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Problem: sharing code across a large organisation - in this case

governemnt. Find other parts of the group re-implement solutions to the same problem.

Early days, but trying internal open source model.

  • Pretend you’re external - don’t depend on being in the same building.
  • If you can, open source it.
  • Document as if it’s for the public - and for a new starter, they are, so helps with onboarding
  • Do some marketing

OP has tried writing posts and still there is another solution created.

Why is it a problem to have two solutions?

  • Waste of money (especially with public funds, but applies anywhere)
  • Have to watch out for superficial similarity - looks like the same problem to start, but it doesn’t turn out that way, so two solutions are sometimes OK
  • If two parts of the org know about each other, then it might help to steer the earlier design decisions, avoiding two or more solutions
  • “Open source” to one person seems like it’s a collection of people, but not necessilary focusing on a particular problem, don’t always get the right cross-polination

Shouldn’t under-estimate the cost of coordination and the on-going maintenance

  • Writing two solutions might be cheaper.
  • There is a cost to having and maintaining your own codebases, so hard to analyse.
  • Have communities, not code sharing. Too often framed as “let’s share code”
  • Does code sharing fall out of community?
  • There’s a lot of effort put into code sharing, but it should be put into building communities
  • Or, build the service/platfrom that provides functionality - rather than just the code
  • Building and operating a service is expensive - takes skilled people
  • Open source has demonstrated some of this - lots of similar solutons to simiar problems, but the solutions are more focused - easier to build many solutions.

Sharing code is hard

  • Different target systems
  • Different problems
  • Dependancy management systems
  • The bigger the problem space, the harder to build something that can be reused and tick all the boxes is hard

You must always be promoting your system

  • Find your customers
  • Speaker built a platform and client libraries

“code sharing” looks like a “techy task”

  • Justifying the cost of building of a community is harder to sell

What’s the active work to build a community?

Guild approach

  • Different groups for different activities: i.e. running in AWS, Java, Python
  • Slack
  • Webinars every two weeks
  • Presenting to groups of engineers to share knowledge (400 engineers over 10 offices)
  • People are often in 4-5 groups, overlap based on their skills, interests.

Q: internal or external?

  • Mostly internal, although some work is re-used for external commmity

Q: at large social network - how did it all start, how do you get people to use your tools?

  • Almost everything starts at a hack-a-thon
  • Weekly news letter to showcase early prototypes
  • Teams will use and adopt new tools, or they die off.
  • Make an effort to productionise from the hack-a-thon prototypes.
  • Some projects are open sourced to allow further projects that build upon them to be open sourced, but it’s useful to support other tools to ensure people aren’t forced to use one tool that might go away (i.e. supporting different build tools)
  • Open sourcing helps with internal distribution - Hacker News post helped internal groups find out about an internal project (that was communicated internally)
  • Open source helps with recruitment and shop window.

How do you make the leap from hack a thon to production - how do you justify that to the business?

  • Sometimes it’s many hackathons and the ball gets rolling as more and more people get interested and use the worthy projects
  • Hackathons are 20% time
  • If it’s a larger project, then it takes effort to get the buy in

In risk adverse cultures, it’s harder to do this

  • But if you have the will, you have to push
  • You need people to be passionate about their code or services and be willing to push it (regardless of company culture).
  • If you’re not willing to push your system, you’re probably not going to fix it when it’s on fire.

Push vs pull information sources

  • Weekly news letters in the toilets (yes, really)
  • Mailing lists
  • Blog posts
  • What else?

Is there am implicit value tied to lines of code written, or is there value to the community?

  • How do you persuade people making the business/value decisions that it’s worthwhile making the time to do these 20% projects etc?
  • example is from last year’s microservice session - mention of company (possibly Netflix) having internal competing services and there’s effectively internal market forces at work.
  • Multiple implementations might inspire other teams
  • It’s a lot of effort to put in to build many things

How early on can people get together and figure out what to do?

  • Whatever silos you have, it’s an organisational trade-off, that’s there’s value in getting each silo to talk to each other. You could put a number on it if you had to.
  • Ex: 20 product teams, doing their own thing, duplication of effort, so additional expense. So, mandating top down might be possible.
  • Company mandates aren’t a thing - a lot more come from the bottom up
  • If you’re building new tech, figure out route to market, prove it’s useful to others. You’re not going to get people to get involved in vapourware. Prove it first.
  • There is something about converging opinions before trying to share code.
  • Have an awarenes of what other people are doing.
  • Valve have ‘expressions of interest’: before building a new thing, they send out a note, asking if other people have experience with ‘thing’, if anyone is interested in building in it, or have overlapping needs.
  • We don’t do a good job of figuring this out in the open source work.

Interesting problem person found a Python framework that finds code for you

  • Write a test
  • Framework runs the test against all of the standard library to find a function that passes that test for you.
  • Works well for well defined interfaces

Is it the developer’s resposibilty to promote their code?

  • Is it handy to have a passionate engineer
  • Also requires someone from on-high that can spot the common patterns and make connections
  • Advocacy is marketing, might not be the best model for actual sharing

The size of the thing you share is important

  • If you do share it and no-one uses it, is still has value
  • Better documentation
  • Fewer dependancies
  • You might still be able to share several small parts - much harder to share a big part.

There is so much code generated by Governement, that’s a lot of noise

  • Finding something that you want to solve your problem is difficult
  • Github is not the best interface for this
  • Etsy’s Hound - multi-repo search tool - has been very useful: both to track down bugs as well as to find new code.

How would you share as a service, rather than just as code?

  • Extra bit from someone else: who writes the mocks for tests
  • It becomes its own product
  • You have to talk to your customers and evolve the product
  • It will have its own lifecycle

Lower level answer

  • Internal solution, read postcodes into memory, library to do that was shareable code.
  • Moved to sharing over HTTP/REST inreface.
  • Reduced dependacies

Have a post-mortem when there a was a lot of time/money spent building multiple solutions.

  • Example: “we have 150 case management systems, why can’t we have one”
  • People are spotting false patterns much of the time
  • You need to get to blame-less.
  • “This code wasn’t reused” is a very different to “the website went down” for a post-mortem
  • But then “we didn’t encourage research before building our solution” is an institutional problem, which would be worth addressing.
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