Onboarding new contributors is incredibly important in any open source project and particularly one as large as OpenStack. There’s a constant flow of people joining the community and some moving on to other endeavors. The best way to maintain a healthy community is to educate newcomers and give them the tools they need to become effective contributors. One of ways OpenStack does this is through the day-and-a-half long Upstream Institute Training offered prior to each OpenStack Summit.
For the Boston Summit, we transformed Upstream Institute (previously called Upstream University) to be more hands-on and exercise-based rather than the lecture-heavy format it was previously. Between the Barcelona and Boston Summits, we doubled the number of exercises in the modules to increase the amount of student involvement in the material and give them a better grasp on what it’s like to work in the community.
We’ve also created a dedicated Upstream Institute team, a group of project liaisons and more communication between the trainers both on IRC and the mailing lists. The dedicated team now has their own IRC channel, regular meetings and a dev mailing list tag to foster communication across the time zones. Project liaisons help support the Upstream Institute team by participating in preparations, attending the training and guiding new contributors after the training. These changes have done a lot to enhance and grow the upstream training, which is why we gave it a fresh new name: Upstream Institute.
Boston brought a group of over 40 students from more than 20 different companies eager to start working on OpenStack. Across the day-and-a-half training, students did more than 20 exercises to help them learn the tools and practices that fully fledged community members use every day. They learned about the governance model, the release cycles, the many ways to communicate with the community, what events happen each year, and what tools we use for task tracking, pushing and reviewing code before diving deeper with some of our trainers.
What’s next: OpenStack Days, OPNFV Summit in Beijing
With Upstream Institute’s new format tested in Boston, the next goal is reaching more people than just Summit attendees. Currently, we only hold the training twice a year––right before each Summit. To grow our audience, we’re partnering with other open source organizations to host training sessions globally. For example, with the Linux Foundation, we’ll be hosting Upstream Institute at the upcoming OPNFV Summit this June 12-15 in Beijing, China.
We have also been asked to adapt the training for some of the OpenStack Days events happening later this year. We would love to see you there as a trainer or as a student!
After the training at the beginning of the Summit week, the Upstream Institute team met for an in depth retrospective that has continued during our weekly meetings. We’ve discussed content improvements, new exercises, and incentivizing student participation. We sent out a survey to students after the training and are looking forward to seeing their responses!
If you are interested in getting involved with Upstream Institute we hold weekly meetings at 20:00 UTC on Mondays n #openstack-meeting-3 and hang out in the #openstack-upstream-institute channel in between meetings.
Kendall Nelson is an upstream developer advocate at the OpenStack Foundation.
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