Herding Code 172: Nik Molnar on Running an Open Source Project

At NDC, Jon and K Scott talked to Nik Molnar about what he’s learned about running an open source project from his experiences with Glimpse.

Download: Herding Code 172: Nik Molnar on Running an Open Source Project

Show Notes:

  • Running an open source project
    • (00:35) Nik says he’s writing the guide he wishes he’d had a few years ago.
    • (01:06) K Scott asks him for one big thing he’s learned. Nik talks about the importance of public communication.
    • (01:36) Jon mentions the difference between open source code and open source projects, and Nik mentions some of the different documented governance models for open source projects, citing OSS Watch and YUI. This helps
    • (03:15) K Scott asks if Glimpse presents unique challenges because there’s a plugin ecosystem. Nik says they used to just see code contributors and plugin authors, but now he sees contributors with a much broader perspective, citing Peter Hahndorf’s documentation contributions.
    • (4:54) Jon asks Nik how he defines success for an open source project. Nik says it depends on the project founder’s goals. He says project popularity isn’t important to him personally, it’s helping users.
    • (5:50) K Scott asks Nik about his slide that says Avoid Bikeshedding. Nik explains Parkinson’s law of triviality and how it affects open source.
    • (08:58) Jon asks Nik if he thinks roadmaps are important. Nik says this an important part of the public communication he mentioned earlier. Jon says he’s found that involving people in decisions that will affect them early really important for any kind of project, open source or not. Nik explains how this is handled in the meritocratic model.
  • Cooking’s like programming
    • (11:12) K Scott asks Nik about the latest big dish he’s prepared.
    • (12:45) Nik talks about the parallels between programming and cooking – both have rules that must be followed, but a lot of room for creativity.
    • (13:35) Jon talks about a professional chef textbook he got from the library (Nik tells him it’s from the Culinary Institute of America). Jon says he saw some parallels between things like food sanitation and source control – you need to start with fundamentals, but then you can apply them in creative ways. Nik describes some further parallels: cooking math and resourcing, the kitchen brigade system and project management.
    • (15:12) Nik talks about the ALT.NET of cooking and the focus on basic, classic skills.
  • What’s next
    • (16:08) K Scott asks Nik about what’s next for him. Nik talks about their latest release and the Heads Up Display. He talks about how simplified web publishing has led to a big increase in documentation contributions. K Scott raves about the UI design.
    • (18:45) Jon asks what’s new with semantic versioning since they last talked.
    • (19:18) Jon asks what’s next for Glimpse. Nik says it’ll be decided by the community, but he’s expecting they’ll want Web API support.

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