Moving On

by Shauna April 30th, 2015

Back in February 2013, I ran my first Open Source Comes to Campus event.  It was a snowy day with a small but enthusiastic turnout.  At one point during the workshop at the end of the day, a student I was pairing with said something which has stuck with me ever since: “Today has been very empowering for me regarding my computer and the ways I can manipulate it.”

Two years and fifty events later, it’s time for me to move on from my role as Program Director at OpenHatch.  This role has expanded over time to encompass not just event planning but curriculum building, conference presenting, sprint planning, guide writing, website making, mentoring, consulting and maintaining one of IRC’s friendliest bots.  There’s no doubt about it: the last two years have been very empowering for me regarding the open source community and the ways I can contribute to it.

I’ll be wrapping up my work in the middle of May.  I look forward to participating in the OpenHatch community as just another enthusiast and to continuing to work within the open source community.

Happy contributing, everyone.  🙂


Preparing for the PyCon Sprints

by Shauna April 3rd, 2015

A year or so ago I wrote the In Person Event Handbook to help people prepare their projects for in-person events like workshops, hackathons, and sprints. With the PyCon 2015 sprints coming up, I thought I’d take a moment to write up the highlights. Want to make your project welcoming to newcomers? Read on!

Step 1: Articulate Your Goals & Expectations

Why are you participating in the sprint? What are you hoping to accomplish over the next few days? Are you hoping to expand your community? What are you happy to teach newcomers, and what would you prefer they already know?

One of the most useful things you can do is to think and talk about what your expectations are. For instance, if you only want newcomers who are proficient in python, that’s totally okay – but it’s important to say explicitly, so that beginning programs can find a sprinting project (like OpenHatch) where we’re happy to teach basic skills.

Knowing what you want to accomplish can help you pick tasks for newcomers to work on. One mistake I see people make is to say, “You can work on anything you want! We’re happy for any help.” That’s a great impulse, but it can be overwhelming for newcomers to choose from a wide variety of options. Follow up with: “That said, here are our highest priorities for the sprint. Would you like to work on this specific task?” (See more about picking specific tasks in Step 3.)

Step 2: Check Your Set Up Process

One of the biggest time-sucks at events – and in open source development, generally – is getting the development environment set up. It’s a chronic problem in large part because it’s really hard for maintainers to fix by themselves. They’ve already got the dependencies installed and the projects running on their systems. Unfortunately, it can take newcomers hours or even days to accomplish the same, especially if they’re developing on a different operating system than the one the maintainers are.

One way to tackle this problem is to recruit some newcomers and have them go through your setup process while you’re available in real time, via IRC, video chat, or in person. They should work from the already existing documentation. When they get stuck, you can help them identify the problem, and either you or they can file documentation and proccess issues in your tracker to be fixed before the upcoming event.

We call this a “setup sprint”. If you’re interested in doing one, let us know, and we’ll help you find newcomers to work with. Another option is to go through this process as the first activity at the event. It’s up to you!

Step 3: Gather Some Tasks Ahead of Time

It’s important to have a pre-selected list of tasks for newcomers to work on, rather than letting them loose on your issue tracker. When drawing up your list, we recommend the following:

  • Include a variety of tasks, not just coding tasks. Consider adding documentation, design, publicity, and/or community management tasks. You may also have meta-tasks: for instance, you might like to have someone go through your issue tracker and flag issues that need to be reproduced. Or you might like to have someone reproduce some reported issues! These tasks can be difficult to capture in the issue tracker itself, so we encourage you to have a document elsewhere, for instance on a wiki or etherpad, that covers any tasks not on your issue tracker.
  • For coding tasks, try to find tasks which are self-contained and don’t require intimate knowledge of your codebase. Where possible, add information to the issue about which files, functions, etc would be involved in the fix, so newcomers know where to start.
  • Other information to add to issues includes:
    – Clear explanations of what the current and desired behavior is. How will the contributor know that they’ve successfully addressed the issue?
    – What skills or tools will be involved in fixing it. This will help contributors decide if it’s a good issue for them to tackle.
    – Other changes they may need to make. Will they need to update the test suite? The documentation?

Some of this is information you might just tell newcomers at the event, but if you address it ahead of time you free yourself up to focus on more in depth mentorship, or to work on more issues yourself.

OpenHatch will be running an introductory workshop at 5:30pm on 4/12, which is the Sunday night before the PyCon Sprints.  Please join us as either an attendee or a mentor!

