Community Summit and some personal thoughts


#1

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I had a frank discussion with a Chef employee following the community
summit about ideology and attitudes between community (Open Source)
and company (Chef, Inc.). Sharing this is deeply personal, and I am
not trying to single out any one person, or company of doing something
that might be wrong.

Let me preface by saying, I personally think it is great that Chef
(the company) recruits from within its own community of stakeholders.
We have a brilliant and awesome community of users and developers.
Many of the new Chef, Inc. recruits have bettered my life and work as
community forces, and I am glad to see them get the opportunity to
move projects forward from within.

The question was posed if there was an increasing tendency in
introducing one’s self at Chef events, such as the summit, by asking
"Do you work for Chef?". I was also asked, “How do you feel about
that being repeatedly asked of you?” and “Do you think this attitude
makes people uncomfortable?”.

Even at the first summit, this question was asked frequently, and I
never thought of it as having malicious intent when asked. A more
common icebreaker at earlier events might have been “What are you
doing with Chef (the solution)?”, or “Where are you from?/What do you
do?”. There just happens to be more voices asking the question, and
there is more to a person than where they happen to work.

This has sometimes, albeit infrequently, made me uncomfortable.
Especially when someone is aggressively projecting the notion that I
need to come work for Chef (the company) for whatever their personal
reason or agenda. I have always felt that myself, and others in the
community, bring unique perspectives and problems as outside voices.
I believe this diversity and collective spirit makes us special.

It is my opinion that it is okay to be passionate about this project,
or one’s own company. At the same time, there might be a problem if a
person is marginalized because of their circumstantial corporate
association. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who came to share
their awesome ideas or unique problems, and is then asked 200 times if
they work for Chef?

Would anyone else like to share opinions or thoughts on this phenomena?


Eric G. Wolfe
email: eric.wolfe@cyclecomputing.com
cell: 304.942.3970
twitter: @atomic_penguin

Cycle Computing
Leader in Utility HPC Software


twitter: @cyclecomputing
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#2

Yo,

Thank you for writing this!! Sorry for top post. Phone :wink:

Very aware of this occurrence - thankfully most folks are aware I no longer
work at Chef Inc! Haha - even more thankfully, many are interested in my
journey since then (personally)!

One thing I discussed with a number of attendees is that there is no need
to work together (have a shared employer) in order to work together. Just
find people you want to work on stuff with and work with them!

I believe the Lieutenant positions and revised governance proposal will
allow for even more freedom of domain for more subsystems and potentially
ease some of the implicit contributor == employee assumptions.

Many excellent initiatives are being undertaken by hundreds of humans, not
employed by Chef.

If you or someone you know work or do not work for Chef and found yourself
intimidated by this scenario, could you share your thoughts?

Cheers!

–fujin (aj)
On Oct 5, 2014 9:35 AM, “Eric G. Wolfe” eric.wolfe@gmail.com wrote:

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Hash: SHA1

I had a frank discussion with a Chef employee following the community
summit about ideology and attitudes between community (Open Source)
and company (Chef, Inc.). Sharing this is deeply personal, and I am
not trying to single out any one person, or company of doing something
that might be wrong.

Let me preface by saying, I personally think it is great that Chef
(the company) recruits from within its own community of stakeholders.
We have a brilliant and awesome community of users and developers.
Many of the new Chef, Inc. recruits have bettered my life and work as
community forces, and I am glad to see them get the opportunity to
move projects forward from within.

The question was posed if there was an increasing tendency in
introducing one’s self at Chef events, such as the summit, by asking
"Do you work for Chef?". I was also asked, “How do you feel about
that being repeatedly asked of you?” and “Do you think this attitude
makes people uncomfortable?”.

Even at the first summit, this question was asked frequently, and I
never thought of it as having malicious intent when asked. A more
common icebreaker at earlier events might have been “What are you
doing with Chef (the solution)?”, or “Where are you from?/What do you
do?”. There just happens to be more voices asking the question, and
there is more to a person than where they happen to work.

This has sometimes, albeit infrequently, made me uncomfortable.
Especially when someone is aggressively projecting the notion that I
need to come work for Chef (the company) for whatever their personal
reason or agenda. I have always felt that myself, and others in the
community, bring unique perspectives and problems as outside voices.
I believe this diversity and collective spirit makes us special.

It is my opinion that it is okay to be passionate about this project,
or one’s own company. At the same time, there might be a problem if a
person is marginalized because of their circumstantial corporate
association. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who came to share
their awesome ideas or unique problems, and is then asked 200 times if
they work for Chef?

Would anyone else like to share opinions or thoughts on this phenomena?


Eric G. Wolfe
email: eric.wolfe@cyclecomputing.com
cell: 304.942.3970
twitter: @atomic_penguin

Cycle Computing
Leader in Utility HPC Software

http://www.cyclecomputing.com
twitter: @cyclecomputing
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#3

On Sun, Oct 5, 2014 at 12:36 PM, Eric G. Wolfe eric.wolfe@gmail.com wrote:

The question was posed if there was an increasing tendency in
introducing one’s self at Chef events, such as the summit, by asking
"Do you work for Chef?". I was also asked, “How do you feel about
that being repeatedly asked of you?” and “Do you think this attitude
makes people uncomfortable?”.

