Contributing to practice and research – experience with the engaged scholarship research method

With Sarah Conway from the Linux Foundation, I published a contributed blog post in The New Stack. We wrote about the CHAOSS D&I Working Group’s history, present, and future.

What is the relevance of this blog post? Obviously, writing about the CHAOSS D&I Working Group is publicity for the work we do. Obviously, writing about how the working group operates and what goals it has makes it easier to onboard people. Obviously, getting a blog post accepted makes me happy. However, the relevance of this blog post goes beyond what is obvious.

Not so obvious is why I initially wrote the blog post. I wrote the text as a section for my dissertation. The CHAOSS D&I Working Group has been my field site for studying how metrics for open source project health are created. I needed to describe the work of the CHAOSS D&I Working Group for the dissertation to tell the full story. Once I had a draft of the story, I found the text to be a nice summary and thought it was worth sharing with the CHAOSS D&I Working Group. Another reason for me to share the text was to make sure I did not forget or misrepresent anything – this is called member checking and increases the validity of my research.

After sharing the text with the CHAOSS D&I Working Group, the text in the dissertation and the text that is now the blog post evolved differently. Sarah extended and revised the blog post to make it more attractive to the audience of The New Stack. Meanwhile, I merged the text in my dissertation with findings from interviews to tell a more focused story for my theoretical discussion. Core elements in both versions still exist, the screenshots that show the CHAOSS D&I Working Group work, for example, but they have different foci and purposes within the blog post and dissertation.

To me, the background behind of the blog post demonstrates the double benefit that researchers provide when they engage with professionals on the subject that they study. I find it very rewarding to be providing value to a community of practice while doing research. I am very glad that I learned how to do engaged scholarship research during my Ph.D.

Seeking my Next Adventure

My time as a PhD student is coming to an end and I’m ready to move into a full-time role at a company around August. TL;DR is included with more details below.


What I’m looking for in my next adventure:

  • Open source focus
  • Building communities
  • Remote work + travel

What I’ve been doing (resume):

  • Engaging and empowering contributors
  • Optimizing communities & contributions (CHAOSS)
  • Public Speaking and open source evangelism (Talks)
  • Instructing and training

You can contact me at

Now for the longer version and more details what I am searching for in my next adventure …

I am finishing my Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I enjoyed my time in academia and especially when paired with industry experience. I am now seeking a new adventure in industry and would like to start around August.

I am looking for a remote position to work from Omaha, Nebraska. I founded a family there and want to nurture our roots as a legal permanent resident. I have a dedicated home office and live 20 minutes from an airport with excellent connections to anywhere in the world.

My primary job criteria is that I continue to work in open source. I have ten years experience in open source and focused my 4-year Ph.D. program on how organizations engage with open source projects. I co-founded the Linux Foundation CHAOSS Project to foster industry collaboration for better understanding open source project health. I strategically steered the project as a Governing Board member, tactically fostered a community as a maintainer, and operationally created content as a contributor. I made many friends across organizations and projects and want to continue working with these amazing people.

As part of my employment, I would like to continue giving talks at conferences and connecting with people face to face. Conferences I like to travel to and present at include Linux Foundation events, CHAOSScon, FOSDEM, and SustainOSS.

You can contact me at

Here are a few links with examples of my work and more details about my past experience:

Idea: Sustainable Best Practices Badge ?

TL;DR The idea is to establish a checklist of best practices for sustainable open source communities. We could follow the same model that the CII Best Practices Badge has for security best practices. Communities voluntarily sign up to achieve a badge and provide public evidence for following sustainable best practices. The Sustainable Best Practices Badge application tracks this information, serves as a place for checking the status of a community’s badge, and provides badges that communities can display on their repositories, websites, blogs, newsletters, and marketing material. With wide adoption, this badge becomes a quality signal for open source communities. Foremost, the badge serves as a checklist for communities to review their practices and improve where necessary.


Open source communities have no uniform way to signal that they are sustainable. An observer has many different signals to look for, for example: What is the bus factor? How is the community financed? How diverse are the contributors? Are there security policies? Is there a code of conduct?