Have additional questions or advice? We’d love to hear about them.

See you at PyCon!

How Did We Do? Part I

by Shauna February 8th, 2015
Some goals on a field.

Goooals. Photo CC-BY-SA by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

A year ago I wrote a post titled ‘Goals for Open Source Comes to Campus in 2014’. This is the first of the promised posts – let’s review how well we met our goals, to help us better reach our goals for next year!

Goal #1: Increase the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, and make them easier for others to run.

We wanted to grow our community by making our events easier to run, with less hands-on help from Asheesh and myself. I picked four concrete goals to help us measure that.

Number of events: We hope to double the number of Open Source Comes to Campus events, from 12 in 2013 to 24 in 2014.

Result: Exceeded! We ran 26 Open Source Comes to Campus events this year. You can see the full list here.

Feedback from events: For each event, we will elicit feedback in the form of surveys from students and mentors, and have debriefings with organizers. We hope to see a positive trend in the surveys. A positive trend would be an improvement of the average rating by 1 point or more (on a scale of 1-4).

Result: It turns out that it’s very hard to get people to fill out surveys. Across our 26 events, we collected 41 survey responses, which is unlikely to be a representative sample of our attendees, nor can it tell us much about trends. We’re still working on a way to get the sort of concrete feedback we’d like to have. If you’d like to get involved in that discussion, join us here.

Even if we had gotten a higher response rate, we’d have trouble measuring our success. Why? We didn’t ask for ratings of the overall event, only of the individual activities. Nor did we ask before and after questions using sign-ups. As a former research psychologist, I’m kind of embarrassed to be writing out this section.

But we did get some informal feedback. Let’s take a look.

We asked students to tell us their favorite and least favorite things about the event. Some sample responses (most people wanted to remain anonymous):

Favorite things:

“I loved being able to make my first contribution. I also thought the career panel was very informative.”

“My favorite thing was getting to make the small fixes in the first activity where we first learned how to use open source.”

“In our contributions workshop, we got the chance to talk to a data analyst about his work which was really cool!”

“I liked the in-depth tutorial on how to work on Github. I couldn’t figure it out on my own before.”

“Being able to contribute. Career panel. Just having someone around who I can ask questions.” ~ Chris Garry

“My favorite thing about the event was being able to speak to the mentors and gain insight from them. I enjoyed being able to speak to them and hearing their experiences. “

Least favorite things:

“There were not a lot of instructions going into the Contribution part. This makes sense to the extent that each project and bug have their particular niche, but it made for a challenging activity.”

“Not getting a broader introduction to the mentors. Maybe an online portfolio page for mentors so when we are done talking to couple of mentors, we can figure out what to do next since we might have forgotten what other mentors did by then.”

“I was a little frustrated with how long the workshop lasted. It was a lot of info.”

“It was somehow fast when we started with ‘git’ especially for newbie like me. But I’ve got help and everything went great.”

“My least favorite thing about the event is that I did not have much experience with the languages that the projects on github used, so it was difficult for me to try to find a way to contribute.”

And then, to end on a nicer note, some more favorite things:

“The workshop was a great introduction to an intimidating field. I learned a lot, and got to interact with many other talented developers. I enjoyed working with other people that were also new to open source software, and felt like I was actually making a difference.” ~ Armand Halbert

“I really enjoyed the contributions workshop, as it gave me both some technical insight into projects I’m interested in, and gave me some information on how to go about contributing to projects.”

“Get to know people, to know how to use githhub, basically everything was great.”

Hands-off events: We plan to run at least one event with minimal-to-no involvement on the part of OpenHatch organizers. We hope our surveys show that these events are just as successful as those we have a more active role in.

“Hands-off” turns out to be an ambiguous term. Predictably, repeat events tended to be more independent than first time events, but we ended up being somewhat involved in every single event. This is fine by us. Our goal is to empower others to run open source outreach events, not to never attend their events or offer advice.

The closest we got to satisfying these goals were likely our repeat events at the University of Minnesota Morris (September 13th) and City College of San Francisco (March 22nd, September 13th). Experienced and highly capable local organizers Elena Machkasova (Morris) and Katherine Moloney (CCSF), along with new student organizers at both schools, did the vast majority of work in making these events a success.

Given our lack of survey data, we can’t really compare among events, though we did get a lot of great informal feedback about both events. It’s also worth noting that CCSF is continuing to run events every six months, while Morris plans to repeat yearly.

