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Remote Maintainership

This is a followup to More on Maintainership and OpenStack Denver Summit Reflection. Together these are starting to form the foundation of a series on open source collaboration in the face of the climate emergency and political and social inclusiveness. Starting...

I've decided, if possible, to stop flying to technology or other professional conferences. If I can get there by train or boat, perhaps, but all the evidence I can gather suggests that the environmental cost of conference attendance negates the value, especially when:

  • There are plenty of other costs, as discussed in my Denver report and further, below.
  • We have the technologies to collaborate remotely with greater benefits and productivity than having a self-congratulatory party with a few hundred or thousand of our not-so-closest friends, most of whom burn a bunch of energy to get there and be there.

There are—of course—advantages to being in person, especially in terms of relationship building, but what's the point of building a lasting friendship if you die soon after in a cataclysmic weather event?

I've been thinking about this for a long time, but a recent article in The Guardian, No flights, a four-day week and living off-grid: what climate scientists do at home to save the plane crystallized the issues and options for me. The article includes a section from Dave Reay, the author of New Directions: Flying in the face of the climate change convention. He hasn't flown since 2004.

Further, I can't ignore the social and political implications of conference attendance. Wherever they are, conferences create a separate space of privileged attendees and sometimes (often?) they are held in places that I don't want to give economic or other support. China's recent actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang are intolerable and the onerous list of actions colleagues have advised on how to safely use the internet (and thus "do work") there do not inspire a willingness to attend the next OpenStack summit in Shanghai. Not that many (any?) other countries are much better these days.

I'll need to consider if being unwilling to travel to summits takes me out of the running for being a PTL or otherwise relevant in the OpenStack community. I certainly hope not, both for my sake and the sake of the community. We need as many, and as many different, people as we can get and there are others like me.

I've been doing remote collaboration since the start of this century, I even co-founded a think tank focused on high-performance and frequently-remote collaboration. I think I can help make it go.

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