A friend once told me, “The greatest leaders are servants.” The backstory of this conversation was we chatted about how I have always seen myself serving the community rather than leading because I felt I do not possess leadership qualities. I have been a long-term contributor and advocate of the CHAOSS project; due to my passion, I was allowed to lead the African chapter of the project, CHAOSS Africa. This post aims to share my experience organizing CHAOSScon Africa, highlighting the talks and key takeaways from the event.
Planning CHAOSScon Africa: From Vision to Reality
CHAOSS Africa focuses on educating Africans about open source technology and helping them contribute to the global CHAOSS project. To mark one year of the chapter, we decided to host our first CHAOSScon in Africa, co-located with the Open Source Festival by OSCA. This event aimed to bring people together to learn about open source from industry experts and allow contributors to share their experiences contributing to it.
Following the CHAOSScon blueprint, I started by bringing up the conversation on our community call and setting up the committee to co-plan the event. Next, we created a timeline of tasks. We distributed the different tasks, from choosing speakers, contacting vendors, setting up the registration platform, design, publicity, and logistics to committee members. We met on a bi-weekly cadence after community calls to update each other on progress as we got closer to the event day.
The Big Day: Highlights from the Conference
CHAOSScon Africa took place on the 14th of June, 2023, at Zone Tech Park, Gbagada, Lagos, Nigeria. We had talks ranging from career paths in open source, workshops on open source software, design, contributing to CHAOSS, community building, and metrics. Here are some highlights and key takeaways from some sessions:
One from the nest, the Bitergian Luis Cañas Diaz, discussed “Community Health Metrics in Grimoirelab” He explained metrics in open source communities and the metrics Grimoirelab provides. Some key takeaways from his session:
- There is always so much data to calculate, but metrics help you determine what is essential to measure to assess your open source community’s health.
- Using the Goal-Question-Metric approach, you can define the goal you want to achieve, identify the questions that need to be answered and define the list of metrics for your use case.
Bryan Kai discussed “Building Trust in AI: The Importance of Explainability in Open Source Projects” Some key takeaways from his session:
- Explainability in AI systems builds trust by providing users with insights into how decisions are made. It also improves user adoption rates for AI systems and enables community collaboration and improvement.
- Techniques that enhance explainability are simplifying models or using interpretation algorithms.
Justin Flory gave a keynote address on “The open source launchpad: A then and now look at tech careers” He shared how developers can launch and grow their careers using open source. Some key takeaways from the session:
- Open source is a movement based on ideas and philosophy beyond code and software.
- The four freedoms of open source are Read, Run, Revise, and Redistribute.
- An interesting question arose about why people give their free time to open source. Justin answered with passion for the software or community and an opportunity to improve his skill set.
- Be proactive, impact, contribute to the community, and not just be a statistic.
- Document and share your journey
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and never stop learning
- Don’t be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.
Anita Ihuman gave a keynote address on “Navigating the CHAOSS community” sharing her journey from a contributor to a maintainer in CHAOSS. She shared some tips for newcomers interested in joining the community:
- Join the Slack community
- Join a working group or a focus group
- Attend community meetings
- Ask for a community tour guide, read the community handbook, and ask questions.
Lessons Learned: What went well, and what could be improved?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE) is something in which we strongly believe, so we invested in diversity from our speakers and attendees; we received a badge from CHAOSS Event Badging due to our DEI efforts. With Bitergia’s sponsorship, we were able to financially assist some community members based in another state different from the venue to attend the event. While we had good attendance, for future events, we plan to increase publicity, encourage and support more folks to attend.
From Bitergia, we also are proud to be at the forefront of advancing DEI in the world of Open Source Software. You can read more in the latest post “Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion In Open Source: My Journey And Contributions At Bitergia” written by Georg Link about an overview of the DEI-related work we have done at Bitergia over the years.
Personal Reflection: What This Experience Means to Me
Starting my tech career with open source contributions has paved a successful path for me and has gotten me a lot of recognition and even my role at Bitergia. I wanted to show this possibility to the people from my local region by organizing CHAOSScon Africa. I showed them how open source impacts their careers and how to overcome the barriers that prevent contributions from getting started.
The event did not just educate the audience about open source; I also witnessed connections, idea sharing, and networking among speakers and attendees, which was fulfilling.
I am grateful for the support from my company and, most notably, that I get to develop the open source community I care about as part of my job. I anticipate the next CHAOSScon Africa and can’t wait to organize again.
Here is a two minutes highlight video of CHAOSScon Africa 2023: