Open source is vital as it fosters collaboration, transparency, and innovation. Having worked in open source project named Glific for past three years, I’ve witnessed firsthand how it empowers individuals, social sector, and communities to create and share value, making it a cornerstone of modern technology. As they say, some of the most significant journeys in life often begin serendipitously, without any prior plans or intentions and my journey as C4GT(Community for Good Tech) mentor is a testament to this. To give a brief
C4GT is a community program with a unique focus: it aims to build a robust, long-term open-source community by connecting DPG (Digital Public Goods) organizations with a pool of talented contributors who can help address their problem statements.
The past two months as a mentor have been a whirlwind of learning, challenges, and achievements, and in this blog, I’ll be covering it all
Where It all began
My C4GT journey started quite unexpectedly, as it all began when I had a week off, and when I got back, I saw a number of new members on our Discord channel. These newcomers were flooding our server with questions, mostly related to code and setting up their projects on their own systems. While our Glific community on Discord is already quite active, with NGOs often seeking advice on using our platform effectively, this was something entirely different.
So I did the obvious thing as any person coming from vacation would do, mark all messages as seen and start the day fresh
I had a conversation with Shamoon who gave me a brief overview of what C4GT is and who these new members in our Discord server are. By this time, Lobo started interacting with these new member/potential contributors and was having daily calls with them at 10PM IST(I know its quite late), I used to occasionally join the call but didn’t spend much time as I was still absorbing what the fuzz is all about and was getting up to date with things after being away for a week
For C4GT we submitted 3 projects from Glific, for whom C4GT contributors can submit proposals which we need to shortlist later on. After 2 weeks of interaction, we had 20 proposals submitted for 3 projects. Next, we went through the proposals and shortlisted 10 students for next round, which was interviews. Through interviews we shortlisted 7 people who looked promising. But there was a restriction from C4GT that we can only select one person per project but we can work with other contributors outside C4GT so we decided to select all 7 shortlisted candidates and extend same offer. We then announced the results in our discord server
As Glific has split tech architecture where front end and backend has separate repository and are managed separately, Among the seven contributors, four were dedicated to the backend, and three focused on the frontend. My role as a mentor was primarily to guide and support the four contributors working on the backend. Additionally, within the broader Tech4Dev initiative, where Glific resides, we welcomed a new team member, Amisha Bisht who joined as a backend developer. This bumped the number for me to mentor a total of five individuals on the backend.
Becoming a mentor in the C4GT program was a significant step up. It wasn’t just about contributing to our open-source projects anymore; it was about guiding and supporting others on their journeys. It brought a different perspective altogether as now I have to explain the code we wrote is last 3 years at Glific to these new contributors, and many time while explaining the code to them we can see the code we wrote was garbage, so we ourself have to come to acceptance and suggest how it can be improved and many times it was these new contributors that share with us that the old code was not that efficient.
One of the most profound learnings was understanding the diverse backgrounds and motivations they have as each of them had a unique perspective, set of skills, and goals.
All of them are motivated and exceptionally skilled and just needed a little guidance but there isn’t one-size-fits-all approach. But one thing is for sure you have to give them time to listen to their problem/approach and guide them and they’ll flourish.
We’ve made a lot of progress in the past two months, including new feature releases, bug fixes, and documentation improvements. Kudos to all of the contributors and a special thank you to C4GT(Community for Good Tech).
We have merged a total of 45 Pull requests into the Glific codebase and closed a total of 42 backend issues by the four C4GT contributors.
Among the several releases we made over this period, here is a snippet of two big releases we rolled out.
Mentoring a team was serious step up and consisted of juggling act of balancing there are enough work by breaking down issues into small sub-tasks and ensuring they were progressing in their respective tasks. Few takeways would be:
1. As the contributors are college students and for most this will be first big project, so they will be needing handholding for first few weeks to get familiar with eco-system and codebase
2. Daily standups helps in keeping track of their progress and also ensuring they are not spending too much time stuck in one problem.
3. Each task should be broken down into smaller tasks so its easy for them to contribute and also will be good moral boost to have these small victories.
4. Mentor’s productivity would go down as most of our time will be spent get on calls with them to help them code, explaining them issues and codebase and breaking down issues and managing everything. These things may affect project in short term but will be worth it in long term and help in fostering open source ecosystem
This two month journey came to conclusion on 6th September, 2023 where each selected C4GT contributor presented their work in endpoint evaluation. For the the remaining C4GT contributors which we selected from Tech4Dev, we had internal endpoint evaluation where we invited Tech4Dev team to be their evaluator as they present their work
We were also invited for felicitation ceremony in the inaugural edition of DPG Dialogues in Delhi.
At last I would say my journey as a C4GT mentor has been nothing short of transformative. It has not only deepened my appreciation for open source but also allowed me to be part of a thriving community of changemakers. The experience of mentoring four remarkable individuals has reinforced the belief that knowledge-sharing and collaboration are the just as import as coding for the larger ecosystem