Community Health Through CHAOSS with Anita Ihuman

April 1, 2024 | 17 minutes read

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In this episode, I have a conversation with Anita Ihuman, a developer advocate and technical writer in Nigeria. Anita shares her experiences and insights from her volunteer work in open source communities, particularly her involvement in the CHAOSS and Layer 5 communities. We dive into Anita’s contributions to community management, onboarding, documentation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. She highlights the importance of these efforts in creating welcoming and inclusive spaces for all contributors. Anita also discusses her experiences working with geographically diverse projects and the challenges and opportunities they present. Lastly, we explore the role of research in showcasing the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Join us as we learn from Anita’s journey and gain valuable insights into the world of open source communities.

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Gene Liverman:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the volunteer technologist podcast.

Here, we take a look at the different ways that people who are technically inclined volunteer outside of their primary job.

Today, I’m joined by Anita Ihuman.

How are you doing

Anita Ihuman:

today? Fine. Thank you, Gene. Hello.

Gene Liverman:

It’s nice to meet you.

Would you here.

Would you, take a moment and introduce yourself to our listeners?

Anita Ihuman:

Oh, yeah. Sure. So hello, everyone.

I am Anita Ihuman.

I am a developer advocate

at, a company called Metal Gear.


on the side, I am also,

doing a lot of things in open source from

community management

to building programs,

to contributing to research efforts,

and, so many other awesome stuff that I would love to share here today. That sounds pretty interesting.

Gene Liverman:

So let’s maybe start with the first one you mentioned with some of the open source community work that you’re doing. What are you doing in that regards?

Anita Ihuman:

Yes. So,

I am con currently

on the CHAOSS,

board of directors,


I got there as a result of my contributions to

the CHAOSS community

and, in

leading efforts around



helping other persons get involved,

and, so many other areas like that. I also contribute to another open source community

called Layer

5 as a community manager,

where I also get people,

settled in with the project

and also navigate their way around

the cloud native community.

And, Keith, that’s just about the community aspects of it.

Gene Liverman:

So you mentioned the chaoss board of directors. Can you tell me what chaoss is? I’m not familiar with that.

Anita Ihuman:

It’s a community

that is focused on,





around open source

community health. Right? So the abbreviation itself stands for, Community


Analytics in Open Source Software,

and that’s, like, the long form for chaoss. It’s a project under the Linux Foundation,

And so it has a bunch of other branches

within the project, but its core

purpose is developing


metrics models and,


that also


open source community health and standards.

Gene Liverman:

So the chaoss project sounds like a pretty cool one.

What kind of things are you actually doing with it?

Anita Ihuman:

Okay. So,

within the chaoss community,

I am part of the DEI working group

where we develop metrics



equity, and inclusion.

And some other things that we do within the working group is,

develop initiatives like the popular

events budget initiatives that a lot of, open source events tend to have received badges for for their DEI efforts for the various events.

We recently launched another


the, projects

DEI project


to also badge

open source projects

for their DEI efforts.

And on the side,

we also

do a bit of research to understand how

open source communities



equity, and inclusion come to play.

Gene Liverman:

That’s, that’s very important work. I’m glad to hear that y’all are working on it and putting a real focus on it.

You mentioned getting different badges. What does a project or work community have to do to get one of those badges?

Anita Ihuman:

Well, honestly, it just

involve or revolves around

how much,

how intentional the project is about

the inclusivity

and then how much effort is put into

achieving those intentions.

And so we just bring our metrics

to help us,

give the community

organizers or the community



a picture so they can reflect on their efforts. Right? So our metrics are more of, like, a mural for them to look into and say, okay. This is how much we have done in terms of


looking at these chaoss metrics. This is how much we have done. This is where we’re at, and, this is where we can also improve in terms of,

our diversity

and, inclusion within our community. So

that is what the badges


Gene Liverman:

use for or base basically signify. That’s pretty cool. You mentioned doing some research with related to that. What kind of research do you do?

Anita Ihuman:

Right. So,

sometime last year, we did,

a research to help us understand

the impact of these,

metrics, these DEI metrics

that we have developed because we have, like, over


metrics as as of now,

and we weren’t quite sure how impactful it was in real time,

especially to the, persons that these metrics were developed for, which are

individuals who identify with underrepresented



as a result, we’re not sure how effective our metrics were, and we had to go out to find out with, like, our interview,

interview campaign.

And so that brought about,

the research study, and we’re able to come to

a good understanding


how we can improve and, how well we are doing with this, study.

Gene Liverman:

Very cool. I’m guessing that that’s leads into some of the community building stuff that you’re talking about doing. What kind of community building and

related things are you working with?

Anita Ihuman:


I mentioned earlier

the Layer 5 community.

