FOSDEM 2019 and CHAOSS EU 2019 report

FOSDEM is over and it is time to recap.

Last year I decided to take a break and did not attend to the event. This year I was really looking forward to attend.

I will start by thanking Codethink Ltd for sponsoring my trip. It is always a pleasure to work in a company that supports their employees in attending to Open Source community events. Codethink sponsored FOSDEM once again by the way.

It has not been the easiest edition for me because I have been sick the past days and was not fully recovered. The cold weather didn’t help so I decided to stay away from late nights and Trappist beers. It was hard to go to bed at a decent time every night and miss some night gatherings like the KDE and GNOME ones or the FOSDEM party on Friday at Delirium Cafe.

On February 1st I attended to the CHAOSScon EU conference. I liked it. It was well organised and I could have several interesting conversations about what to measure and why when it comes to Open Source communities. I attended to most of the talks and I participated in one of the workshops. I think I can add some value in the GMD working group. Let’s see if I have the time to contribute. It would be fun.

I would like to highlight the prominent role that Bitergia, a Spanish company, plays in the CHAOSS project, a Linux Foundation Initiative. Despite being a small organization, they are in the front line when it comes to software analytics, specially in the Open Source space. Well done Bitergians!

As you probably know, I am putting some effort, together with some KDE developers, in calling the attention within the KDE community about the immense opportunity this project has in embedded, now that Plasma Mobile and Kirigami are a reality. KDE project is making an efforts also to show devices with this new shell at events, so professionals and corporations can identify the value that the KDE as community can add in ecosystems like the (open) automotive ones.

ELCE 2018 was the first event were we showed the outcome of our efforts in embedded ()in mobile we have for some time now). FOSDEM has been the second one. There will be more during this 2019.

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Plasma Mobile + Yocto in a RPi3 and Risc-V boards at the KDE booth. FOSDEM 2019

It was a pleasant surprise to see several boards and devices at the KDE booth, my RPi3 and a Risc-V board among them, both with Yocto and Plasma Mobile. I think attendees were both, surprised and happy to see KDE showing new and attractive stuff.

krita demo
Wolthera sketching live. Krita demo. FOSDEM 2019

Krita had a strong presence at the booth and the last day there was a KDEnlive demo, among other activities. A Pinebook, a Slimbook and an ARM based

Rockchip board completed the show. I think the booth worked extremely well. Some of the messages published in social media reflected it.

Special thanks to every KDE contributors that made the booth possible. I was really proud to be part of such an amazing group of people.

I attended to the automotive/embedded dinner on Saturday night. There is a group of people interested in reviving the Embedded devroom at FOSDEM 2020. The dinner’s main goal was to find out how many people wanted to help and coordinate them. Mission accomplished! Thanks Jan-Simon and Leon Avani for organising it.

On Sunday night I attended to the OpenChain informal dinner. Thanks Shane for organising it. I had a really good time. Lawyers are very cool people. There were several interesting conversations there about the FLA, which is not well known yet among the legal and developer communities despite being around for several years.

I tried to attend to three talks during FOSDEM. I couldn´t even get close to the door in any of them because, not just were the rooms packed, but there was a long queue of people waiting to get in. I got a little frustrated and decided to stop trying. Videos will come to the rescue.

On the bright side, the organisers opened an additional cafeteria this year. I usually take some sandwiches and water with me to the the venue so I can skip the long lines to get something to eat. On Sunday I didn’t and it worked out well. I guess that the days when it was impossible to get a sandwich are over. Yay!

As usual I could talk with lots of people which is the part I like the most about this event. I could also chat with some of the many Codethings (colleagues from Codethink) that attended to the event. I also take with me new contacts and plenty of new technologies and project to evaluate.

In general it has been a very good event. I will spend a week in Manchester after FOSDEM and then go back home. My next stop will be Embedded World, in Nuremberg, GE at the end of the month.

Thanks to the FOSDEM organisers and volunteers for your effort and dedication.

FOSDEM rocks!

New meetup group in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain

One of the reasons I joined Codethink was that I could work from my home island, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Sadly, a few month after joining, I came to the conclusion that me travel agenda was not compatible with living in one of the smallest islands. There were no good enough internet either back then. I had to choose between moving to one of the most populated islands (Tenerife or Gran Canaria) or move to another place. I ended up choosing Málaga, in the mainland of Spain, where I lived some years back already.

I still visit the island in summer and Christmas though, when my job activity is lower and work remotely from there. Last year the optic fiber finally arrived to my place since coversage is slowly increasing. There is no coworking spaces yet but the digital nomad movement is so hot in other islands that it is just a matter of time that it develops here too. This island has so much to offer…

But there is some homework to be done. The first one to create a community of people pasionate about technology, formed by those who lives here and those who visit the island regularly or ocassionally. From there, it might be possible to attract new visitors.

