In 2022 I am serving on the Board of the InnerSource Commons Foundation. Thank you to the Members of the Foundation who voted for me! I appreciate your trust and will do my best to move this community forward.
Back in 2019 I could not have imagined contributing to an open community in any significant way. I would not even have known how to get started.
I want to help you to join an open (source) community yourself by sharing my 3 year journey in the InnerSource Commons.
You wonder: Why should I donate my time to such things? Bertrand Delacretaz answers this best in How to convince your left brain (or manager) to follow the Open Source path that your right brain desires..
Joining an Open (Source) Community
The following will be pretty specific, to let you compare your experience with mine, and evaluate whether my story is similar enough to apply to you.
I studied computer science, and had been working as an Engineering Manager for 10 years. Over time I learned various techniques to help my teams. Lean and Agile methods, how (Engineering) orgs change as they grow, and how autonomy and purpose motivate people and change the teams that they work in.
Around 2019 I had the sense that I was maxing out on my ability to make my teams better, without also changing the surrounding org. We had reduced much of the wasted cycles in my teams but were struggling to do the same in the interactions of my teams with other teams in the org.
While researching cross-team collaboration challenges in orgs that have autonomous teams, I came across the term InnerSource. The challenges that InnerSource is trying to solve were so similar to what I had experienced! I was excited. The hope was that I had found something that could help my teams and myself to increase our impact on our business and organization.
User/Reader: Joining & Lurking
Joining the InnerSource Commons community was a lucky coincidence … let’s call it fate! ;)
While reading up on the concepts on innersourcecommons.org I found a typo that I fixed. My tiny contribution was accepted, and I started talking with a community members, who invited me to join their Slack to continue the conversation.
I joined Slack, but didn’t quite know what to do there. I just lurked, and listened to the conversations for some time. Eventually I joined in on some conversations and asked questions. Still I was largely a passive member of the community.
Contributor: Learning by Doing
One of the ways that the community is sharing experiences with each other are the InnerSource Patterns. I enjoyed the practical nature of these patterns, and when I found some of the pattern authors in Slack, I was hooked.
The patterns, and the community, allowed gave me access to practitioners with similar challenges across company boundaries. Chatting under Chatham House Rule allowed us to share a great level of detail with each other, creating learning opportunities based on real-life experiences that otherwise are hard to find.
The patterns quickly became my primary vehicle to learn more about InnerSource. While reading the patterns, I started to improving the writing in some of them. That way I was getting to know other community members that were interested in similar topics, which lead to great conversations.
The idea of learning through contributing fully clicked for me, at FOSS Backstage in early 2020. Cornelius Schumacher presented how they were bringing an open-source-like culture into the corporate world. Their InnerSource License simplified the source code distribution and collaboration on a code level between the companies within their group.
After the conference I met Cornelius in the InnerSource Commons community. I started a conversation with him to learn more about their InnerSource License, which led to us writing up their approach as the InnerSource License pattern.
This was the final confirmation that I needed:
By contributing to the InnerSource Patterns, I was having conversations and learning things at a faster pace than what would have happened had I staid just within the confines of my own organization. The more I was contributing, the more I was learning. An addictive drug! :)
Trusted Committer: Keep contributing & sharing
Motivated by what I was learning from my first contributions, I kept contributing and sharing. Mostly I was doing little things like cleanup of the Patterns repository, consolidating issues, pull request, and so forth.
In late 2020, a year after joining the community, I submitted a talk for the Fall Summit. While I was second-guessing whether I had enough relevant content to share, I presented my talk 1 year in the ISC: Getting your money’s worth. And I am happy I did!
That talk was an initial version of this blog post here. While it felt awkward to put myself out there, it helped me to introspect on how I was benefiting from doing open source work in the InnerSoure Commons. It also created new opportunities to talk to other community members, which got me even more engaged and excited about the community itself.
The InnerSource Patterns still were my primary way of learning about InnerSource. Many times I was able to use those learnings at work. Through applying those patterns, I was learning more again, which I could bring back to the InnerSource Commons community. A cycle!
Shortly after I was invited to the Patterns Working Group as a Trusted Committer. A confirmation that my contributions were seen and appreciated.
Member: Promoting InnerSource
Communities have a small amount (~1%) of people that contribute a lot. This is also true for the InnerSource Commons and the Patterns Working Group. But how to change that?
I had learned a lot faster by actively contributing to the InnerSource Commons. Therefore I tried to share that approach in a presentation called Level up your InnerSource through Patterns.
Together with Fei Wan from Comcast we presented this topic at the ISC APAC Summit. Our talk was streamed at offices of Tecent, where 1000+ developers were exposed to the ideas of InnerSource, many of them for the first time.
I also joined the Marketing & Outreach Working Group, to see if we could find ways to reach a larger audience. We redesigned the website, organized Community Calls, and so forth. Practicing these marketing activities at the Commons gave me useful material to promote InnerSource at work as well.
As a result of my larger involvement in the InnerSource Commons, I got invited to join as a Member in 2021.
Joining the Board: Let’s see :)
Well, I just joined the Board, so I cannot speak with much experience yet :)
However I am certain that I will learn a lot, and that serving on the Board will help me understand InnerSource and the software industry at large better.
I went from lurker, to contributor, to trusted committer, to Member, and finally to the Board of the InnerSource Commons Foundation.
Every step of the way I was contributing more, and through that also learning more!
I hope that some of you will find this useful to find your own path in an open (source) community. There is a lot to be gained from it!
Last but not least: Thank you - to everybody in the InnerSource Commons community who has spoken to me and helped me along the way. This community is full of friendly and helpful people, and am happy to be a part of it.