Repeated events: It’s as good a sign as you can get when organizers want to run more events. We’re hoping to run at least six repeat events this year, and for at least half our event organizers in 2014 to express interest in a repeat event.

Finally, something easy to tally!

Repeat events from previous years: 9

UMass-Amherst, City College of San Francisco (twice), George Mason University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota at Morris, Indiana University at Bloomington, Columbia University, and Princeton University.

New events this year: 15

University of Arizona, SUNY Stony Brook, Northeastern Illinois University*, Hartnell College, University of California-Davis, Claremont Graduate University, De Paul University*, University of Victoria, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Swarthmore College, University of Washington, University of California Berkeley, Baruch College, and Per Scholas.

Repeat events this year: 2

Special shout out to Hartnell College & SUNY Stony Brook, which held events for the first time in the spring, and did follow up events in the fall.

* It’s worth pointing out that our events at UIUC last year, and at NEIU and DePaul this year, included many of the same mentors and organizers. Just because they haven’t repeated schools yet doesn’t mean there’s not an active community!

Most organizers have expressed interest in follow-up events. Of the 24 schools we ran events at last year, twelve are currently planning to run new events with us this upcoming semester, with at least six others interested but still deciding or waiting until the fall. This surpasses our goal of “at least half” of schools expressing interest in repeating.


We easily met our goals for both the number of events we ran (26) and the number of schools expressing interest in repeating (17). We also met our goal of having at least one event run mostly independently. Our biggest issue was eliciting feedback from attendees and organizers about the success of our events. Fixing this will be one of our goals going forward.

A Semester of Events

by Shauna January 14th, 2015

(17 of them!)

Last fall, we ran seventeen events at campuses around the country, reaching hundreds of students and making abundant contributions and connections. Here’s a whirlwind tour of our semester:


University of Minnesota at Morris

Students and volunteers at Open Source Comes to Campus: Morris.

Photo by Noah Keitel.

On Saturday, September 13th, faculty, staff and other volunteers led by student organizers Thomas Harren, Chase Ottomoeller, Alex Widdel, and faculty Elena Machkasova ran their second Open Source Comes to Campus event. They followed up on an amazing first workshop last fall with another successful event! Volunteer mentors Jim Hall and Noah Keitel each wrote blog posts describing the event.

Noah writes:

Our group of students and mentors worked and learned together as we went. We were able to get the drone to takeoff, and land by mapping keys to functions in our controller, which in turn called the service which other students had worked on… We were just about to fix a few bugs to get the ARDrone to respond to forward, back, left and right when we ran out of time. But luckily, this is all open source code on github, so we can keep working together to tackle some of these bugs!

Jim describes his experience:

With help from Emily, Josh, and Alek, we migrated old web pages into the FreeDOS Wiki. The overall project to convert old content will take weeks or months, and this workshop provided a great kick-off for our documentation clean-up efforts… Daniel refactored the web code for the FreeDOS News page, which also feeds the news items on the FreeDOS website… Other groups provided improvements to a free Senet board game and to a drone control system.

I am proud to have been a mentor for this event. What a great way to help students and to serve the campus! I look forward to next year’s event!

We’re looking forward to it too, Jim!

City College of San Francisco

Students at CCSF event, September 2014

Photo by Alan Martinez

This September, the CCSF Coders Club held their third Open Source Comes to Campus event, led by rockstar organizer Katherine Moloney. Attendee and photographer Alan Martinez writes:

I learned a little more about GitHub at this event and have gained more confidence in collaborating, forking and cloning a repository, making changes locally and making a pull request. For those that are new to Git or GitHub this is a great workshop.

You can see the pictures that Alan took here!


DePaul University

Picture by Shamil Clay

Photo by Shamil Clay

Although this was DePaul University’s first Open Source Comes to Campus event, it was not our first collaboration with Chicago’s wonderful open source community. Several of this event’s volunteers, including lead organizer Sheila Miguez, helped with previous events at UIC and NEIU.

Enthusiastic attendees took to twitter to let us know they were enjoying the event:

Claremont Graduate University

April Moreno and the CGU GIS club put together a great event with an Open GIS theme. They were helped by longtime OpenHatch volunteer Carol Willing, who led the day’s tutorials, PyLadies Los Angeles organizer Esther Nam, who helped teach tutorial breakouts, and Camille Teicheira, who helped students contribute to OpenStreetMap remotely from San Francisco! April writes:

“Attendees were particularly impressed with the local tech community and with the community participation. Inviting external participants turned out to be a great idea.”