So I have been part of that community for, like, quite some time,

mostly because my open source,

journey started from there. And

so I,

got involved in as one of those interested in contributing to the project.

But then I also realized that I could also offer help, and so I got into

mentoring other persons,


other persons, also,

managing efforts around, making sure that the community,

you know, scales,

also everything


getting people started when they jump into the community and all of that.

So, mostly, that is what I do within the Layer 5 community.

And then on the side, I am also

managing another DEI working group under the open source,

opens the sustained open source


So, basically, we just started

sometime last year


discuss how

Sustain can get involved in the diversity



discussions, how we can drive efforts around that.

And we recently started working on, like, a DEI handbook

that can also serve as a reference for open source leaders

who are willing to, you know, get into this topic of DEI and also implement it within their communities.

It’s more like a guide

that people could also use whenever they feel like they want to know or want to find out more about,

diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s pretty cool.

Gene Liverman:

What kind of what kind of things are you doing with regards to mentoring?

Anita Ihuman:

Alright. So, I think that’s more on

so on the side, yeah, on the side, I have I am a technical writer,

and so I do a lot of writing from documentations

to articles

and so much more. And so, in terms of mentoring,

I have worked with some some open source

contributors to get them into contributing to the documentation

aspect of projects,

you know,

how they can contribute, pointing them to areas that can improve on their general writing skills.


within Layer 5 community, I was able to get

so many persons engaged by,

developing the

the community handbook,

which today is, like, the primary onboarding tool that a lot of persons are getting involved in. And so we were able to put together the community handbook and, have it


And I think that was part of, like, the mentorship.

Other than that, I serve as

there’s this program called a Mesh Mates within the Layer 5 community,

and it’s like

a pair,

mentorship program where you’re,

paired up with someone to you know, who is more experienced to point you to directions that you’re not very familiar with. And so I was one of the Mesh Mates within the Layer 5 community,

helping persons to navigate the project and also get involved with

the, contributing aspects of it.

Gene Liverman:

That sounds pretty cool.

Can you enlighten me on in terms of what the Layer 5 project is? Or

Anita Ihuman:

Yeah. So, layer 5 is,

a community,

an open source community that develops cloud native solutions.


one of its

popular tool is probably Meshry, a cloud native

management platform

where you can, like,

view a variety of cloud native tools,

look at which one is more competitive for your software, and all of that. So they have offers, like, a bunch of solutions,

basically focused towards cloud native

technologies and all of that. And so that’s what they do.

Gene Liverman:


So what got you into doing all this different

volunteer work around the organizing and all of the other stuff?

Anita Ihuman:


at first,

like, every person who is trying to upscale,

it was the need to get hands on

experience both from real time projects. Right?

And, along the way, it became more of

making impact and making a difference

in these various communities.

Like, in Layer 5, I got

hung or hung on the idea that

I can also get into the cloud native ecosystem.

So that helped me in one way or another,

increase my knowledge on topics around DevOps,

cloud computing,



gave me the drive to want to learn more by taking certifications

and all that

and which today I write mostly about as a technical writer.

And for the CHAOSS community, it was more on making a difference


while contributing to these various communities, right, I could see areas that so many persons were,

you know, disadvantaged

as a result of, you know, certain,


or certain


and difference as a result of their differences generally.

And, when I came across the CHAOSS community to, you know, help community health at large, I just knew that it was going to be the right place for me to

put this knowledge that I have gained from other people’s experiences

and make sure less people experience this.

And I think CHAOSS is doing an awesome job with that with

their metrics.

And I decided to take some of the knowledge that I have from working with the CHAOSS community

to the Sustain OSS where I’m currently working with a DEI

working group and all.

Gene Liverman:

That’s really cool. How receptive have you found the different open source projects being to finding out that there are ways that they could improve or that someone is coming in and recommending some improvements

to their

the way they interact with their community?

Anita Ihuman:

From a personal experience,

I think


have been open to, you know, accept feedback.

Have been open to change,

mostly because these communities have already realized that there are existing problems that they need help with. And so,

most of the ideas that I have brought up within these communities

are, like, ideas that fix some of these existing challenges.

And so I think they have been so receptive towards these topics that or suggestions that I bring up from my experience.

Gene Liverman:

That’s really good.

I know that’s not always the case.

I’ve not personally experienced, but I’ve, you know, read various tech articles about communities that were not very open to change or not open to the feedback. And, of course, those communities, generally speaking, end up not

surviving the long term. The people who are doing the work usually end up just going somewhere else. So

Anita Ihuman:


yeah, those communities

exist, but something that I got to learn as, during the course of that research study with CHAOSS is,

most of these communities that are not very receptive to change




that have

have been built a long time ago.

And these, topics of DEI were not as at the time.

