I’m writing to announce three big changes for the project. First, OpenHatch is changing its organizational structure to reflect our not-for-profit goals. Second, we’ll emphasize our new work beyond the website, building and promoting outreach events that bring new people into the free software community. Finally, I am taking a year to do that full-time as the project lead of OpenHatch in Somerville, MA.
Transitioning to a non-profit
The front page of the website shows our current mission:
Free, open source software loses tons of prospective contributors because it is difficult to learn how and where you can fit in.
OpenHatch is an open source community aiming to help newcomers find their way into free software projects.
We work toward this goal through this website and outreach events.
OpenHatch was originally founded as a for-profit corporation. This transition to a not-for-profit will bring the legal entity in line with what we have been focusing on.
The website and our outreach events have been a community effort ever since the site launched. The code behind the website has always been free software. We have been holding open conversations on our development list and IRC channel. We’ll keep doing all those things. (As always, if you want to participate, you’re invited to our weekly development meetings!)
Right now, the non-profit organizational structure is a goal, not a reality. In the immediate future, we aim to find a fiscal sponsor to help us take donations, and as this year moves forward, we will be working to establish OpenHatch as a non-profit of its own. We hope to raise enough funds through donation and sponsorship to hire an employee in a year or so.
Outreach events, both on-line and in-person
We believe outreach is essential to grow the free software community. Historically, free software has relied on self-identification and word-of-mouth to turn users into contributors. The result is a community that grows slower than it could, both in numbers and in diversity. Humanity as a whole is an under-reached population.
In the past year, we have worked on three new programs to address this:
- Through the Boston Python Workshop, we’ve brought more gender diversity to the Boston Python Meetup group. This received a warm reception at PyCon and led to the creation of many similar diversity outreach efforts around the world. Jessica McKellar (jesstess) has taken the lead on continuing this effort. It has introduced programming to over one hundred students, the vast majority of whom are women.
- We organized IRC-based tutorials for new contributors to join free software projects. We called these “Build It,” and two projects participated. They directly led to bugs being closed in one of those projects, Vidalia. Moreover, the success of the event inspired Debian Women to organize its own Build It event.
- In September 2010 we organized an introduction to the world of open source for students at the University of Pennsylvania. From this event, we learned about the huge unmet enthusiasm for learning how to participate in the free software community among undergraduates.
Shortly, we will be announcing the next iteration of the university outreach project, bringing open source community members onto campus to grow the community through face-to-face events.
Many free software projects are already running their own excellent outreach events. OpenHatch has always emphasized bringing new contributors to existing communities; with the new focus on events, we will aggregate those events into a universal free software outreach calendar.
Asheesh as full-time project lead
Personally, I want everyone to have the opportunity to shape the software they use on a daily basis. Dedicating the next year to OpenHatch is the best way I see to make that a reality.
This work is too urgent to wait, so I’ll be self-funded for a year as we build up the new organization.
The true force behind OpenHatch has been the collective of volunteers that share a passion for our mission. The OpenHatch website is nearly two years old, and we are lucky to have had twenty-seven contributors to the codebase in that time. Our outreach events have prospered here in Boston and inspired similar efforts around the world. We’re going to continue to operate as a loose volunteer collective, supported by discussion on mailing lists like Devel and Events and our IRC channel.
Okay, that’s it for announcements. I’m excited about spending the next year on OpenHatch without distractions!