Adam Jacob Advocates for Building Healthy OSS Communities in “The War for the Soul of Open Source”

Adam Jacob Advocates for Building Healthy OSS Communities in “The War for the Soul of Open Source”

Chef co-founder and former CTO Adam Jacob gave a short presentation at O’Reilly Open Source Software Conference (OSCON) 2019 titled “The War for the Soul of Open Source.” In his search for meaning in open source software today, Jacob confronts the notion of open source business models.

“We often talk about open source business models,” he said. “There isn’t an open source business model. That’s not a thing and the reason is open source is a channel. Open source is a way that you, in a business sense, get the software out to the people, the people use the software, and then they become a channel, which [companies] eventually try to turn into money.”

Companies often employ open source as a strategy to drive adoption, only to have mega corporations scoop up the software and corner the market. Jacob addressed the friction open source communities have with companies that use OSS to make billions of dollars per year running it as a service, citing Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a prime example.

Amid conflicts like these, it’s a challenge to find meaning in OSS via business. Jacob looked to organizations like the Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative but could not get on board with the methods and outcomes they pursue through their efforts.

He concluded that what is left is the people at the heart of OSS, who improbably come together with an overlapping sense of shared values and purpose.

“Each of us are a weird different shape, struggling to find our path and yet open source software gives us this ability to gather together around this resource that we turn from being scarce to being infinite,” he said.

“Look at your own desires, look at your own needs and the things you want in your own life. Then go out and find and build and steward communities with other people who share those values and who will embrace your purpose, and sustain each other. Because that is the true soul of open source.”

In December 2018, Jacob launched the Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities (SFOSC) project to advocate for these ideas. Instead of focusing on protecting revenue models of OSS companies, the project’s contributors work together to collaborate on writing core principles, social contracts, and business models as guidelines for healthy OSS communities.

“I believe we need to start talking about Open Source not in terms of licensing models, or business models (though those things matter): instead, we should be talking about wether or not we are building sustainable communities,” Jacob said in a post introducing the project. “What brings us together, as people, in this common effort around the software? What rights do we hold true for each other? What rights are we willing to trade in order to see more of the software in the world, through the investment of capital?”

Check out Jacob’s presentation below for a 13-minute condensed version of the inspiration behind the SFOSC project.

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Join us in a Digital Climate Strike

Join us in a Digital Climate Strike

Join us in a Digital Climate Strike

This September, millions will take to the streets to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Show your solidarity by displaying a digital climate strike banner for the month.

With fires raging in the Amazon, hurricanes ripping across the Atlantic, and typhoons flooding Japan, our planet and our climate are sending us a message: We can no longer continue with business as usual.

The week starting September 20th, is organizing a Global Climate Strike, in association with Fridays For Future, to show global leaders that the time to act is now. Alongside the people walking out of workplaces, schools, and homes around the world, is organizing a digital climate strike. Websites participating in the digital strike will promote the physical strikes in the lead-up to the date, and partially block themselves to users on September 20th itself. That is where you come in!

Starting today, you can opt into the digital climate strike with your site, showing your commitment to this critical topic and spreading the word about the event. Between now and September 20th, your site will display a small climate strike banner. On the 20th, it will transform into a dismissible full-screen overlay. site owners can head to My Site > Settings. At the top of the Settings menu, you will see a toggle switch — flip it on to join the digital climate strike.

Other WordPress sites can also join the movement by installing the Digital Climate Strike plugin from the plugin repository.

After the day of action, the banner will automatically disappear (or if you’ve installed the plugin, it will automatically disable) and your site will return to normal.

Together we can make a difference, and we hope you’ll join us in supporting this movement.

When Experienced Women Engineers Look for New Jobs, They Prioritize Trust and Growth

When Experienced Women Engineers Look for New Jobs, They Prioritize Trust and Growth

When Experienced Women Engineers Look for New Jobs, They Prioritize Trust and Growth

Automattic,’s parent company, set out to learn how to boost applications from women and non-binary developers.

How can we increase gender representation in software engineering?

Our Developer Hiring Experience team analyzed this topic in a recent user-research study. The issue resonated with women engineers and a strong response enabled the team to gain deeper insight than is currently available from online research projects.

Seventy-one engineers who identified as women or non-binary responded to our request for feedback. Out of that pool, 24 answered a follow-up survey, and we carried out in-depth interviews with 14 people. This was a highly skilled group, with the majority having worked in software development for over 10 years. 

While some findings aligned with our expectations, we still uncovered a few surprises. 

The Job Hunt

In initial job hunts, respondents were found to rely heavily on their existing networks and on personal outreach from companies.

