Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
The Thing You Garden
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2014 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
What are you making? And what are you metamaking? That is, what are you doing to, directly or indirectly, help other people create good things?
I keep thinking about Growstuff, my friend Alex "Skud" Bayley's startup and open data platform for food gardeners (interview). Skud has taught me a lot about open source communities and pitfalls and public collaboration over the past several years, not to mention the geek feminism work she's done.
This past summer I played Skud a bit and mentored Frances. She was already a better coder than me; I helped her grow as an engineer, as a Wikimedian, and as an open source contributor.
Now Skud is asking for AUD$20,000 to massively improve Growstuff's API, and if she gets that money, she can hire Frances to do the work.
I'm so proud that I've helped till some soil and plant some seeds, to make it possible for an open source, open data project to empower even more people. But we only have four days left in the campaign and we haven't even reached AUD$6,000 yet.
You might worry that Growstuff is just yet another vaporware project. Don't. Growstuff works. Federico Mena-Quintero, one of the founders of GNOME (one of the biggest open source projects in history), wrote this month:
Watch the video (below) or read the Growstuff blog to see why it's uniquely important to support. And please donate, for the garden we share.
Skud started coding Growstuff from scratch. I had never seen a project start from zero-lines-of-code, and be run in an agile fashion, for absolutely everything, and I must say: I am very impressed!
Every single feature runs through the same process: definition of a story, pair programming, integration. Newbies are encouraged to participate. They pair up with a more experienced developer, and they get mentored.
They did that even for the very basic skeleton of the web site: in the beginning there were stories for "the web site should display a footer with links to About and the FAQ", and "the web site should have a login form". I used to think that in order to have a collaboratively-developed project, one had to start with at least a basic skeleton, or a working prototype — Growstuff proved me wrong. By having a friendly, mentoring environment with a well-defined process, you can start from zero-lines-of-code and get excellent results quickly. The site has been fully operational for a couple of years now, and it is a great place to be.
Growstuff is about the friendliest project I have seen.