Bucknell University

Picture by Li Li

Picture by Li Li

Student organizers Melissa Rios, Li Li, Tung Phan, Colin Heinzmann, Son Pham, and Aleks Antonov are working hard to build an interdisciplinary learning community at Bucknell University. Their hard work as they planned this event made their passion for open source software and foundational technology clear. If you’re an innovator, entrepreneur, or open source aficionado near Lewisburg, PA, get in touch and we can continue to grow a community together.

University of Victoria

Picture by Shamil Clay

At the University of Victoria in October we had two firsts: our first ever non-US event, and our first event focused on a specific project: Mozilla Webmaker. The event was hosted by University of Victoria’s Women in Engineering and Computer Science and Computer Science Course Union, sponsored by Mozilla, and led by Mozilla community builder Emma Irwin.

Emma wrote about her experience:

I was surprised to learn that FOSS contribution is really just ‘skimmed’ over in computer science classes, and so I’m hopeful that events like this can eventually lead to a re-visit of curriculum in higher ed. To that end, I have some personal goals around the Web Literacy Map and running events that focus on contributing to Mozilla. Here are a few of the literacies we covered: Community Participation Collaboration Open Practices Coding/Scripting Infrastructure

Remote volunteer Errietta Kostala also posted:

Technology made giving the talk remotely remarkably easy, and there weren’t many surprises! I started by helping out over Skype: Emma had hooked her screen up in a projector and I could talk and share my screen with Skype’s screen sharing feature. I said a few short words about IRC and then jumped straight into demonstrating how to use a client and get on freenode’s #openhatch and moznet’s #introduction and #webmaker. Later on, students were encouraged to ask any Webmaker questions in the #webmaker channel were me and other contributors could help them out. I answered some of their questions and worked with them and had lots of fun. Overall, it was an awesome day/night both for me and the students, and I certainly hope to see them in #webmaker again contributing and having more questions!


Indiana University at Bloomington

Picture by Jessie Pusateri

Photo by Ruth Fraser

Last fall, when we travelled to Bloomington to run our first Open Source Comes to Campus event there, Jessie Pusateri was one of our most enthusiastic students. One year later, she stepped into the shoes of last year’s host Lindsay Kuper and pulled together an amazing event! The growing open source communtiy at IUB plans to continue running Open Source Comes to Campus workshops.

You can see photos from the event here.

Swarthmore College


Swarthmore College’s Women in Computer Science, led by Rachel Stein, Shawn Pan, Jocelyn Adams and Meiri Anto, put together a great first event this fall, with mentors and students coming from around the Philadelphia area. One student enthused:

In our contributions workshop, we got a chance to talk to a data analyst about his work which was really cool!”

You can see photos from the event here.

Columbia University


The Application Development Initiative, led by Nate Brennand, ran their second Open Source Comes to Campus event in November, following up on a successful event last fall. One student tweeted:

Cornell University


Women in Computing at Cornell, led by Jisha Kambo and Susan Chiang, ran their first Open Source Comes to Campus event, a loosely structured three hour event with a mix of tutorials and hacking on projects. One student wrote that he values “the freedom to be creative that comes with open source and learning about how to collaborate with a large community”, while others wrote that they enjoyed “Getting feedback from people moderating projects”, “realizing that Git could be used outside of CS” and “submitting a patch to ruby”. The main critique? Not enough time to work on projects and get to know the amazing mentors. We look forward to fixing that with another, longer event!

Pictures from the event can be viewed here.

Hartnell College

Hartnell College ran two events this year, thanks to the expertise and enthusiasm of their Computer Science Education Coordinator, Katie Cunningham. This time, returning students were able to jump right in to contributing, while newcomers went through our series of presentations and hands on activities. More than any individual activity, though, the students really appreciated talking to the volunteer mentors. One student wrote:

My favorite thing about the event was being able to speak to the mentors and gain insight from them. I enjoyed being able to speak to them and hearing their experiences.”

A few weeks later, Katie arranged a short, casual follow-up event, where mentors helped students follow up with the contributions they’d been work on remotely via IRC. This was a definite success, and we’ll be encouraging other schools to follow Hartnell’s example.

You can see pictures from the event here.