If they do not have a pre-existing connection with a company, they’ll likely scrutinize it for red flags before they submit an application. Job descriptions are searched for any discouraging language — for example, if parental leave descriptions only refer to mothers. Information — about the job, salary, team, and hiring process — is key for encouraging applications.

Stack Overflow is a popular resource for job hunting; whereas Glassdoor is viewed as less useful, and more as a venting forum for former employees or unsuccessful candidates. 

The Hiring Process

The most favorable hiring processes represent a growth opportunity, rather than being purely evaluative. Communication and responsiveness are important, as is the visibility of other women within the team. For some participants, interviewing is seen as a skill to maintain. These developers are continually keeping an eye on job listings to stay abreast of their options. However, the chance for growth was the most widespread reason for actually leaving a current position. 

Job Satisfaction 

Consistently being able to have an impact, including leadership opportunities, stood out as important; if this is lacking, experienced women engineers are likely to seek new employment. Dissatisfaction can also be caused by being pushed onto the management track and having to fight to continue to focus on technical work. 

The data showed women are looking for more communities focused on connecting to other senior-level women, and around more technical topics. Concerns around online harassment can put women off trying to build their network online. 

Changes at Automattic 

We are working on Automattic’s employment branding to reflect our findings. We are in the process of gathering resources to better describe work at Automattic, and we’re encouraging existing developers to increase their visibility outside of the company — whether through writing or engaging in their communities. 

In job postings, we have removed any gameplay or language that emphasizes hiring as a competitive process — for instance, we no longer mention application volume. Instead, job postings highlight learning and career opportunities for the candidate. Adding the term “Senior” to postings is also being tested. Although this implies a job ladder that does not necessarily exist here, the research clarified that its absence sent the message that all positions are mid-level roles, without the path to growth that women candidates tend to look for. 

We are also managing candidates’ expectations by making the whole hiring process more transparent, and have created a public page outlining the hiring process.

We’ve made it easier for interested applicants to have casual chats with other women at Automattic. We also offer candidates the opportunity for one-on-one calls with a member of the Developer Experience team during the final stages of hiring; this has started with under-indexed candidates but with a view to rolling it out to everyone. These chats take place outside of the formal hiring process to provide an opportunity for the applicant to ask any questions they have and for the company to better understand their career goals and motivation. 

We are tracking the progress made and are excited to be able to contribute data to the field of gender representation in engineering. If you’d like to take a more in-depth look at our study, please do read the more detailed write up on our developer blog, or download the PDF!

Interested to learn what positions are currently open at Automattic? We’re always hiring

php Central Europe Conference Canceled Due to Lack of Speaker Diversity

php Central Europe Conference Canceled Due to Lack of Speaker Diversity

phpCE, a central European PHP conference that was previously scheduled for October 4-6, has been cancelled due to a public fiasco resulting from a lack of gender diversity in the speaker lineup. The event, previously known as PHPCon Poland, was set to be held in Dresden, Germany, after the concept changed last year to rotate host cities and include a larger region of the PHP community.

After phpCE had boasted a “rich and diverse lineup,” the published schedule was criticized for including zero women, while several speakers were given two sessions apiece. The 2018 event had a similar lack of diversity among speakers. CFP Land founder Karl Hughes’ tweet precipitated a flood of critical feedback.

Organizers received the public criticisms as an attack, a response that disappointed many who were previously considering attending the event. Speakers started to withdraw from the conference and ticket sales dried up, as organizers demonstrated an unwillingness to do further diversity outreach beyond their initial call for proposals.

Mark Baker, one of the speakers who decided to cancel his engagement, said organizers attempted to persuade him not to withdraw by offering to put the sole female speaker applicant on the schedule. Baker said he was uncomfortable, as that would put “a lot of pressure on the woman, knowingly being invited to speak after an all-male speaker list has already been announced, making her a ‘token’ to diversity.”

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make, because I do enjoy sharing my coding passion; but having advocated for diversity at PHP developer conferences for the last several years, I have to follow my beliefs that diversity should be a cornerstone of the PHP developer community,” Baker said. “Diversity matters more to me than speaking.”

Larry Garfield (@crell), who is active in the Drupal community, reported that he also tried to work with phpCE’s organizers to diversify the lineup before being forced by his personal convictions to withdraw.

“I messaged the organizers, asking them to drop some of our double-sessions in favor of more female participation,” Garfield said. “We also offered to work with them to figure out ways to reduce the cost of bringing us in (a number of us were transatlantic, and Dresden is not the cheapest city to get to) so they could afford to cover more speakers.

“Unfortunately, the organizers indicated they were not open to such an arrangement. According to them, they had only a single woman submit a session proposal this year despite having women present in previous years, and hers was a repeat from a local conference last year. They were also firm that the Call For Papers was done and over and they’re not open to reaching out to new people now. Sadly, from what the organizers told me, they actively don’t want to do outreach.”

