My FOSS Journey and Why I am applying for a Toptal Scholarship

When I graduated from my high school in India, our class had an almost 50-50 ratio of boys-to-girls. My graduating class in one of India’s premier engineering institutions had less than 10%. It was even more interesting to see that there were more than 20% girls enrolled in Bachelors in Design (which offered courses like Product Design, Human Computer Interaction and User Experience Research) while there were none in Mechanical Engineering since the last three graduating classes. Was it that Design was considered a relatively non-technical course ? While I have never been openly discouraged from pursuing a career in technology – a predominantly male-populated field – there has always been an unconscious bias even from within my family. When I wanted to apply for a degree course in Mechanical Engineering, I was asked to take some more time to think about my future – was gently nudged towards more female-friendly engineering fields like Computer Science which wouldn’t involve as much strenuous physical effort. Was it even sublte experiences like this which had contributed towards the gender gap ? This feeling of being an ‘outsider’ in a predominantly male field never left till I started contributing to Open Source.
I first learnt about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) via Outreachy, a program designed to increase participation of minorities in FOSS. I liked the fact that the program had no knowledge prerequisites so that anyone interested in contributing to FOSS could be a part of it. I started contributing to the Fedora Community Operations team and even though I wasn’t selected to be a part of Outreachy for Fedora due to some technical reasons, I had finally felt ‘included’ in a FOSS community and decided to stick around. My contributions to FOSS have mainly been in three areas :

1. Community Research involving Data Analytics

My contributions to Fedora Community Operations have been on developing metrics to understand and help the community. I have worked on developing metrics to understand contributor engagement in the community, analyze the impact of attending events on the activity of an individual contributor as well as in organization as a whole (resource utilization, number of newcomers onboarded etc). This has helped Fedora leadership in decision-making process. Recently, I have been working on metrics to improve contributor retention rates in the Fedora community. Newcomer onboarding in FOSS projects in important, but retaining them is critical. According to statistics I collected about Fedora Project community, more than half of the contributors (who made atleast one technical or non technical contribution to the project) drop out within their first three months. If these people are interested in contributing, why do they leave ? My research tries to identify the root causes behind these ‘drop-out’ cases. It also suggests easily adoptable methods for the organization, community and individual contributors so that more newcomers are retained and even existing contributors find it easy to contribute to the project.
You can find my talk about it at the annual Fedora contributors conference Flock  here. Link to the github repository for the project is here and link to blog posts about the work here.

2. Efforts to promote Diversity in Open Source

I am also involved with the Fedora Diversity Team where I collect statistics to understand diversity in Fedora community. I work closely with the Fedora Diversity Adviser and Diversity Team on identifying target areas and devising strategies to positively impact these identified areas. Apart from this, I recently started conducting a Diversity and Workplace Inclusion Survey about FOSS projects, organizations and communities. There are multiple ongoing efforts across different FOSS projects and organizations to improve diversity and promote workplace inclusion for minority groups in their respective communities. However, these efforts are not consolidated and do not look towards analyzing the impact of those strategies – about what is working and what isn’t ! With this study, I wanted to get an overview of diversity and inclusion practices across different FOSS projects, communities or organizations and learn from their success and failures too and share it with other FOSS organizations and projects so that the same mistakes don’t get repeated again and again !

You can find the link to the  Github project for Diversity study here. More interviews will be uploaded if interviewees dont mind making the interviews public.

3. Outreach Efforts

I am involved with FOSSWave, a mentorship program to help university students in India to contribute to FOSS projects. Contributing to FOSS organizations and projects seems pretty daunting to newcomers. FOSSWave helps to ease this process by providing mentors to interested students by conducting workshops and talks in universities across India. By being a part of FOSSWave, I hope to engage with the open source community as a female role model and plan to mentor more students and women into contributing to FOSS. In this direction, FOSSWave has recently started a program named Women in Technology to mentor more female students interested in FOSS. You can read more about programs by FOSSWave here and here.

Learnings from my experience in FOSS

It has been about one year since my first contribution to FOSS now. Within such a short span, I have not only immensely improved my programming and data science skills but have also learnt a lot about commitment, team work, mentorship and leadership, how to create a positive community and the joy of sharing and giving that is Open Source. Most importantly, I have gained confidence in myself and my skills. All this has further motivated me to continue contributing to FOSS, while also working on outreach and diversity efforts, so that more people – especially women – are able to be a part of this great experience.

What will I gain from a Toptal Scholarship ?

As a result, I have been desperately searching for a mentorship program which would not want me to compromise my dreams of pursuing research and doing a PhD (mostly related to understanding humans) one day while contributing to FOSS. That’s how less than eight hours before the application deadline, I stumbled across Toptal STEM Scholarship for Women. As a result, while all of the contributions I have mentioned are during the application period, none of my FOSS contributions were done keeping in mind the Toptal scholarship program but instead are about the projects or issues I deeply care about. However, the mentorship from the experienced Toptal engineers would be helpful in providing unique and helpful insights on further develop this research on FOSS communities, to maximize it’s potential impact and help apply it in industry by developing tools for FOSS organizations to understand and improve their communities as well as allocate their resources in a more efficient manner. I also plan to utilize extensive Open Source developer network of Toptal to understand diversity and workplace inclusion initiatives – including successes and pitfalls across a wide variety of tech organizations. This scholarship will also help develop the FOSSWave program by providing a wide an extensive network of role models in the industry, especially for interested female contributors. The mentorship from the Toptal community would be helpful to providing unique and helpful insights on how to further develop FOSSWave program too.

