denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote2009-07-24 03:51 pm
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So, when Mark first brought up that OSCON was going to be around the time I was going to be out here, I thought, huh. I've always wanted to go to a tech/open-source conference, but I wondered if I'd get anything out of it. It made sense for Mark to go, because he could get useful things out of all the tech talks and network with all of the various people on the tech side of things. (And wait until you guys see what he learned there...) But under the theory of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" -- and especially once I heard that [personal profile] damned_colonial was going to a). be there and b). be talking about Dreamwidth -- I went ahead and registered, too.

I'm incredibly glad I went. I went to a lot of interesting talks, and had some great conversations with a bunch of really smart people who are doing a lot of really cool things, but the most awesome part of it was how so many people had heard about Dreamwidth. People who wanted to talk about the success we've had in encouraging new developers. People who wanted to hear about the lessons we've learned about what to do to keep people enthusiastic and active on the project. (And what we've learned about what not to do!)

It's easy for me to remember that Dreamwidth is a group project -- it's hard not to remember it, in fact, when every day I'm confronted with the evidence, in the form of a bunch of active, enthusiastic, committed people spending an incredible amount of time and energy to improve the code and the site -- but it's hard, for some reason, to remember that Dreamwidth is an Open Source community development project, no matter how much [staff profile] mark and I studied other OSS projects (both successful and less than successful) to see what lessons we could learn. I'm just not used to thinking of things like that; LiveJournal was always on the very periphery of the Open Souce movement, and up until now I've been approaching DW from the business end, more or less, because we agreed that was going to be my half of the contributions to making DW a successful business. I never intended to be sucked into the development end of the project!

So being used as an example of a successful Open Source project -- not once, not twice, but several times even! -- is surreal. And yet, awesome. It all doesn't seem quite real yet! There's a part of me that can't stop waiting for it all to fall apart -- for people to get bored or decide that they have more important things to do or find another project that they'd like to contribute to more than they want to contribute to us -- and another part of me that can't wait to see what it's going to look like in another year. If we're already doing this well, what else could we do?

Looking back at the Dreamwidth development process, and how we got from there to here, I have to say that one thing we did really, really well was actually not "us", but Mark: the fact that Mark took so much time in February-April to do code review, tutoring, and commit work (instead of hacking on his own projects) is what's gotten us here today. The people Mark spent time mentoring back in February are the people mentoring others now. And those people, the ones just starting out with us now, are going to be the ones teaching others in another six months or another year. I know Mark was frustrated at how slowly his own development was going back then, but he said to me, multiple times, that no matter how frustrated he was about not having as much hack time as he'd like, he knew it was going to pay off in spades.

(Which it has, and I am so, so incredibly lucky to have [staff profile] mark for a partner in this venture, because he gets it. I am thankful for Mark daily. He's a fabulous programmer and a great sysadmin, but what really makes him worth his weight in gold is the fact that he writes incredibly readable code, he comments his code appropriately, he writes clear and useful documentation, and he has good social skills. I can't imagine trying to do this without him.)

Even after the past few months of all my dev work, I still don't think of myself as a developer. [personal profile] damned_colonial interviewed me for a documentary on women in open source, and she made me say it out loud: "I am an Open Source developer." Apparently it didn't sound convincing enough, because she made me say it a few times until I really meant it!

I am an Open Source developer. This week has taught me that. I'm not "just dabbling" or "just doing a few things" or "just doing some cleanup". I'm helping to build something that thousands of people are using. I'm helping to run a project that's getting considerable community attention and interest. I'm encouraging other people to contribute to the project, and to learn with our project, so they can sharpen their skills and contribute to a project they feel passionate about.

I am an Open Source developer.

Maybe by next OSCON, that sentence will come a lot more naturally to me. I guess I can spend the next year practicing it. :)

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