Hi Eric,

I personally did not experience this phenomenon, so I’m trying to
tease out what bothered you about it. Was it the implication that your
views carried more or less weight because you did (or didn’t) work for
Chef Software, Inc.? Was it the perception that you were being
recruited to come and work for the company? Or is it something else?

As a Chef employee (who was a community contributor before I started
working here) I do find the increasing requests for an “official Chef
Software, Inc. position on X” to be annoying, as there is almost
always no such thing. However, I’ve tried to be empathetic about it,
and I’ve narrowed down the genesis of those queries to two factors:

  1. There is genuine confusion about the various ways to do X that have
    worked. This is often expressed as asking for “best practices”.
  2. Many folks in IT have long been told by their software vendors
    exactly what to do, and they don’t know how to deal with a vendor that
    doesn’t do that. Hence, some people are afraid to experiment for
    themselves for fear that they’ll “do it wrong” and that their vendor
    will tell them “it’s unsupported”.

To point #2: I hope that we never become a company like that. If you
are using Chef, you are “supported”. If you have a commercial
relationship with the company & call for help, we might recommend
optimizations that you could make, but we’ll never say “you’re doing
it wrong and you are unsupported”.

To point #1: as a community (and as a company) we could do a better
job of documenting “things that worked for people” and collecting that
in a central place. Not quite sure what that place would be, but it’s
almost like we need an IBM developerWorks for Chef.

  • Julian

#4

Eric, AJ,

Thanks for sharing this and for participating in this year’s Chef Community
Summit.

I’d like to share some of my perspectives on this and invite everyone else
to do the same either with the list or directly with me (nharvey@getchef.com
).

I am bcc’ing an internal Chef Software, Inc. email list on this message.
Not every one of my co-workers subscribes to the mailing list but the
message is applicable and there’s no need for a separate, internal-only
response.

tl;dr “do you work at Chef Software, Inc.?” is a natural question to ask
at the summit and there’s an almost 50:50 chance that the answer is "yes."
Our community can only be successful if we have many and varied
employers. The signature on your paycheck doesn’t necessarily dictate whom
you can work with and this was confirmed many times over the past few
days. Conversations and interactions may leave you feeling uncomfortable
but we will not tolerate intimidation within the community.

I joined Chef Software, Inc. just over two years ago. At that time, there
were about fifty people employed by the company. Today, there are close to
two hundred employees. Many of whom work remotely, all of whom are members
of the Chef community. Chef Software, Inc. sent more employees to the Chef
Summit than any other company, almost 40% of attendees. The Chef Summit
was the first time that many employees of Chef Software, Inc. met
face-to-face with their co-workers and with other members of the Chef
community. So, there may be a natural tendency to ask “do you work for
Chef?” and, in fact, that might simply be another way of saying “I’m new to
the company, are we co-workers?”

It is natural for Chef Software, Inc. to hire people actively engaged with
the community. Our community includes many passionate, talented, motivated
individuals who are skilled at using Chef and helping others be successful
with Chef. Of course, it is just as natural and important that the
community of people using Chef on a day-to-day basis but not paid by Chef
Software, Inc. continues to grow and thrive. Summit participants worked
together to create an awesome event and might like to work together
afterwards on a more regular basis. Luckily, as AJ said, we don’t need to
be paid by the same employer in order to work together!

You’ve made connections and strengthened bonds with others in our community
and I hope you’re leaving the Summit feeling engaged, energized, and maybe
a bit exhausted, too.

As I’m reflecting on this feedback, I find myself imagining how these sorts
of conversations may have gone differently or better. I’ve shared some of
my thoughts here. Some of these may also be paraphrasing of actual
conversations I had or words I said this week.

“Do you work at Chef?”
“No, but I can tell you what I do with Chef.”

“You need to work at $MYCOMPANY!”
“Thanks, I’m really happy where I am today but we could certainly work
together! What would you like to collaborate on?”

“I work at Chef Software, Inc. and am excited about the things you’re
doing. How can I help you and your company succeed?”

“I love working at $MYCOMPANY, it’s the best place I’ve ever worked and it
might be a good fit for you. I’d love to tell you about it especially if
you’ve considered leaving $YOURCOMPANY.”

“I like to help you succeed at $YOURCOMPANY. But, if or when you’re ready
to leave $YOURCOMPANY, please let me know because I think we’ll be able to
find a great position for you with $MYCOMPANY.”

I’m keenly interested in your feedback on what went well, what could be
improved, and how you felt about the Community Summit. Please share here
on the mailing list or directly with me (nharvey@getchef.com).

Thanks,
Nathen

On Sun, Oct 5, 2014 at 10:31 AM, AJ Christensen <aj@junglistheavy.industries

wrote:

Yo,

Thank you for writing this!! Sorry for top post. Phone :wink:

Very aware of this occurrence - thankfully most folks are aware I no
longer work at Chef Inc! Haha - even more thankfully, many are interested
in my journey since then (personally)!

