Thoughts from the first WONTFIX Cabal

by Brian Doll on February 17, 2017

This Wednesday over a hundred open source maintainers gathered at GitHub HQ for the first WONTFIX Cabal event. Jess Frazelle had a brilliant spark of an idea, and along with Katrina Owen and Brandon Keepers hosted an unconference event that felt equally thrilling as it was therapeutic.

Maintaining an open source project is a lot like running a company, community organizing, and software development, all rolled into one. Everyone I talked to felt both inspired and relieved — yes, every maintainer, every community, every project, has more challenges in common than they imagined.

The group identified key topics, voted on their favorites, and broke into discussion groups throughout the day to discuss and document ideas to share with everyone. All the topics, both those that were discussed, and topics that we didn’t get to, are available in the maintainerati event repo.

It was great to see topics like Exploitation and Ethics, Project Newcomers, Toxic Communities, Code of Conduct, and Saying No. Notice that not one single topic was about solving a specific technical problem. The challenges of working together asynchronously, often without direct personal relationships, makes working on open source both rewarding and incredibly challenging.

Katrina talks about her experience as a maintainer in this Maintainer Stories video, where she shares her early realization that there were all these diverse skills that she suddenly needed to have that didn’t directly relate to her engineering expertise:

Addressing some of the challenges facing individuals and communities on GitHub itself, new features were rolled out recently to minimize abuse and work to ensure explicit consent.

Open Source Guides was released just a day earlier, too. It’s a great start to guide maintainers, contributors, and newcomers alike. Its open-source as well, so I’m sure we’ll see much of the learnings from the conference integrated into it soon. Open Source Guide A community guide for open source

I was so glad to be able to make it to the event to catch up with old friends and meet some of the faces behind the software many of us rely on every day. The event itself was a great testament to the core ideals of open-source — Jess had a great idea, worked with some close collaborators to nail the vision and experience, and the community came together to make it a great success. Cheers!