2015 in Numbers : Fedora CommOps

CommOps is the newest official sub-project in Fedora, and the team’s role is to assist other sub-projects in Fedora. This is done by building and improving interactions within the internal Fedora community, as well as by increasing communication across the Project as a whole. 2015 was an important milestone for the Fedora Community Operations (CommOps) team in so many ways. Remy DeCausemaker,the Fedora Community Action and Impact LeadJustin Flory(jflory7) and the CommOps team as whole recently published an excellent Year-in-Review article on Fedora Community Blog describing the CommOps Team highlights of 2015 and their vision for the upcoming year of 2016.

I did crunch some numbers about the growth of CommOps in 2015 – however they could not be included in the article (which I feel is primarily my fault –  I added them on etherpad but couldnt add them in the post since I was out of town and couldn’t find a WiFi connection with reasonable net speed). Nonetheless, I do feel the need for sharing the analytics and hence this article.

Fedmsg Activity of CommOps Team
        The image shows CommOps fedmsg activity for 2015. This was taken in Jan and hence the sudden drop a month ago due to holiday season – but boy are we rising !
Screenshot from 2016-01-22 15-43-53
        Check out the raw fedmsg activity of CommOps here and datagrepper visualization here . Other teams can generate this graph by replacing commops in the link by their most frequently used team name i.e. ….&contains=commops will become ….&contains=<TEAM_NAME_HERE>

Mailing List Activity  of CommOps Team

You can check out the mailing list archives of CommOps here. Here is a quick graph of the activity on the CommOps mailing list for 2015 :


Some of the longest discussions on CommOps ML have revolved around :

5ftw article (11 comments 4 participants) – CommOps started contributing to etherpad containing possible 5ftw ideas for aticle by mattdm

Marketing meeting timings for 2016  discussion (8 comments , 5 participants) – a good number of CommOps team members are a part of marketing team too

Onboarding new contributors via Outreachy (7 comments 4 participants) – Outreachy is a program which aims at increasing diversity in FOSS. Fedora participated in Dec – March 2016 round with slots for CommOps and Hubs .

Community Blog status (7 comments 3 participants) – One of the biggest milestones of 2015 with Community Blog being launched ! Yaay ! 🙂

Some of the most participated threads have been :

Trac Guide ( 6 comments, 6 participants) – CommOps moved to Ticket based meetings

Fedora Elections(5 comments 5 partcipants) – CommOps helped with organizing Fedora Elections making it 4th most participated election in all time – Yaay ! I helped jkurik organize this round of elections and learnt so much !

Design Team article on CommBlog (5 comments 5 participants)

FLOCK Bids (5 comments, 4 participants)

IRC Activity of CommOps Team

While there are no records of interactions on IRC on team channels, meetings in open channels (#fedora-meeting, #fedora-meeting-1, #fedora-meeting-2 ) are recorded by meetbot. Worth mentioning here is that CommOps just became an official subproject in Fedora – so we now have our own place in meetbot logs.

CommOps started 7 IRC meetings in 2015 in #fedora-meeting-2 channel. You can find some of the meeting logs here and here. IRC151

The above graph shows the number of attendees and chairs amongst then in IRC meetings. While CommOps team meeting size has grown gradually, it is interesting to note that number of chairs has grown too – perhaps because team members are taking a more permanent role in workings of CommOps and are here to stay for long 🙂

Another interesting statistic is the lines spoken in the meeting by attendees where we can see that attendees are not just idle and that CommOps has very interactive meetings 🙂


All in all, the numbers assert that CommOps is a growing community with high interaction amongst its members.

Fedora Community Blog (CommBlog)

The first major accomplishment of CommOps as a sub-project was on November 9th with the announcement of the Community Blog ! Within a short span of three months, CommBlog has had 53 posts published with 11977 views and 38 comments till date.

CommBlog has 62 users in Fedora Community –  48 contributors , 4 editors and 1 author – with the top contributor to CommBlog being bee2502 with 4 posts ( thats me – but wait, what? where is jflory7? )

CommBlog had most views in a single day on 10 Nov 2015 with 1168 views in all. Fedora 24 release dates and schedule was published on CommBlog that day which generated 519 views on the first day itself  The article is also incidentally the most viewed article on CommBlog with 1727 views in all. Wayland and  Porting python packages to python-3 articles come in close second and third respectively.

Elections Retrospective article has the 5th highest views with other posts and candidate interviews being commented on 🙂 In terms of comments, IRC analytics article had the most number of comments (4  comments) while Porting python packages to python-3 article had the most number of pingbacks(5 pingbacks)

Another rising post on CommBlog is the Share your Year in Review article which is garnering a lot of attention 🙂

Check here for a detailed version of analytics related to CommBlog which contains insights on CommBlog viewers, their locations and search activity.

Want to Help?

  1. Join our team in #fedora-commops on Freenode
  2. Join the Community Operations Mailing List
  3. Participate in our weekly meetings