Becoming a new contributor to open source through Outreach Program for Women and OpenStack

Screenshot of my first OpenStack contribution

Attracting new contributors and making projects accessible to newcomers is an important issue to many open source organizations.

I will describe my experiences becoming a new contributor to open source. I hope that this will be useful to 1) people trying to improve the open source newcomer experience and 2) people who have never worked on open source and are interested in becoming contributors.

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How to install Devstack and Ceilometer on a Vagrant virtual machine


Ceilometer is a fairly new component of OpenStack, so I thought it would be helpful to document how I install Ceilometer and DevStack. Ceilometer monitors and gathers data on other components in OpenStack. For example, one could use Ceilometer to measure CPU usage in order to bill customers.

In this post, I'll go through how I install Devstack and Ceilometer on a Vagrant virtual machine running 64-bit Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Your host machine should have enough memory, so that it can run a virtual machine with 2 GB RAM.

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How I setup Pelican

Pelican logo and GitHub account

DISCLAIMER: This information may be out-of-date. This post was written using Pelican version 3.2 and the themes and plugins in July 2013. However, last I checked (August 2015), almost everything still works.

I thought it would be useful to go into greater technical detail about how I went about setting up Pelican.1

My machine is running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

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UMass Amherst Software Carpentry boot camp

A couple years ago, while I was in physics graduate school, I found out about an organization called Software Carpentry. My advisor sent me a Nature article about poor software practices in science and it quoted Greg Wilson, the founder of Software Carpentry. Around the same time, I also heard that Software Carpentry was running an online class to teach scientists software skills. I signed up and really enjoyed the class -- which covered Python, shell, version control, object oriented programming, regular expressions, testing, and databases.

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First day of Outreach Program for Women

OPW participation logo

Today is the first day of my internship in the Outreach Program for Women1 (OPW). I'll be working on the Ceilometer component of the OpenStack cloud computing project under the guidance of my mentor, Julien Danjou, who is the project technical lead of Ceilometer. I'm also supported by two more mentors, Anita Kuno and Julie Pichon. Anne Gentle is the coordinator of OpenStack's OPW internship program, and Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Karen Sandler are the coordinators of the entire Outreach Program for Women. I'm grateful to them all.

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Demonstrating Pelican, a static site generator

Pelican screenshot

When I was setting up this blog, I initially started with Wordpress, but then I discovered that many (tech-savvy) people were using static site generators.

It took me some time to understand what that meant. Most of the common blogging platforms generate websites dynamically. Wordpress requires SQL to manage a database containing your blog content. When someone loads your blog URL, Wordpress generates the requested webpage. Wordpress must be installed on your webhost/server for this to work.

The idea behind static site generators is to have software on your local machine that creates webpages and then upload these pages to the webhost. The webpages have fixed content, hence the description "static site." You don't need to install anything on the webhost.

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