Communities want to signal that they are sustainable because it attracts users, developers, designers, translators, advertisers, and in short new contributors. Users need to know they can count on the community to support an open source software long term. Especially, corporate users face risks when an open source software to go unmaintained after it was integrated in their innovation stream, product development, and service offering. Contributors want to contribute to a community that is welcoming, values their contributions, and serve as a credential on their open source resume. In short, all stakeholder incentives align to benefit from signals about the sustainability of open source communities.

We, as the open source ecosystem are lacking a reliable way to signal the sustainability of an open source community. We may look at the size of a community, what companies are backing it, whether it has a code of conduct, how active the members are, when the last release was, or whether it gets positive press coverage. Sustainability is a many-sided problem and to date, only one-sided solutions exist.

Existing Work

We have a Sustainer Manifesto with principles that sustainers believe in (Adam Jacob’s established similar principles). However, these principles need to be translated into specific actions and best practices.

Academic research has not identified what best practices make an open source community sustainable. Researchers report that communities have a variety of different governance models and establish their own practices. Tracking various metrics to predict whether a project will be sustainable and continues to be active in the future yielded inconclusive findings. Many of these studies were conducted with but GitHub is now the norm. These older studies are also unable to speak to the new reality considering the recent influx of corporate community members. In short, research does not have an answer but rather poses many unanswered questions.

Several resources exist for open source communities to learn about sustainability issues and how to address them. These are based on anecdotal evidence.

Incomplete list in alphabetical order by author first name:

The problem with these resources is that they are input for communities but do not translate into signals for observers to know whether a community is sustainable.

The CHAOSS project collects different metrics for assessing open source communities. The problem is that as an observer, who is not part of a community, data for metrics can be difficult to collect. CHAOSS is useful for communities to figure out how to measure themselves and prepare metrics as signals for outsiders. CHAOSS is addressing the problem that communities signal in inconsistent ways and thus observers have no baseline for comparison.

The CII Best Practices Badge advanced security practices in open source. Communities can self-certify to follow security best practices from a checklist and have to provide public evidence. Many communities report having changed their practices in an attempt to earn the badge. As a reward, communities can display the badge to signal that they follow security best practices.

Sustainable Best Practices Badge

The idea is to combine the above existing work. We borrow the idea from the CII Best Practices Badge and create a checklist of sustainable best practices. We may even fork the web app that CII developed. We derive best practices from the resources available today and common sense. We vet the list of best practices through a community review process with long-standing members of the open source ecosystem. We use CHAOSS metrics to measure outcomes from appropriate best practices and provide evidence. We follow a scientific approach to track which best practices are more indicative of sustainable communities.

Each Sustainable Best Practice has to be actionable for communities to implement them. The checklist serves as a tracker of how many best practices a community is already following. A sustainable community may have little to change to check all best practices and earn a badge.

Communities can use the Sustainable Best Practice Badge to signal that they are following these best practices. This is not a guarantee that a community is indeed sustainable. A checklist cannot eliminate all risks and danger. However, airplane safety has improved thanks to checklists pilots go through before every flight. Similarly, communities can be more sustainable if regularly checking that they are following known sustainable best practices.

Communities have an incentive to earn a Sustainable Best Practices Badge because of the signal it provides and because it helps them establish proven practices.

I am putting this idea forward for discussion and would love to hear feedback, criticism, support, and suggestions on the SustainOSS forum.


While the idea for a Sustainable Best Practices is mine, it is shaped by conversations at the Sustain Summit, metrics work in the CHAOSS project, co-authoring the Sustainer Manifesto with Justin Dofman, and a Twitter thread with Adam Jacobs. This proposal is based on my own experience. In the spirit of transparency, I will declare my involvement. I co-authored the paper on why we need more research into open source. I co-founded the CHAOSS project and am a member of its Governing Board. I translated the CII Best Practices Badge to German and participated in the discussion for adding silver and gold badges. I know there is more work out there and I look forward to the conversation this blog post hopes to start.

Verkehrter Verkehr

Es passiert noch immer, dass ich in entgegenkommende Wanderer laufe. Warum, weil ich rechts gehe und sie links. Dass der Verkehr in Neuseeland auf der linken Seite ist, verwirrt mich beim Wandern mehr als beim Autofahren.

