Justin W. Flory

UNICEF Innovation, Open Source Diversity and Fedora Project

August 2020

Justin makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from August 19 to 26. Thank you, Justin!

Please tell us about yourself

I am a creative maker. I am best-known as an open source contributor based in the United States. Since I was 14, I have participated in numerous open source communities and led different initiatives to build sustainable software and communities.

What are you working on right now?

Starting in June 2020, I joined the UNICEF Office of Innovation as a full-time Open Source Software Technical Advisor. In this role, I support the UNICEF Innovation Fund and other open source activities within the Office of Innovation. I provide support service and mentorship to cohorts of diverse start-up companies to teams hailing from five continents. At the Innovation Fund, I provide hands-on technical mentorship, support services, metrics assessments, and sustainable design for scaling open source communities.

I am also a contributor to the Fedora Project since 2014. In Fedora, I volunteered as team lead of the Community Operations team for four years and was a founding member of the Diversity and Inclusion Team. I represented Fedora internationally at events and conferences, including FOSDEM, DevConf CZ, All Things Open, OSCAL, and others.

I also participate in other open source communities. Previously I was a staff member of the SpigotMC project and community moderator for Opensource.com. I also occasionally contribute to MusicBrainz.

What is most interesting about that?

The best part of my job is I get to work with people from all around the world on building sustainable, inclusive Free Software communities. I get to both contribute to open source, and teach others on how to build their projects beyond just a license.

How did you first discover FOSS?

It is a long story, but Minecraft brought me to open source! You can read the full story on my Opensource.com profile from 2016:

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

I’m a community person, so it was always the community.

In Spigot, it was because so many people gave me advice and shared wisdom in how to run a Spigot Minecraft server. So I wanted to give back, and became a community staff member.

In Fedora, it was because so many people mentored me and helped me develop new open source skills. So I wanted to give back and mentor others as so many have helped me over the years.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

The people. As a tech person, this is one of the best ways to get to meet other amazing, diverse, and kind people from around the world.

How should they get started?

I have an entire talk about this entire question! Usually, my recommendations are reduced to three things:

  1. Find projects you actually like, or think are cool.

  2. Filter that by projects you know just enough about to work on (e.g. a Python programmer works on a Python project, a technical writer works on a project’s documentation).

  3. Hang out in the community and get to know how people treat each other. Kindness and respect are not always default so make sure you don’t get involved with a bunch of jerks.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

I have three predictions for FOSS in the 2020s:

  1. Sustainability is a new(ish) focus point.

  2. FOSS will have its ethics interrogated.

  3. FOSS will see more young people stay, or leave.

How can they be solved?

In a COVID-19 world, online Working Groups seem to be the new language of action. The three noted trends above are all connected through rethinking how we collaborate and work together to answer these questions. I see movement on this especially in the Sustain OSS Working Groups.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

There are so many bright, talented, and smart people who can contribute things other than lines of code to open source, but we have not done a great job of designing accessible communities for non-programmers. This is a difficulty, but one I am optimistic that we will continue to do better as more non-programmers have their voices heard.

What does a perfect day off look like?

Offline! No, seriously. As much as I love open source, technology, and their communities, my best days off are disconnected from disruptive notifications and LCD pixels with people I enjoy spending time with. This makes it easier to recharge my batteries and come back refreshed to the digital open source world I also love.