But then they survived through that period,

and so it’s more difficult for them to, you know, open up to the change

and to topics like this because,

there’s always this, notion that if I existed through this phase without this, what makes you think I can’t make it to the next phase

with, with all these as well. Right? And so, like, from the what I gained through that research is,

newer open source communities are a lot more receptive to topics

like this,



a lot more than the

older and larger open source communities.

Gene Liverman:

With the older communities,

have you you and the group started finding ways to show them the value and why they should care about it? Is that where some of the metrics come in?

Anita Ihuman:


Very correct. That’s where some of the metrics come in

and also discussing more on

ways that research could come into play

to showcase


how DEI in general

can impact open source communities.

I feel like, there are a lot of research studies that showcase

disparities that exist within communities,


that exist,

but the

very few of these, research studies capture,

how much growth comes from open source communities that have accepted

some of these topics. Right?

And, I think,

research is a way that could also be used to

showcase. A lot of persons rely on facts. They want to see, okay, where is the evidence?

Gene Liverman:

Oh, absolutely.

Anita Ihuman:

Right. So how much growth was there, and, how were they before this topic was introduced? So, like, having that fact readily available

could help a lot of persons, you know, change their notion on these,

you know, ideologies generally.

Gene Liverman:

That kinda makes sense, especially in an open source community. A lot of times, it’s very data driven,

be it

the data from the poor request or issues that are opened or

the data from the track record of how things have been going. And with no data, it’s just one person’s opinion, you know, until proven otherwise a lot of times. So that makes a lot of sense. Right.

So I have one other question for you. I noticed from

our conversations before the recording that you’re located in Nigeria.


so many of the projects, at least the ones I’m aware of,

kinda seem to be focused around either the United States or somewhere in Europe.

How have you found that working with projects that are both

geographically in a very different spot and frequently in a very different time zone

than where you are both from a

just dealing with the time differences and from

different cultures because so many of times these projects also reflect the cultures of where they’re kinda founded out of.

Anita Ihuman:


That that’s an interesting question.

And to be honest, at first, I I found this challenging.

Like, the first

one year to 2 year, I was still trying to figure out the time differences,

how to communicate so it doesn’t come off as offensive


there’s certain

ways you would communicate to someone


Nigeria that

a lot other persons will see as, oh, that is offensive.

I didn’t realize that, but getting into the open source community, I was like, oh, so this is a problem. I have to adjust to it. And then the time differences, sometimes you feel like, oh, this time is convenient

Gene Liverman:

for a call, and then you check the time, and it’s, like, 2 AM my hour. And Yeah. That that does make for a little bit of an awkward conversation at 2 in the morning. Right.

Anita Ihuman:

And then I have to okay. Should I stay up till 2 AM, or I should just, you know, let it go and catch up? But

I figured that having to bring up these differences

made the concept of open source

more open source. Because

introducing that, okay, these things are different from my own point of view or from where I’m from.

May some of these open source communities

adjust to,

you know,

contributors from this part of the world as well. Like, for CHAOSS community,

we had to create

a group called the CHAOSS Africa


to, you know, support more persons that are coming from the African ecosystem.

So we have CHAOSS

Africa, persons from Angola,

persons from,


Kenya, so many other African countries, and not just Nigeria.

And so it’s a lot easier for us to relate amongst ourselves and, you know, make contributions because we can relate to it.

And then we take some of these contributions to the general community

when the the meeting times, you know, align with ours and everything like that.

And for other communities, you just have to learn to, you know, communicate your differences,

and so the community is able to,

also adjust to it. And I’ve seen that for some of these communities like layer 5,

I witnessed that there was a lot of improvement to the code of conduct

to, you know, adjust to make other persons more comfortable,

to make, more other purse other persons also more, you know, feel more welcomed

and supported within the community. Because sometimes

you jump on an issue and then the

doesn’t reply to, like, after

12 hours. And you feel like, oh, maybe they they not reply because I, from this part of the world, and they don’t support me or they don’t accept me. But that’s not the case. Right? It’s just a time difference. You probably didn’t know that. And so having to, like, adjust the code of conduct and also get maintenance from different parts of the world

made it easy for us to, you know, collaborate

and also, like,

for me to also bring in more persons that are willing to contribute to these communities

from my own part of

getting into the community. Yeah. I really like

Gene Liverman:

the ideas you were talking about there because

what kind of went through my head is it’s making open source open

to everyone, not just to

the little area that it started out in, and that’s a that’s a very good thing. The diversity through a project

makes for a much better outcome in general.

Anita Ihuman:


Gene Liverman:


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I really appreciate it.

Anita Ihuman:

Thank you so much for having me, Jean. This was an interesting conversation. I agree, but an enlightening one also.


Gene Liverman:

Before we go, I’d like to thank those of you who have boosted in support for the show. It is very much appreciated.

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