A situation that has gone this far is often irreparable once it reaches the point of becoming an international debacle. If a diverse speaker selection hasn’t been established before the schedule announcement goes out, backpedaling to arrive at inclusion inevitably sends a signal to potential attendees that this might not be a welcoming event.

Due to the way it was handled, phpCE’s cancellation became a spectacular failure of inclusion that played out in a public way over the past several weeks. phpCE’s organizers remained defensive in their replies to critics on social media, clinging instead to what the community has deemed to be an outmoded and ineffective approach to organizing more diverse events.

phpCE did not publish a post regarding why the event was cancelled but rather cited several blog posts and exchanges on social media as factors in the decision.

How WordPress Is Equipping Event Organizers to Create more Diverse Speaker Lineups

Many organizers of large tech events are making proactive attempts at getting more diverse speakers and the web is full of countless resources from those who have shared their processes and tips on the topic. In the WordPress world specifically, the Community team has created a Diversity Speaker Training Workshop to help meetup and WordCamp organizers cultivate better representation from different groups in their communities.

This particular workshop, which was created by Jill Binder and sponsored by Automattic, has produced positive results in 55 WordPress communities in 26 different countries.

“All of the communities that held this workshop experienced a real change in the speaker roster for their annual conferences; many of their WordCamps went from having 10% women speakers to having 50% or more women speakers in less than a year,” community organizer Andrea Middleton said. “In 2017, Seattle had 60% women speakers and in 2018, Vancouver had 63%.” Organizers of large events like WordCamp US and WordCamp Miami have also created more diverse lineups in recent years with their own proactive strategies.

The Diversity Speaker Training Workshop seems to be particularly effective because it focuses on actively creating and equipping future speakers in a more organic way at the local level. Any WordPress event organizers who feel they have no options for increasing the diversity of their events can get help from the Community team. Relying on the call for speakers to deliver a diverse lineup is not always the most effective strategy. In many cases, it takes a great deal of work to bring in diverse speakers, but the Community Team has worked for years to pioneer new resources that help organizers succeed in these efforts.

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The Second Edition of Our “Learn User Support” Workshop Is Open for Signups

The Second Edition of Our “Learn User Support” Workshop Is Open for Signups

The Second Edition of Our “Learn User Support” Workshop Is Open for Signups

Starting August 19, we’ll offer another virtual course for women interested in a technical-support career.

Back in January, we partnered with Support Driven and launched the first version of the Learn User Support Workshop, which helps women in the Asia-Pacific region develop the skills they need to succeed in a technical support role. We had 24 students enrolled in our first cohort.

Today, we’re happy to share that the next edition of the Learn User Support Workshop will launch on August 19, 2019. The course is entirely web-based — there’s no need to travel anywhere to attend — and completely free. So if you identify as a woman, are based in the Asia-Pacific region, and are serious about a career in user support, this might be a perfect match for you.

Building a better, bigger workshop

The strong positive feedback we received from our students earlier this year, as well as the increasingly long waitlist, inspired us to improve the course content and to design it to accommodate more learners. 

What topics will we cover? As a participant, expect to learn how to…

  • Develop your own support philosophy.
  • Build successful troubleshooting strategies.
  • Manage challenging interactions.
  • Implement productivity tools.
  • Optimize your approach to applying and interviewing for jobs in support.

This six-module course will start on August 19 and will run through September 29. We will publish a new module every Monday, and each learner will have one week to complete it. We’ll include lots of hands-on work, and by the end of the course, each participant will also develop a résumé and portfolio site on WordPress that they can then share with potential employers.

Meet your friendly organizers

As for your teachers, the people who lead this workshop are Automattic Happiness Engineers — master communicators with deep, wide-ranging experience in distributed technical support. 

Automattic, which offers the workshop, is a fully-distributed company — there are more than 930 full-time Automatticians spread across 70 countries and speaking 88 languages. We serve users from every corner of the world via products like, Jetpack, and WooCommerce, among others

As people who believe in the benefits of distributed work, we love helping remote professionals level up their skills. Our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion leads us to look for ways to make the tech sector more representative of the wide and varied world it serves. As a result, this virtual workshop will equip Asia-Pacific-based women who are — or want to become — support professionals with skills that are specifically tailored to the demands of remote work.  

Are you ready to sign up? Just click below:

We are currently accepting only women for this cohort.


We have 40 slots for this cohort on a first come, first serve basis.

We will get in touch with you via email if you are selected for the course. If you know anyone who might be a good fit, feel free to share this post with them!

If you are not selected for this edition of the course, you can always sign up to receive updates on future courses.