Friday, August 9, 2019 - 05:44
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In early July we announced that the contributor log as we know it would come to an end, replaced by time tracking in Gitlab (the official cutover day is August 15, by the way). And, shortly thereafter, we began a discussion within the Core Team about how we manage, track and value contributions to the project. We’ve also been discussing with various stakeholders how CiviCRM is funded, and invariably we end up reviewing both financial support and in-kind contributions.

Fast forward to yesterday and, as I was drinking my morning coffee, I noticed a task on my tasklist to write up a reminder of the impending doom… errr… transition to Gitlab. After reviewing the rest of my objectives for the day, I set out to reading my Google news feed, which interestingly always contains an inordinate amount of articles about Donald Trump and Brexit even though I flag them as not of interest to me. Must be some Google conspiracy. But I digress. 

So, there I was, scrolling through my news feed and an article popped up from the Joomla community entitled Joomla, we have a problem. Expecting to read about some sort of implosion in Joomla-land, I naturally clicked on it only to find a very brief piece about how they have struggled to ‘manage’ and recognize volunteer contributors. The first two lines read:

All volunteer communities have to address the same issues at some point. How to recognise the work of volunteers? How to acknowledge their contributions? Joomla is no different. For 14 years we've faced these issues without finding an answer.

Wow! Here we are working through the same issue and planning an adjustment to how we track contributions, and yet realistically many of the underlying challenges we want to solve may not be addressed. To see another project, one as awesome as Joomla, struggling and admitting that they don’t know the best answer is both refreshing and disheartening.

Joomla lays out several questions that we too struggle with:

  • How do we ensure that every contributor feels valued?

  • How do we attract new contributors?

  • How do we avoid excessive workloads, and reduce the danger of burn out?

  • How do we make it fun for everyone to work together?

The fact is, these are really challenging questions because if we get them wrong, then odds are really good that we’re going to demoralize someone that wants to contribute. What makes them tricky is that we all give for different reasons; some want recognition whereas others want to avoid the spotlight. Some track their work, others don’t. Some don’t track their work but want recognition. Some track their work but don’t care about acknowledgement. Some give a ton to CiviCRM and no one really knows how much. Some give, but don’t feel like recording their time on Some only really work in Github. The list goes on.

Whenever we consider updating the contributor ‘program’ we run through these questions and more. Sometimes, like when we announce changes such as switching to Gitlab for time tracking, we are asked “why track contributions at all?”  It’s a fair question because, after all, tracking contributions is imperfect at best. 

As the CiviCRM Core Team, we do want to know who is contributing what, when and why, if for no other reason than to be in a better position to show appreciation. Contributions come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s impossible for any one person to know all that’s come into the project. By tracking contributions, even if it’s a small number that are reported, we’re at least slightly better off in our understanding of who’s contributing.

We sympathize with Joomla and with all open source projects that have attempted to ‘value’ contributions. It’s really tough to do well and in a standard way. Nonetheless, in our view, it’s vital that we understand and acknowledge in some way those that give to keep CiviCRM going. 

What’s the takeaway here?

First, we’re moving forward with tracking time in Gitlab, and the cutover from the current contributor log will be on August 15. 

Finally, we want to thank everyone that gives to CiviCRM. It’s very challenging to properly value everyone’s support, and I’m sure we’ve missed more than a few opportunities to do so. However, we're grateful to everyone that contributes to make CiviCRM what it is.

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