University of Washington

Thanks to organizers Ben Marwick, Mako Hill, Ana Malgon, and Allan Ecker, mentors Darius Jazayeri, Jacob Vanderplas, Thomas Levine, Frances Hocutt, Venkatesh Srinivas, Kai Yang, Bryan Newbold, Jonathan Griffin, and to the generous sponsorship of the eScience Institute, the University of Washington boasted a well-attended first Open Source Comes to Campus event this fall.

University of California at Berkeley

Berkeley also ran their first Open Source Comes to Campus event this fall. Organized by James Maa and Alex Yang of Hackers at Berkeley and sponsored by Red Hat, the event drew mentors from all around Berkeley’s vibrant open source community. Featured projects included iPython, Peer Library, Oppia, and BOINC, the software and community behind SETI@Home. You can see photos from the event here.

Baruch College

I went to Baruch College in November to lead a short event similar to last spring’s Stony Brook event. This informal event, pulled together by Kannan Mohan, was smaller but still enthusiastically received, and we’re planning to do another event in the spring.

SUNY Stony Brook

Speaking of Stony Brook, student organizer Hanne Paine ran a follow up event with them this fall. We had difficulty finding enough mentors for the event, and ended up doing a shortened version that focused on a remote career panel and making changes over IRC. We’ll try again in the spring, hopefully at a better time for New York area open source enthusiasts.

Per Scholas

Photo by Jerome Dazzell

I also visited Per Scholas, at the invitation of organizers Sarah Conte and Jerome Dazzell. Jerome writes:

An amazing opportunity for our software testing class, where students gained a deeper understanding of open source software, projects, products and tools that foster open source collaboration, prototyping and community development.

Students with a programming and non-programming equally benefited from the workshop. Much of the internet is built on many open source technologies and the OpenHatch workshop did a fantastic job of tying it altogether.

Per Scholas’ cohort structure encourages a well-bonded and welcoming community, which in turn fostered a wide-ranging discussion on community norms, learning styles, motivations for contributing to open source, and more. Add to that a whirlwind tour of IRC, issue trackers, and submitting pull requests on github, and it’s no surprise we ran over our short event time slot. We’ll be back at Per Scholas this spring.

Princeton University

 Photo by Katherine Ye

Photo by Katherine Ye

Open Source at Princeton’s Katherine Ye, Lisha Ruan, Valerie Morin, Catherine Wu, Diana Liao and Annie Chu followed up on their event last fall with another successful event. With the local Drupal meetup and Two Sigma providing several mentors, there were plenty of projects to work on and a growing open source community at the school for students to become a part of. More than two thirds of students said they planned to continue contributing on the exit survey. One student wrote: “The people were very patient and helpful to me when I would get stuck and they did a great job helping through the processes” while another talked about “the fact that beginners were welcome with a very down to earth approach to GitHub”.

Drupal contributer and mentor at the event, Peter Wolanin, reports that three patches from students were eventually accepted into Drupal core: one, two, and three!

Looking Forward

We can’t wait to return to the schools above. We’ve learned so many lessons from our events this fall, and gotten to participate in so many wonderful open source communities, both fledgling and robust. But we’re also looking forward to going to new schools, too!

Interested in hosting an Open Source Comes to Campus event? Email us at, or suggest an event on our new forums.

Please match this $15,000 donation by December 29th!

by Shauna December 19th, 2014

This is a re-post of a post by Sumana Harihareswara on the Stumptown Syndicate blog.

Sumana at Open Source Bridge. Photo by @reidab.

Sumana at Open Source Bridge. Photo by @reidab.

 I’m donating up to $15,000 to the Stumptown Syndicate — depending on how much you are willing to match by December 29th. Please join me by donating today and doubling your impact!

Olimometer 2.52

Stumptown Syndicate works to create resilient, radically inclusive tech and maker communities that empower positive change. Open Source Bridge, one of its core programs, is the tech conference that has imprinted itself on my heart — informative technical talks, inspiring ideas that help me improve how I do my work, and belly laughs and great food. I love that I can tell friends “Come to OSB!” without having to add “but watch out for…” the way I do with so many other conferences. Hospitality lives in the DNA of Open Source Bridge, so it’s a place where people from different projects and backgrounds can share their experiences as equals. I especially appreciate that it’s an inclusive all-genders tech conference where I’m never the only woman in the room; in fact, in 2014, half the speakers were women.

Liene Verzemnieks at BarCamp Portland. Image by @reidab.

Liene Verzemnieks at BarCamp Portland. Image by @reidab.

