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The power of community in DevOps

DevOps 32,400 views
Posted Thursday, June 01, 2017 by RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

The power of community in DevOps
We interviewed Jason Hand, a DevOps evangelist for for VictorOps, to learn about how much the community surrounding a technology can be either a supreme advantage over your competitors or the hindrance that will bring your project to a screeching halt. Collaboration can be a double edged sword and requires a constant effort on all fronts to prove successful. Like a cog in the machine that is development, if one cog fails to operate efficiently it can cause the whole machine to fail. Here's what Jason had to say about the subject:

ADM: What is the value of community for DevOps?


Hand: Changing existing culture is one of the hardest things to do, despite its potential to help deliver on the all promises of speed and agility DevOps offers. No matter what changes a team can implement, the move towards DevOps often comes to a halt once they realize it requires a change in culture.

This is where the value of community comes in, by fostering development of a more open, collaborative culture within teams and in the larger organization as a whole. Companies like Sauce Labs with their own open source projects such as Selenium, help drive this mindset from within and outside of the organization by tapping into this sense of community-based collaboration - a sense of collaboration that is key to DevOps.

ADM: What key benefits and potential obstacles are there with having a community around a technology?


Hand: The biggest advantage is the diversity you have around a project. A community brings people with different backgrounds, skill sets and perspectives together towards a single vision. Some members may excel at documentation, others may enjoy looking for bugs - individual strengths all contribute to a project's improvement.

In terms of potential obstacles, you can't overlook the human element in terms of how people handle conflict, being assigned work and more. These are all human factors that sometimes aren't considered until much later when problems arise. The open source community does a great job by having leaders come together for the Community Leadership Summit every year the weekend before OSCON to discuss solving problems around metrics, health and trends before they turn into issues that can harm people in the community.

ADM: What are the biggest lessons the open source movement has proven around the power of community in tech?


Hand: The open source movement proves when people have real transparency into a project and the ability to contribute to it, the impact can be huge. We've seen that there is a ton of altruism out there as people are contributing towards common open source projects. When companies have open source projects and invite community members to make it better, it helps to evolve the software to the benefit of not only the company, but more importantly to the users and community members.

ADM: Is open source fueled more by the community, or more by large, corporate-sponsored projects, such as Dr. Elephant (LinkedIn), Google (Kubernetes), etc.?


Hand: I think it's a good mix of the two rather than one or the other. There is a lot of effort for example, by Google on Kubernetes. There are also a lot of people who are excited by what Kubernetes is trying to offer, so they want to contribute and help guide its direction.

Companies know they can't use open source contributors as a labor pool, and people who are excited about a project want to help contribute to its evolution because they are genuinely excited by it.

ADM: How important do you feel user conferences, or large partner events are to vendors and their communities, and why?


Hand: User conferences are hugely important, but their value depends on the stage of the company, its user base, and the questions and problems they are trying to solve together. Chef is a perfect example that does user conferences extremely well. It helps to bring together vendors and partners to show true collaboration and the existence of a mini-movement around a technology. Community members have an opportunity to rally, have their voices heard and take part in knowledge transfer.
Jason Hand
Jason Hand, DevOps Evangelist for VictorOps

ADM: What is ChatOps? What impact has it had on DevOps as a practice?


Hand: ChatOps is an approach that helps IT teams collaborate and perform daily actions using a group chat tool like Slack, for example. A team can easily collaborate and manage aspects of their infrastructure, code and organizational functions all from a chat client that everyone has transparency and access to. The team is able to leverage the group chat as an interface to speed up tasks and free up valuable time.

ChatOps helps communities and organizations work towards DevOps by integrating tools, as well as leverage feedback and valuable information via constant sharing. This helps promote a collaborative culture within the team via the familiarity of a group chat. Platforms like VictorOps help ensure that the right people on a team know when there's a problem and that they have the information and tools they need to quickly solve it.

ADM: Tell us a little about what you plan to cover in your keynote at the Sauce Labs SauceCon event?


Hand: I'm looking forward to my talk at SauceCon which will discuss how cognitive bias is often overlooked in our day-to-day activities in building software. For the most part, we all produce predictable problems and flaws. And we all have a natural tendency to rely on mental shortcuts when we approach problem solving, but does it impacts our work. The goal of this talk is to improve the ability to identify and understand errors in judgement and choice in the tech community.

About Jason Hand


As the DevOps Evangelist for VictorOps, Jason has spent the last 3 years presenting and writing and building content on a number of DevOps topics such as Post-mortems, ChatOps, Monitoring & Alerting, Cognitive Bias, and the value of context within incident management. A frequent speaker at industry conferences and events around the country, Jason enjoys talking to audiences large and small on a variety of technical and non-technical subjects.




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