So after some thoughts and conversations with friends, I decided to try out a Mettup group in La Palma. There are no active ones. This new group is called:

San Miguel de La Palma tech lovers

La Palma is a popular name and many mistake it with Las Palmas, the biggest city and capital of Gran Canaria, so I used the full official name of my home islnad island, San Miguel de La Palma, to (hopefully) avoid misunderstandings.

I do not have previous experience organising Meetup groups but I am not new to organising tech events so I hope I can do well enough to kick-off a group, where others can feel welcome and take the lead in organising activities and even managing the group.

This island have a numerous German and nothern europpean community that live here during part of the year so it is my intention to organise the group as a multilanguage one, which makes things harder at the beginning. When it comes to topics, the scope of the group needs to be wide at the beginning since the potential target is small in number and disperse in interests. Time will tell if we can focus on two or three topics like remote work, Open Source, programming, etc.

I would like to complement talks and workshops with other activities like hiking or mountain biking which are extremely popular in the island.

So this is just the initial step in a journey I will enjoy. Feel free to join the meetup group. Hopefully we will announce the first activity in the coming weeks.

Nuevo grupo Meetup en San Miguel de La Palma, Islas Canarias, España

Una de las principales razones para unirme a Codethink era la posibilidad de trabajar en remoto desde mi casa en La Palma, Islas Canarias, España. Desgraciadamente, a los pocos meses de comenzar en esta empresa me di cuenta de que mi agenda de viajes era incompatible con vivir allí. El deficiente número de conexiones internacionales y la nula disponibilidad de una conexión directa al aeropuerto de Tenerife Sur hacían mis viajes complejos. Tampoco había internet lo suficientemente bueno por aquel entonces. De modo que tuve que elegir entre mudarme a una de las islas mayores o buscar otra localización. Acabé eligiendo Málaga, donde ya había vivido con anterioridad.

Sigo visitando La Palma con frecuencia. Cuando la actividad de la empresa baja trabajo en remoto desde aquí. El pasado año por fin llegó la fibra óptica a mi casa. La cobertura de esta tecnología está aumentando poco a poco en la isla. Aún no existen espacios coworking pero el movimiento de nómadas digitales en otras islas está creciendo tanto que espero que pronto llegue a La Palma. Esta isla tiene tanto que ofrecer…

Pero para llegar ahí hay que tener ciertos deberes hechos. El primero de ellos es crear una comunidad de profesionales y aposionados por la tecnología que vivan en la isla o la visiten frecuentemente. Sólo así podremos dar otros pasos para atraer a visitantes que quieran quedarse aquí unas semanas, mientras trabajan.

Así que despues de darle vueltas durante meses y diferentes conversaciones con amigos, me decidí a lanzar un grupo Meetup en La Palma, puesto que no existen precedentes en funcionamiento.

El nuevo grupo se llama San Miguel de La Palma tech lovers

La Palma se confunde habitualmente con Las Palmas, la capital de la isla de Gran Canaria y la ciudad más grande del archipiélago canario, de modo que he usado el nombre oficial completo de la isla para la denominación del grupo. Espero así evitar malentendidos entre quienes no conocen nuestra geografía.

Carezco de experiencia previa en la organización de grupos de Meetup pero sí en la organización de eventos technológicos de diversa escala, así que espero poder llevar adelante la iniciativa haciendo sentir a los interesados bienvenidos, promoviendo la organización de eventos así como la delegación en un futuro próximo de todas las responsabilidades en aquellos más entusiastas y eficientes. Esto debe ser una acción colectiva para tener éxito.

La Palma cuenta con una nutrida comunidad alemana así como de países como Holanda o Austria de modo que el grupo será multilingüe, lo que dificultará su gestión. Asimismo, como nuestro público objetivo es reducido en número y de intereses dispersos, debemos abarcar inicialmente diferentes temas, lo que incrementa aún más las dificultades de tener éxito.

Espero en cualquier caso que podamos construir una comunidad activa de tech lovers sobre la base de temas como el trabajo remoto, el software libre, herramienas web o marketing digital, procesos de trabajo modernos, etc. Será todo un reto. El planteamiento inicial es complementar las charlas y workshops con actividades al aire libre como el senderismo o la bici de montaña o astroturismo, tan populares en esta isla.

Únete al grupo. 

La constitución del grupo es solo el primer paso de un excitante viaje que vamos a disfrutar. Próximamente comenzaremos la organización de nuestra primera actividad. Estate atento.

BuildStream metrics: exploration

Metrics and telemetry are fundamental in any engineering activity to evaluate, learn and improve. They are also needed to consolidate a culture in which opinion and experience are continuously challenged, in which experimentation and evidence becomes the norm and not the exception, in which transparency rules so co-workers are empowered, in which data analysis leads to conversations so evaluations are shared.