One thing I discussed with a number of attendees is that there is no need
to work together (have a shared employer) in order to work together. Just
find people you want to work on stuff with and work with them!

I believe the Lieutenant positions and revised governance proposal will
allow for even more freedom of domain for more subsystems and potentially
ease some of the implicit contributor == employee assumptions.

Many excellent initiatives are being undertaken by hundreds of humans, not
employed by Chef.

If you or someone you know work or do not work for Chef and found yourself
intimidated by this scenario, could you share your thoughts?

Cheers!

–fujin (aj)
On Oct 5, 2014 9:35 AM, “Eric G. Wolfe” eric.wolfe@gmail.com wrote:

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

I had a frank discussion with a Chef employee following the community
summit about ideology and attitudes between community (Open Source)
and company (Chef, Inc.). Sharing this is deeply personal, and I am
not trying to single out any one person, or company of doing something
that might be wrong.

Let me preface by saying, I personally think it is great that Chef
(the company) recruits from within its own community of stakeholders.
We have a brilliant and awesome community of users and developers.
Many of the new Chef, Inc. recruits have bettered my life and work as
community forces, and I am glad to see them get the opportunity to
move projects forward from within.

The question was posed if there was an increasing tendency in
introducing one’s self at Chef events, such as the summit, by asking
"Do you work for Chef?". I was also asked, “How do you feel about
that being repeatedly asked of you?” and “Do you think this attitude
makes people uncomfortable?”.

Even at the first summit, this question was asked frequently, and I
never thought of it as having malicious intent when asked. A more
common icebreaker at earlier events might have been “What are you
doing with Chef (the solution)?”, or “Where are you from?/What do you
do?”. There just happens to be more voices asking the question, and
there is more to a person than where they happen to work.

This has sometimes, albeit infrequently, made me uncomfortable.
Especially when someone is aggressively projecting the notion that I
need to come work for Chef (the company) for whatever their personal
reason or agenda. I have always felt that myself, and others in the
community, bring unique perspectives and problems as outside voices.
I believe this diversity and collective spirit makes us special.

It is my opinion that it is okay to be passionate about this project,
or one’s own company. At the same time, there might be a problem if a
person is marginalized because of their circumstantial corporate
association. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who came to share
their awesome ideas or unique problems, and is then asked 200 times if
they work for Chef?

Would anyone else like to share opinions or thoughts on this phenomena?


Eric G. Wolfe
email: eric.wolfe@cyclecomputing.com
cell: 304.942.3970
twitter: @atomic_penguin

Cycle Computing
Leader in Utility HPC Software

http://www.cyclecomputing.com
twitter: @cyclecomputing
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#5

On 10/05/2014 03:19 PM, Julian C. Dunn wrote:

On Sun, Oct 5, 2014 at 12:36 PM, Eric G. Wolfe
eric.wolfe@gmail.com wrote:

The question was posed if there was an increasing tendency in
introducing one’s self at Chef events, such as the summit, by
asking “Do you work for Chef?”. I was also asked, “How do you
feel about that being repeatedly asked of you?” and “Do you think
this attitude makes people uncomfortable?”.

Hi Eric,

I personally did not experience this phenomenon, so I’m trying to
tease out what bothered you about it. Was it the implication that
your views carried more or less weight because you did (or didn’t)
work for Chef Software, Inc.? Was it the perception that you were
being recruited to come and work for the company? Or is it
something else?

As AJ mentioned I understand that people, Chef employee or otherwise,
have an interest in my personal story and journey. If I were wearing
a Chef t-shirt, or hoodie, its normal and expected conversation also.

At a certain point it starts to sound like one is an echo chamber, “do
you work for Chef?”. I heard about how this bothered another
community attendee and I wanted to ping the list to get some feedback
on whether this might be a real or perceived problem.

As a Chef employee (who was a community contributor before I
started working here) I do find the increasing requests for an
"official Chef Software, Inc. position on X" to be annoying, as
there is almost always no such thing. However, I’ve tried to be
empathetic about it, and I’ve narrowed down the genesis of those
queries to two factors:

  1. There is genuine confusion about the various ways to do X that
    have worked. This is often expressed as asking for “best
    practices”. 2. Many folks in IT have long been told by their
    software vendors exactly what to do, and they don’t know how to
    deal with a vendor that doesn’t do that. Hence, some people are
    afraid to experiment for themselves for fear that they’ll “do it
    wrong” and that their vendor will tell them “it’s unsupported”.

I also find this annoying as well, as best practices are subjective
and discovered in practicing them. The best thing that I may do, is
different from the best thing you can do. We often have different
realities and business requirements.

To point #2: I hope that we never become a company like that. If
you are using Chef, you are “supported”. If you have a commercial
relationship with the company & call for help, we might recommend
optimizations that you could make, but we’ll never say “you’re
doing it wrong and you are unsupported”.

To point #1: as a community (and as a company) we could do a
better job of documenting “things that worked for people” and
collecting that in a central place. Not quite sure what that place
would be, but it’s almost like we need an IBM developerWorks for
Chef.

  • Julian