Community

For Why Are They Such Jolly Good Python Fellows?

Once a quarter, the Python Software Foundation (PSF) accepts nominations for individuals within the Python community who have served the community in an appreciable way, and votes on who should be inducted as a fellow. This is a great way for the PSF to recognize people who are contributing back, in any way, to the community.

In the first quarter of 2022, James “Meflin” Lopeman and I were announced as Python fellows. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “Who are these two guys?” Neither one of us maintains some critical piece of Python code, we don’t work on core Python, or any of the typical things that come to mind. So why were we, James and John, made fellows?

Something that I’ve tried to stress time and again is that community is not the code, it’s not the project, it’s nothing even remotely technical. Community is, and always has been, the people. This is a fact that is sometimes lost, particularly when we are recognizing people in a community. We have a tendency to overlook those who — to borrow an excellent phrase from the CNCF — chop wood and carry water. These are the folks maintaining infrastructure, like the build systems and servers. These are the folks who are writing documentation and helping triage bugs. In many cases, these individuals may never contribute a single line of code, and yet they are utterly critical to a project. 

Why do I talk about these unsung folks? Because Meflin (really, I’ve known him so long as “Meflin” it feels weird using his actual name) and I belong there. And what we have brought to Python is a bit different: We’ve helped bring new contributors to the entire Python ecosystem.

Meflin and I have been helping admin the Python Google Summer of Code Organization, a team effort. This year, there are seven admins to make it all work smoothly. Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a program that incentivizes new contributors to join open source. Projects can apply to participate and get the benefit of mentoring new contributors over the course of the summer. While it started as a university outreach program, it has recently expanded to encompass any new contributor to open source in general. Python has been participating in GSoC for a very long time, but not as a single entity. We act as an umbrella organization, where we help guide and teach the mentors who are participating from a whole array of Python-related projects, not just core Python itself.  

This year, we are proud to be working with several projects like Fury, Python Argentina, DFFML, Zyte, Activeloop, CVE Binary Tool, SciPy, PyElastica, MNE-Python, MSS – Mission Support System, EOS Design System, GNU Mailman, and LPython to help bring new contributors into the respective communities and shepherd projects big and small through the GSoC process. The fact that we act as an umbrella gives the individual projects some guidance on how to be successful. Sometimes it’s their first year participating or they’re just helping share the admin burden for smaller projects. Whatever the reason, they are participating with us and we all share a common core: Python. We’ve both been helping to admin the Python GSoC organization for nearly a decade now, having helped numerous projects and contributors through the process over the years, and we’ve seen great success in project outcomes as well as the continued participation of many of the contributors. Some of the contributors have even gone on to stick with their projects and have become mentors themselves. Greater still, some projects have moved out from Python as their umbrella and have been accepted as their own GSoC organization.

Meflin and I were named Python fellows in recognition of not only the work we’ve already done, but for the continued work that we do there on a yearly basis. We are both humbled to be honored this way by the incredibly amazing Python community. While we are going to keep working on GSoC every year, I want to remind everyone to keep an eye out for the folks who are working behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly and to remember to recognize them, because the community isn’t about the code. It’s about the people.

Blog image provided by Python Software Foundation News: 2017: A year in review (pyfound.blogspot.com); photo taken by Kushal Das.

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