Tips for Successful Open Source Program Management

Open source projects produce software, but they’re run by people, says Ben Cotton. Moreover, he notes, “people are dynamic and sometimes unpredictable. The more people are involved, the more unpredictable the project becomes.” 

And, that’s where program managers can help. “As a program manager, you bring order to the chaos. You don’t do this by imposing order from the top down—that’s not how open source projects work. Instead, you give structure to the agreements of the community,” says Cotton, the Fedora Program Manager at Red Hat.

In his new book, Program Management for Open Source Projects, Cotton explains the role of program management in keeping open source projects on track and offers tips for how to thoughtfully and effectively guide your project, regardless of your job title: 

Some open source projects have a role explicitly named “program manager.” Others have a “release manager” or similar title. Most projects have neither, but someone is still doing the work. It could be the project leader, a member of the technical steering committee, or an organized and enthusiastic contributor with no particular role. Wherever you are in the project’s structure (or lack thereof), you’re keeping everyone informed and helping folks find the information and resources they need.

Cotton explains how to facilitate communication, manage release lifecycles, create a process for changes, hold productive meetings, and more. The book is on sale now. Read excerpts and see details at The Pragmatic Bookshelf.