Stumptown demonstrates its values before, during, and after OSBridge, and documents them to make a playbook other event planners can reuse. The Syndicate encourages volunteers to help make Open Source Bridge happen (showing appreciation by giving them free access to the conference), encourages them with a reassuring form and clear expectations, and mentors them with structured orientations. The Code of Conduct, accessible venues, clearly labelled food, cheap or free admissions, and open source conferenceware all model effective and ethical collaboration.

But, until now, Stumptown Syndicate hasn’t had the money to host childcare at its events, to offer travel scholarships to OSBridge speakers from other countries, or improve the audiovisual experience (with faster video processing or transcripts/captioning). And it’s had to host its events at borrowed or rented venues, which reduces the Syndicate’s ability to nurture new events and communities; more money in the bank opens the possibility of a more permanent event space.

Amber Case at Open Source Bridge. Photo by @reidab.

Amber Case at Open Source Bridge. Photo by @reidab.

Still, the Syndicate’s done a lot since its founding in December 2010. Every year, Stumptown Syndicate supports or directly hosts 2-4 events in Portland. Hundreds of participants have grown, personally and professionally, via OSBridgeWhereCampPDXIgnite PortlandBarCamp Portland, and the user groups it supports. Its work on Calagator keeps the community connected, and its focus on inclusion and diversity has helped everyone in Portland’s tech scene benefit. Including, probably, you, if you’re reading this. And it’s done that with about $110,000 each year, a mix of donations and sponsorships.

With your help, the Syndicate can plan further in advance and make the events you already love even better. And if Stumptown Syndicate volunteers don’t have to worry as much about fundraising, they can concentrate more on revamping Calagator, mentoring newer developers, and enriching Portland’s tech scene — and documenting their successes so people like me can copy them.


That’s why I’m willing to give up to $15,000 to Stumptown Syndicate. I’ll match donations starting today and ending on December 29th, whether corporate or individual, one-time or recurring memberships. Please donate now to help raise $30,000 for the infrastructure of inclusivity!

Olimometer 2.52

Stumptown Syndicate is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Contributions to Stumptown Syndicate are tax-deductible in the U.S.

Be a poster child!

by Shauna October 3rd, 2014
two people standing in front of a poster at PyCon 2014

CC BY 2.0 by Taavi Burns

Would you like to present at an open source conference, but aren’t sure what to talk about, or feeling shy?  A poster can be a great way to get started.  Not only are they less nerve-wracking to present, they’re often more likely to be accepted than talk proposals.  Yesterday evening, October 1st, we held a meetup on our IRC channel to brainstorm poster ideas for PyCon 2015.

Here’s some of the advice that was shared.

From Jessica McKellar:

How to get your poster proposal accepted:

1. Pick a topic that plausibly appeals to at least 20% of attendees.
2. Write a thorough proposal, and include supporting information, convincing the interviewers that you will be a good presenter.
3. That’s it.

Posters are an opportunity to have a conversation around a topic.  So what are some topics you’d be excited to have conversations around — to get other people excited about?  Programming or diversity outreach you’ve done in your community, an experiment or study you ran, data that you analyzed, a set of tools for getting something done that you care about — whether or not you built it, choices when designing systems — a project you built and the way you broke it down and solved it, and how other people can do it too.

Diana Clarke covers the practical side:

You don’t need to have the actual poster ready until the conference.  (You do need to print it and bring it with you to PyCon. You can’t print it on site.)  All you need at this point is a topic, including a description of what you plan on covering.

And if your poster does get accepted, Karen Rustad has some practical advice:

Good posters are a conversation piece. At least one visual item of interest is helpful to that end. Charts, graphs, photographs of people… Even if your project is purely text-based software, find *something* big and graphical to put up!

You can read more about PyCon poster submissions here.  You can also look at accepted posters from previous years: 2014, 2013, 2012.

Sorry you missed the session? Let us know – if there’s enough interest we’ll host another one.

Welcome newcomers at Software Freedom Day

by Shauna August 3rd, 2014
Software Freedom Day logo

Software Freedom Day

Software Freedom Day is an annual celebration of free software held in hundreds of locations around the world.  This year, Software Freedom Day is Saturday, September 20th. Find a location near you, or start your own event!

But why just attend, when you can present?

