “FOSS sustainability”. We commented in March on Linux Foundation's Community Bridge, and Bradley's talk at SCALE 2019 focused on this issue (video). Assuring that developers are funded to continue to maintain and improve FOSS is the focus of many organizations in our community, including charities like ourselves, the Free Software Foundation, the GNOME Foundation, Software in the Public Interest, and others.
Today, another for-profit company, GitHub, announced their sponsors program. We're glad that GitHub is taking seriously the issue of assuring that those doing the work in FOSS are financially supported. We hope that GitHub will ultimately facilitate charities as payees, so that Conservancy membership projects can benefit. We realize the program is in beta, but our overarching concern remains that the fundamental approach of this new program fails to address any of the major issues that have already been identified in FOSS sustainability.
Conservancy has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund FOSS developers over the course of our existence. We find that managing the community goverance, carefully negotating with communities about who will be paid, how paid workers interact with the unpaid volunteers, and otherwise managing and assuring that donor dollars are well spent to advance the project are the great challenges of FOSS sustainability. We realize that newcomers to this discussion (like GitHub and their parent company, Microsoft) may not be aware of these complex problems. We also have sympathy for their current approach: when Conservancy started, we too thought that merely putting up a donation button and routing payments was the primary and central activity to assure FOSS sustainability. We quickly discovered that those tasks are prerequisite, but alone are not sufficient to succeed.
Just as important is how the infrastructure is implemented. GitHub is a proprietary software platform for FOSS development, and their sponsors program implements more proprietary software on top of that proprietary platform. FOSS developers should have FOSS that helps them fund their work. Choosing FOSS instead of proprietary software is not always easy initially. Conservancy promotes free-as-in-freedom solutions like our Houdini project and other initiatives throughout our community. We are somewhat alarmed at the advent of so many entrants into the FOSS sustainability space that offer proprietary software and/or proprietary network services as a proposed solution. We hope that GitHub and others who have entered this space recently will collaborate with the existing community of charities who are already working on this problem and remain in search of long-term sustainable, FOSS-friendly solutions.