Open Source projects has been traditionally reluctant to promote telemetry, based on privacy concerns. Some factor that comes to my mind are helping to change this perception:

  • As FLOSS projects grow and mature the need for information grows.
  • It is easier now to process big amounts of data while keeping high levels of anonymity.
  • The proliferation of company driven and consortium driven FLOSS projects, specially those related with SaaS/cloud technologies and products, showing how useful telemetry is. In general, corporations are less concerned about personal data privacy than many Open Source projects though.
  • The DevOps movement is spreading like a pandemic and telemetry is an essential action for practitioners.

So the last few years data analytics is becoming more popular among Open Source projects.

Finding the right metrics is frequently tough. Most of the times projects, teams or departments get drowned in data and graphs before they realize what actually matters, what does it have real business value. When you find the right metrics, somehow it means that the right questions are being asked which I find the hardest part. To identify those questions, I recommend organizations or projects to invest in exploring and learning before moving into automating the data collection, processing, plotting and irradiate the results to be analysed.

So when BuildStream is getting into its third year of life, I thought it could be interesting to invest some effort in digging into some numbers, trying to find a couple of good questions that provide value to the project and the stakeholders involved.buildstream-beaver

The outcome of this exploratory effort was published and spread across the BuildStream / BuildGrid community. The steps taken to publish the report has been:

  • Select a question to drive this exploratory effort, in my case: are we growing?
  • Select data sources: in my case, information from the ticketing system and the git repositories.
  • Collect the data: in this case, the data sets from the BuildStream ticketing system were exported from gitlab.com and the data sets from git obtained through a script developed by Valentin David.
  • Clean the data set (data integrity, duplications, etc.) in this case the data was imported into GSheets and worked there.
  • Data processing: the data was processed and metrics were defined using GSheet since the calculations in this phase were simple enough and the amount of data and processing power did not represent a challenge for the tool.
  • Plot the data: since the graphs were also simple enough, GSheet was also used for this purpose.
  • Initial analysis: the goal here was to identify trends, singularities, exceptions, etc and point them to the BuildStream community looking for debate and answers.
  • Report: provided in .pdf and .odt, it has been publishing in the BuildStream Group in gitlab.com and sent to the community mailing list. The report include several recommendations.

The data set could lead us to a deeper analysis but:

  • It would have also take me more time.
  • I wanted to involve the contributors and stakeholders early in the analysis phase.
  • Some metrics which collection, processing and plotting can be automated has been identified already so to me it is better to consolidate them to bring value to the project on regular basis than to keep exploring.

I understand that my approach is arguable but it has worked for me in the past.  The debate of just half way cooked analysis increases the buy-in in the same way that developers love to put their hands in half-broken tools. Feel free to suggest a better approach that I can try in the coming future. I would appreciate it.

Link to the report on gitlab.com. Download it.

What’s next?

I am looking forward to have a fruitful debate about the report within the BuildStream community and beyond. From there, my recommendation is to look for an external provider (it is all about providing value as fast as possible) that, working with Open Source tools, can consolidate what we’ve learnt from this process and can help us to find more and better questions… and hopefully answers.

What is BuildStream

I have been putting effort on BuildStream since May 2018. Check the project out.

Stable: not moving vs. not breaking

There are two terms that brings a heavy controversy in the Open Source world: support and stable. Both of them have their roots in the “old days” of Open Source, where its commercial impact was low and very few companies made business with it.

You probably have read a lot about maintenance vs support. This controversy is older. I first heard of it in the context of Linux based distributions. Commercial distribution had to put effort in differentiating among the two because in Open SOurce they were used indistictly but not in business. But this post is about the adjectivet stable

Stable as adjective has several meanings in English:

  • According to the Cambridge dictionary stable is, among others: firmly fixed or not likely to move or change. I am used to this meaning because of my backgroun in Physics.
  • One of the definitions provided by the Oxford dictionary is slightly different: not likely to change or fail; firmly established.

Can you see the confusion between…?

  1. It is hard to move… or move slow.
  2. It does not fail… it is hard to break.

I am not an English native speaker. Maybe because of its latin root (I am Spanish) or maybe eacuase I studied Physics, I do not provide to the adjective stable the second meaning. It has always called my attention how many people provide both meanings to the word, specially when referring to software releases. Looking at the dictionaries, I can tell why in English there is such link between both ideas.

I read today on Twitter another example of this confusion/controversy. The comment has its roots on a different topic but it has embedded this confusion, I think.

Open Source projects used to have as the main testing strategy the collaboration with a group of beta testers and power users. This strategy helped to create this relation between “not moving” and “not failing” that has become so popular. But this relation is not direct if you have a different release/deploy strategy. The way to increase stability (as hard to break) is by detecting and fixing bugs and that can be done moving fast (constantly updating), or moving slow (backporting). I will not get into which one is better. Both are possible and popular.

I think the word stable should be avoided. Many system and application developers or integrators refer to it as “move slow” as “it will not change much“. But what many users hear is “it will not break” which is why “it moves slow“.

Which adjective can we use to label a release that “moves slow“, so it is not mistaken with “it is not expected to break“?

Is this controversy present in other languages as strong as I perceive it in English? Is it just me who see this controversy?