I’ll be leading a 90 minute introduction and workshop for newcomers to free software at Boston’s Software Freedom Day.  I haven’t decided yet what exactly to present, but I know I’ll be using some combination of our Open Source Comes to Campus activities.  Take a look through our curriculum here and think about whether you’d like to participate in Software Freedom Day by giving a newcomer-friendly presentation, workshop or tutorial.  You can teach people how to pick a project, use IRC or issue trackers, help make projects more accessible to people with disabilities, combat impostor syndrome and more!

Feel free to email us at or stop by our IRC channel (#openhatch on Freenode) to discuss.


Teaching Open Source at UC Davis

by Shauna June 8th, 2014

Students at UC Davis

On Saturday, May 10th, we held our twenty-seventh Open Source Comes to Campus event at the University of California-Davis.  The event was organized by the Davis Computer Science Club and sponsored by Rackspace.  Many thanks to our amazing mentors: Thomas Kluyver, Britta GustafsonCharlyn Gonda, Conrad Fay, Kevin Liu, Michael Seydel, Jackie Zhang, Timothy Tong, Alex Mandel, Mike Covington and Asheesh Laroia.

At the event, we used the Software Carpentry sticky-note method for gathering feedback.  We asked students to tell us one thing they learned and/or enjoyed, and one thing we could improve on.

Sticky Notes at UC Davis

What Students Learned

Many students talked about the open source tools they used at the workshop:

* How to use git; Install IRC; Learn some commands
* GitHub. How to pick a project.
* Learned more git!
* I learned how to use IRC chat.
* I learned that you can tag git commits and use them to reference commits.
* IRC. Never used it before, and it looks like there are awesome channels for webdev.
* I learned about git revert, and how totally kick ass it is.
* I learned how to use git better.
* Learned how to navigate git.
* What branching in git actually is.
* How to collaborate using git.
* Git.
* How to use git; how open source software works.
* I learned how to set up git, and get little familiar of open source project.
* Git commands.
* Awesome way of interacting with tools while listening to lecture.

A couple of students mentioned types of open source projects they were excited to learn about:

* Open source possibilities for designers.
* Open source can be used for good (humanitarian projects)!

Others learned about how to find open source projects and get involved with them:

* Learned: how to get involved with open source projects by Googling information about the project and lurking the repository for information.
* How to properly find open source projects.
* I learned how to find projects to work on.
* I learned a process to start on open source projects.
* How easy it is to search for projects and find important contacts.
* Learned how to gain credibility.
* Learned how to gain exposure in open source projects.
* Found some cool open source projects that relate to my interests.
* I get to know more about open source projects! Found some cool projects and want to try to explore them. 🙂 Thank you!

And others learned about open source generally:

* How many open source projects are out there.
* How open source projects work.
* Open source is actually a big thing.
* Open source/free software doesn’t necessarily mean free as in $0.00, but it means that the source code is freely available to the public & changes can be made.

More students at UC Davis

Things To Improve

Some students felt that the event didn’t challenge them or teach them anything new:

* I only learned about the /me command in IRC. Too easy. 🙁
* Too easy. 🙁 Since this was tailored to CS students, the materials should be a little more intermediate.

While another would have liked more preparation:
* Learning the basics of git beforehand!
A couple students asked for more examples and demos:

* run through an example open source project we edit.
* Thanks for holding this workshop. If you could have a project demonstration set up and we can see how it is edited, that would be great.

Some students wanted more explanation for why open source is relevant:
* Maybe explain how this is important in today’s world. Make this event accessible to everyone on campus.
* Question: How has open source been profitable to developers when people are able to download it?
* Maybe give some extra info about why open source is good, why we should open source code.
And there were some logistical issues, which we’ll keep an eye out for next time:

* Sound system for louder speaker.
* Have donuts and coffee at the time mentioned.
* Organization of the event should be better. We had no schedule. We did not know what to expect, when the breaks are, are there breaks? Lunch at 1 pm is too late.

Finally, some folks had suggestions for improving the curriculum:

* Want to learn about how people contribute to Python.
* Workflow to using git and GitHub
* Like to learn more about popular tools.
* Suggestion: during the git portion, explain what each command is for more thoroughly.
* OpenHatch: who are you? You never explained! How to get involved in projects other than finding bugs? What was the point of git exercise? It did not make sense. Also without looking at the hint, it was not clear at all.

event more students at UC Davis

We highly recommend the sticky note method!  We’ve had very little luck getting students to fill out exit surveys.  Writing some short, anonymous notes seems like a much better way of learning how your event went and what you can do better.  Thanks, Davis attendees!