Aber nicht erst in Neuseeland begegnete ich dem Linksverkehr. Schon in Singapur waren die Laufbänder auf dem Flughafen „verkehrt herum“. Auch in der Stadt lief ich immer wieder zu den falschen Rolltreppen und stieß gelegentlich mit anderen Passanten zusammen.

Rollbaender auf Flughafen in Singabpur

Rollbaender auf Flughafen in Singabpur

Weil alles mit Linksverkehr funktioniert, wird auch so gewandert, was zu den ungewollten Rempeleien führt. Mittlerweile werde ich besser, aber gelegentlich verfalle ich in die alte Gewohnheit des Rechtsverkehrs. Insbesondere dann, wenn ich begeistert die Umgebung in mich aufnehme und gedanklich darin versinke.

Ich beim Wandern im Regenwald

Ich beim Wandern im Regenwald

Als ich das erste Mal mit dem Auto auf Neuseeländischen Straßen gefahren bin, war ich so sehr mit dem neuen Auto beschäftigt, dass ich den Linksverkehr vergaß. Zum Glück saß Oliver neben mir und schrie entsetzt auf, dass ich im Gegenverkehr fahre. Das ist mir seit dem noch ein paar mal passiert, zum Glück immer mit Beifahrern, die mich ermahnten. Wenn ich dann erst einmal am Fahren bin, dann ist es auch gar nicht mehr so schwer. Auch wunderschöne Landschaften und atemberaubende Aussichten bringen mich dann nicht mehr durcheinander. Damit ihr wisst, was ich meine, hier ein paar Bilder…

Linksverkehr durch die Berge

Linksverkehr durch die Berge


Roadtrip nach Chicago

Es sind Fühlingsferien (Spring Break). Das heißt, ich habe nächste Woche keine Vorlesungen. Die perfekte Zeit einmal weg zu fahren. Mit einer kleinen Gruppe zuerst nach Chicago und dann alleine mit dem Bus weiter nach Pennsylvania, meine ehemalige Gastfamilie dort besuchen.

Am Freitag früh haben wir uns an der Uni getroffen. Morgan hat noch bis 9 Uhr gearbeitet. Um 10 Uhr sind wir mit ihrem Auto in Omaha gestartet.

Verena, Morgan, ich und Rubenia. Kurz vor der Abfahrt auf dem Platz vor der Mammel Hall.

Verena, Morgan, ich und Rubenia. Kurz vor der Abfahrt auf dem Platz vor der Mammel Hall.

Auf dem Weg haben wir in DesMoin eine kleine Rast eingelegt und zu Mittag gegessen. Um die amerikanische Kultur intensiver zu erleben, haben wir uns dazu entschieden in einem Familienrestaurant (Mam and Pap Restaurants) zu speisen. Für einen guten Preis haben wir riesige Portionen bekommen.

02_Rast in DesMoin

Nach einer Gesamtreisedauer von ca. 9 Stunden waren wir endlich in Chicago. Als Heimatbasis unserer Ausflüge haben wir einen Couchsurfer gefunden der uns bereitwillig aufnahm. Seine Wohnung ist der Hammer. Im 20. Stock über Chicago mit Blick raus auf den Michigansee.

03_Blick auf See

Zum Abendessen wollten wir eine Spezialität für Chicago essen: Deep Dish Pizza. Während wir auf die Bestellung warteten, waren wir in einem Weinladen damit die anderen sich einen schönen Wein zum Abendessen aussuchen konnten. Rubenia und ich sind noch ein bisschen durch die Stadt gelaufen und haben lustige Bilder gemacht, dann haben wir die Pizza abgeholt und haben mit den anderen zu Abend gegessen.


Lustige Bilder in der Nacht in Chicago. Rubenia und ich.

Lustige Bilder in der Nacht in Chicago. Rubenia und ich.

Deep Dish Pizza. Rubenia, Brian unser Gastgeber, ich und Verena.

Deep Dish Pizza. Rubenia, Brian unser Gastgeber, ich und Verena.

Zum Ausklang des Abends sind wir noch ein eine Lounge gegangen in der Karaoke-Abend war.