Today, with OpenHatch board members Mike Linksvayer and Deb Nicholson, I’m announcing that we’re winding down the organization.

Since 2009, thousands of people have been a part of, or been positively-impacted by, OpenHatch and our community. I’m proud of what we accomplished with so many enthusiastic volunteers and a small number of energetic paid staff at various times. Mike, Deb, and I haven’t been able to give OpenHatch the attention it needs to succeed over the past couple of years. We’re winding down the organization to acknowledge this truth.

To celebrate OpenHatch’s efforts, successes, and community, I’m throwing a party in Portland, OR, during this year’s PyCon! If you have fond memories of OpenHatch, I hope you’ll attend. At PyCon, over the years, we’ve run productive code sprints, seen inspiring talks, shared our own lessons-learned, and co-organized events to put our ideas into practice. The location is to-be-determined once I know how many people will attend. Please RSVP here and join me and others on Friday, May 19.

Looking back in gratitude

Of all the people involved in OpenHatch over the years, Shauna Gordon-McKeon deserves a special mention. In 2013, she took the lead role running the Open Source Comes to Campus event series, having first volunteered in 2012. Open Source Comes to Campus was the most successful thing OpenHatch did. There were 47 in-person events under her watch from 2013 through 2015, 13 of which were co-organized with women-in-computing groups. These events touched thousands of people in that time. I will be forever grateful for her tireless efforts and the incisive and optimistic way she questioned my assumptions.

I’m personally touched by all our enthusiastic fans and volunteers. You believed in us because we believed in you. OpenHatch has always been about empowering people to take control of technology. I am humbled by all the optimism, collaboration, inspiration that I’ve seen, and I know there’s so much more of it that I never got a chance to see. Thank you all for being so kind to each other.

If I can help you personally think about how to grow open source communities or diversity in free software, then drop me a line personally; I’ll happily volunteer time to help you, schedule permitting. I’m hopeful that this winding-down announcement will remind people of how much we can each achieve when we spend time growing the size and diversity of the the open source and free software community.

OpenHatch and the broader movement

OpenHatch was one part of a broader movement around improving diversity and inclusion in free software and software generally. As Mike, Deb, and I wind down this one organization, we’re heartened by those who push the movement forward. Three stories stand out in my memory.

In 2010 and 2011, Deb Nicholson and I agreed to organize the first Boston Python Workshop for women and their friends. The event came out of my desire to understand Railsbridge’s successes over 2009-2010 and translate it to Open Source Comes to Campus. Jessica McKellar, whom I met through the Twisted community, co-organized the event, and she quickly demonstrated that she deserved to run the event. In 2013, she became the PyCon Diversity Outreach Chair, where she still serves and delivers results that speak for themselves. Meanwhile, my talk about BPW at PyCon 2011 inspired Audrey Roy to found PyLadies. Today, PyLadies is an international mentorship organization with 64 locations all over the world.

In November 2014, Sean Lip volunteered at an Open Source Comes to Campus event at UC Berkeley. Toward the end of the event, students heard presentations from six open source projects. Sean presented Oppia, his open source project to host interactive online lessons for any topic, and I watched as nearly half the room volunteered to work with him. He told the room that he would make sure that every attendee could contribute usefully to his project, and I think this promise sealed the deal for many of his new volunteers. When he onboarded new contributors, he asked three key questions: What do you like about the Oppia project? What’s one skill you have? What’s one thing you want to get better at? I was impressed by how quickly Sean got to know his new contributors, and equally by his report that most of his new contributors were active volunteers many months later. I was impressed, so I did my best to incorporate these questions into a newcomer event at Debian’s yearly conference last year.

In 2015, Shauna Gordon-McKeon brought OpenHatch lessons back to PyCon by organizing an Introduction to Open Source & the PyCon Sprints. PyCon has always invited new people to join open source projects at the sprints. Historically, each participating project was responsible for onboarding its own newcomers. Shauna’s introductory event united newcomers with helpful volunteers independent of project, and it attracted nearly 100 attendees. The event has become a fixture at PyCon, and Shauna was able to deliver it again in 2016. At this year’s PyCon, Chalmer Lowe is delivering the introduction to the sprints; he attended Shauna’s event, and over the past year, he evolved it into a hands-on workshop.

I feel humbled to know that the organization’s vision and lessons live on in new ways, with new people.

What’s next for the organization

Given OpenHatch’s relative inactivity over the past two years, I believe that winding OpenHatch down is more efficient than performing a search for new board members. For me personally, I feel a need to focus less on free software and tech generally so I have more time for music, my own family connections, and non-software forms of political involvement. In the words of the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, my aim is to have the organization step down considerately.

Finances. Mike, Deb, and I are extraordinarily grateful for the donations and sponsorships that sustained our organization. We have come to the conclusion that the best use for our small amount of remaining money is to gracefully wind-down the organization, then donate the rest to Outreachy. Outreachy organizes diversity-seeking internships twice a year with a number of free software organizations, including 39 internships this summer alone. OpenHatch will cancel recurring donations effective today.

Programs. I’d love to find a new organizational home for Open Source Comes to Campus. If you’re interested, please send a two-sentence email to asheesh@asheesh.org with: (1) Your organization’s name or your name, and (2) What you see as a plausible accomplishment you might have in the first year of revived Open Source Comes to Campus. I’m hopeful that I can find the program a new life, share the lessons I’ve learned, and connect you with people who have run these events. Students still want to organize the events. For example, during April 2017, students City College of San Francisco worked to organize an open source comes to campus on their own, though they decided to defer it until the fall for now. You can step up to help groups like them.

Websites and software. OpenHatch has built and deployed a lot of software and websites, and I’d like to keep a copy online for as long as possible. The general strategy will be to move them to static website hosting, perhaps GitHub pages. I plan to do this myself, which may take me a few months. Specifically:

  • I’ll be working on disabling the dynamic features of the various OpenHatch websites. The code will continue to live on GitHub, but I’ll indicate that it’s not in active use. It’s already open source software.

  • I’ll snapshot all the dynamic websites, then retire them. I’ll aim to keep all content online or transition it to a new home with redirects. It might take a couple of months for me to get to everything.

  • As part of my decreased free software involvement, I am mostly retiring from IRC. I am looking for someone to be the owner of #openhatch for freenode’s records.

Finally, if you have any happy memories you want to send me, feel free to email them to asheesh@asheesh.org. I would be honored to read those stories at the party, and make a blog post collecting those stories, if you permit. If you need anything from me, I hope you’ll let me know. If I’ve forgotten some aspect of the wind-down and how it affects you, please drop me a line.

It’s been my honor to serve you all, learn from you, and work with all of you people reading this. Truly. I hope you’ll consider attending the party!

Asheesh Laroia.

Thanks to Britta Gustafson, Greg Price, Jim Garrison, Lisa Hewus Fresh, Mike Linksvayer, Nathan Yergler, Parker Phinney, Philip James, and Sumana Harihareswara for providing helpful feedback. Any errors are mine.

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