GNOME Foundation Hackfest 2018

Last year, I proposed that the GNOME Foundation Board and employees have a hackfest in order to build out a more strategic and expansive budget, and in order to work on initiatives like restructuring board and committee relationships. We found the hackfest to be really useful, so decided to have another hackfest this year at the beginning of our fiscal year.

This year’s hackfest was held in Cambridge, UK because four out of the nine people attending lived in the UK, and two lived in Cambridge. As with last year, we met for three days, from October 17th to October 19th. Collabora kindly allowed us to use one of their beautiful conference rooms for our hackfest, and Kat helped make sure that we were well-fed and felt at home there.

While we were at the hackfest, Robert McQueen posted about what we worked on and accomplished, and I highly encourage you to check it out: Foundation Hackfest 2018 – By Rob McQueen. In this post, I won’t repeat what he said, but instead will talk about a few of the things I spent time hacking on.


GNOME Travel Policy

One of the things that I’m personally eager to improve at GNOME is diversity in all its forms, and I think that changing the travel policy can help us do this. This may not seem like the most intuitive thing right off the bat (how does our travel policy affect diversity within GNOME?), but in-person events are incredibly powerful as a vehicle for motivating current contributors and connecting the dots on a newcomer’s journey to contribute more regularly. I myself am an example of how someone who was lurking on a mailing list became an active contributor after their first GUADEC.

If we see events as catalysts for contributions (both conferences and hackfests alike), it makes sense that our travel policy can be used to affect who contributes to the project, and by extension, affects the diversity of our project.

Here are a few examples of how the travel policy can affect diversity:

  • Funding people who normally can’t afford to go to events brings more voices to the table. Unfortunately, covering just flight and hotel is not enough for some people (food away from home and transportation can be prohibitively expensive!). How can we better support community members who have the most need of financial assistance?

  • Most of GNOME’s hackfests and conferences are in Europe and the US, and perhaps as a result, most of GNOME’s core contributors are based in Europe and the US. How can we use the travel policy to encourage more geographic diversity within GNOME’s core contributor base?

  • Right now the travel policy makes it seem like only Foundation Members can apply for travel sponsorship so newcomers often don’t feel like they are allowed to apply (in truth, anyone can apply but Foundation members and speakers get preference). How can we use the travel policy to encourage more newcomers like creatives, project managers, user testing experts, and underrepresented groups in free software (including racial, gender, etc) to attend events and start contributing?

Sure, there’s a lot more to achieving diversity than just changing the travel policy, but it’s a start. It’s also something that only the board has the power to change, and it’s a fundamental part of our infrastructure that can support our community’s growth. So, I was excited to work on this while at the Foundation Hackfest this year.

So how far are we in making the changes? The tl;dr (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version is that Philip Chimento and I are still working on a final proposal that the board can approve.

We can’t guarantee any changes to the current travel policy since the board hasn’t approved an official update yet. However, it’s my most sincere hope that we can update the travel policy in a way that will support diversity at GNOME and foster more growth and innovation for the Project .

GNOME Engagement Committee and Budget

The Engagement Committee was set up as the budget holder for the Engagement budget, which is split into two buckets: marketing and small events. This year, we decided to allocate $6K USD for marketing and $3K USD for small events.

Marketing costs are things like stickers and SWAG, or stocking and shipping the Events Box that allows community members to set up GNOME booths across Europe at various conferences and events.

Small events are things like release parties, social events at hackfests, GNOME meetups, newcomers workshops, etc. As a plug, if you’re interested in putting on a small event, check out this handy wiki page for tips and resources: GNOME-Related Events.

The process for requesting funds from the Engagement Committee needs drastic improvement and promotion, and we need to fix a few other things before we can call this new way of handling Engagement budget requests a success. However, I feel excited about the direction that this is heading since we went from a time when we barely had an Engagement team or budget (when I first joined), to now having Engagement hold more importance within the budget, and by extension, within the GNOME Project.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take many photos of the Foundation Hackfest this year because Collabora has a strict policy around photographs in the office. Here are a few pictures from our time getting around Cambridge, and from the punting adventure that Neil, Rosanna, Matthias and I had on the day after the hackfest ended.