By Chad Sansing
The CHAOSS Project is a Linux Foundation project focused on creating analytics and metrics to help define community health.
I interviewed Open Leaders 6 participant Georg Link to learn more about the CHAOSS Project and how you can contribute to the work.
Q: What is the CHAOSS Project?
A: I think of the CHAOSS Project as an industry collaboration on the subject of open source project health. We have community members who develop software for analyzing trace data from GitHub, mailing lists, and other open source project collaboration spaces and calculating metrics that inform how healthy these projects are. We also have members, like myself, who are more interested in understanding which metrics are most meaningful for assessing the health of an open source project and how it can be improved once we can measure aspects of health. CHAOSS works with community leaders, open source program officers, and strategy leads from many different companies, foundations, and open source projects from across the internet.
Q: Why did you start the CHAOSS Project?
A: Peter Drucker famously said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. Many companies and open source community leaders expressed a pressing need to understand open source project health in their work and they sought metrics for a more objective approach. We founded the CHAOSS Project after a spontaneous unconference session at the Open Source Leadership Summit where we had to pull chairs from another room to accommodate everyone. CHAOSS provides a forum for advancing what we know about open source project health metrics and for developing tools.
Q: What was your experience like at MozFest this year?
A: MozFest is a conference like no other I know. I enjoyed most the engagement oriented session formats and the enthusiasm of all attendees to participate. I facilitated two sessions and met many awesome people who are interested in the same topics as me. Raniere Silva and I co-facilitated a session on “Open Community Metrics and Privacy” to advance issues we have in our CHAOSS work. The second session I facilitated was on “Distributing Wealth Created by Open Source Fairly” and I had more than 20 people join the conversation. As a participant in Open Leaders 6, I appreciated getting to meet my mentors and cohort in person. We had a dedicated area and booth at MozFest to easily find each other and continue conversations we had online. I find face-to-face interaction important for any community. I left MozFest with a head full of new ideas :-).
Q: What challenges have you faced working on this project?
A: A major chicken-egg challenge for CHAOSS is rooted in the nature of the project. We want to define metrics that are useful so that they are used and raise our standard of evaluating the health open source projects. Those who want to use metrics don’t know which metrics are meaningful or don’t have the software to try out a metric. Developing software for metrics needs a precise metric definition to calculate it in a consistent and meaningful way. Because of this circular relationship, we often have to work in the dark and wait for other pieces to fall into place to iteratively learn which assumptions worked or need to be refined.
Q: What kind of skills do I need to contribute to your project?
A: CAHOSS can use help from people with several different skills. If you worked in open source projects, as a developer, QA tester, document writer, DevOps, designer, or in any other capacity, we would love your feedback and input as we define and refine metrics. If you are a software engineer, we would love your contributions on the software development. If you are a good writer, we would love your support for revising and documenting metrics definitions. These three are top of my mind but I am sure there are other ways to contribute to CHAOSS as well.
Q: How can others contribute your project?
A: First, sign up to the CHAOSS mailing list to stay up to date on all major events. Second, join our weekly calls on Tuesdays. Third, find a CHAOSS workgroup that you are most interested in and start commenting on the work we do. One Workgroup focuses on understanding Diversity and Inclusion and the other on Growth, Maturity, and Decline of open source projects. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Q: How has the Open Leaders program helped you with your project?
A: The Open Leaders program allowed me to take a step back and look at the CHAOSS project as a whole. After one year of running CHAOSS, organizing community events, and working in the trenches, I had blind spots on what the challenges for potential new members were. The Open Leaders program and my mentors helped me reconsider the basics for making our project more inclusive and welcoming. My mentors were amazing with their ideas and feedback that helped me improve collaboration within the CHAOSS project.