Drupal Mountain Camp 2019

  • Lukas Kahwe Smith

Drupal Mountain Camp also covered topics like open source sustainability and diversity&inclusion.

I was invited to join a panel discussion on open source as well as giving a talk about diversity&inclusion at Drupal Mountain Camp which I gladly accepted. I brought the entire family along to enjoy the mountain scene together, however this meant that my time at the conference was somewhat limited but I did enjoy lots of interesting discussions on the "hallway track" on Saturday afternoon.

The open source panel turned out to be a very interesting discussion. We covered topics around how we personally deal with juggeling open source with work and private life. The good news is that at least among the panelists a fair amount of open source involvement is done as part of paid work hours. However it is still tricky to make customer realize the long term benefits of getting code for their project released as open source by getting code reviewed and new features and updates via the community. As as a result companies still often offer discounts or other incentives to get permissions to release code as open source. At Liip we have a general provision in our contracts that permits us to release non customer specific code as open source but often we end up doing the work of open sourcing outside of the project budget.

In order to sustain open source we also talked about how to get new people into open source specifically by getting more people to do open source at work. I noted that given the lack of diversity in open source, which is actually worse than in the proprietary world, the main thing to do is to adress the issues on that front (more on that in my talk about diversity&inclusion)!

We also discussed out to especially get the public sector to use open source more. We noted the increasing hurdles like ISO certifications but also the lack of lobbying to compete with commercial sales pitches. At the same time its clear that for citizens there is a big advantage to using open source: no long terms lock-in to pay high license fees, possibilities for inter-cantonal collaboration, more control over the data and business logic to enforce Swiss privacy laws and more money staying in Switzerland rather than getting scooped up by foreign multi nationals. We need more open source advocactes to help bridge this knowledge cap in the public sector!

In my keynote talk Diversity & Inclusion: Why and How? I had to opportunity to talk to a packed room albeit with a slightly tired audience that already had multiple days of talks under their belt. Still I was happy to see so many people choose not to head home early to avoid getting stuck in traffic on the way home. I started the talk with running the video of the racist soap dispenser. The key point I wanted to make is that while the engineers that created this soap dispenser are probaly not racist, the machine they built is. So when people get pointed out that something they did offended someone, do not get defensive as we well make mistakes, simply "listen, learn, move on". I also gave a very concrete examples from the Symfony community where we also screwed up. I then covered several key terms like "diversity", "inclusion", "social priviledge", "equity" and "cognitive biases".

Cognitive biases deserve particilar attention. They are essentially mental shortcuts that keeps us on a safe path rather than exploring the benefits of new ideas, which are key for innovation. Additionally cognitive biases push us to rationalize favoring less diversity. In contast being exposed to more diversity helps us challenge those mental shortcuts and thereby help giving innovative thinking more opportunity. In this spirit diversity isn't about comfort, indeed being faced with different ideas can be quite uncomforable. I wrapped up my talk with lots of practical examples of how we can work towards diversity and inclusion by doing small changes in our behavior. I challenged the audience to try and pick at least one or two items from the list to implement right away. The video recording will soon be published in the mean time have a look at the slides.

I would like to thank the Drupal Mountain Camp for organizing this event in such a scenic location and giving space for these important topics.


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