I spent weeks going back and forth with Hanne Paine, a student and open source enthusiast at SUNY Stony Brook. For every date she suggested, we already had an event planned. Finally, we decided to wait until the fall to hold a full workshop.  I felt badly, though. I knew I’d be passing through New York City in April, right around the dates she’d been pushing for. “How about I just stop by for a couple hours on a week night and do a short intro presentation?”

It was a low muss, low fuss affair. Hanne arranged for a room and some pizza. I asked OpenHatch volunteer and Wikimedian Sumana Harihareswara to attend the event with me, and we figured out the curriculum on the train ride over. Hanne greeted us when we got to campus about ten minutes before the event was scheduled to start. “How’s it looking?” we asked.

Hanne smiled. “We have over 90 sign ups.”

a large crowd of attendees at Stony Brook event

Of the 90 signups, 75+ attended. This was more than we had seats for, and many students ended up sitting in the aisles and on the floor in the front of the room.  It was also a 40 to 1 student to mentor ratio – by far the highest we’ve ever had.

I wasn’t worried. We’ve designed the OpenHatch curriculum to work well with any size group. Many of the small group activities can easily be turned into pair programming (or pair brainstorming, or pair researching) exercises. I presented our “Intro to Free and Open Source Software” and our “Communications Tools” activities to students, who worked together and helped each other. Thanks to the Software Carpentry sticky-note method, Sumana and I were able to more easily find students who were really stuck.

two students work on an activity at Stony Brook event

After the communications tools activities, Sumana presented on learning styles. Drawing on the work of Mel Chua, she talked about the different ways that people learn and how certain kinds of learners might have special difficulty contributing to open source. Both Sumana and I have seen many a newcomer to open source assume that it’s their fault they’re not able to complete a task or understand a concept. Sumana discussed ways to overcome these issues, and the need for a diversity of learners in open source.

The final element of the evening was a career panel, where students asked question of Sumana, Red Hat’s Marina Zhurakhinskaya, and Mozilla’s Gregg Lind. Due to technical difficulties, it ended up being an IRC-based chat instead of a video discussion. Students asked a variety of questions, both expected (“How do you get paid?”) and unexpected (“How does open licensing work?”).

students at Stony Brook event


  • It’s not clear whether SUNY Stony Brook is an unusually great place for open source outreach, or if the nature of the shorter event attracted more people. Regardless, it was definitely the most impact we’ve had for the least amount of effort. We’re hoping to use this model for schools that can’t support a longer workshop, or as a “teaser” for communities that are not yet ready for a full Open Source Comes to Campus event.
  • Although these events can run with a small number of volunteers, it’s clear that those volunteers need to be trained and prepared. If you’re interested in leading a short event at a college – or other community group – near you, please contact us, and we’ll give you the support and training you’ll need to pull this off.
  • The difficulty scheduling a weekend event at Stony Brook has also pushed us to try running simultaneous events. This has by and large been successful, and something we’re planning to adopt going forward. More in a later post!

Thanks to Hanne Paine for organizing this event, to Sumana Harihareswara for helping present, and to Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Gregg Lind for joining us on the career panel. We can’t wait to return to Stony Brook in the fall!

laughing student at Stony Brook event

Teaching open source at Rutgers University

by Shauna April 17th, 2014

students at Rutgers OSCTC

On Monday, October 21st, we ran our seventeenth Open Source Comes to Campus event at Rutgers University.  We were invited to Rutgers by Sri Raga Velagapudi, who we met at Grace Hopper Open Source Day only two weeks before.  Myself, Sri, and Prachi Pendse, a CS graduate student, worked hard to pull off a great event on short notice.

This was our first weekday event, and unsurprisingly there were a lot of students coming and going as they fit the event in between classes. Despite being short-staffed (three staff and thirty students made for a 1:10 mentor:student ratio) we had little trouble keeping students caught up.  This was due in large part to the friendliness of the attendees, who often reached out to help students who were arriving late.  We also made use of the What You Missed wiki page.

The event was also shorter than average.  The time was mostly lost from our contributions workshop, the last activity of the day.  This meant that students were only able to get through the first steps of contributing, such as picking a project, and reading through an issue to understand it.  Students got a great deal out of these beginning steps, and did not seem to mind having to stop before they’d even decided what to work on.  This is an important lesson for events with longer workshops: students shouldn’t feel rushed or pushed to contribute, but encouraged to take their time familiarizing themselves the process.

We learned as much as our students did from this event!  We hope to return to Rutgers soon.