Welcome to the Duck Alignment Academy. Here you’ll learn about program management in open source communities. Open source communities might make software, but they’re made of people. The more people who are involved, the more unpredictable the operation. Program managers help get the ducks in a row. They don’t make top down decisions. Instead, they give structure to the norms and policies of the community.

About program management

Program management is fundamentally the act of communicating and collaborating across different functions. Where project management focuses on a distinct output, program management focuses on delivering outcomes. Of course, lines are often blurry in open source. What we commonly call a “project” is really a “program”. And each release is a project in itself. So program managers, particularly in open source communities, tend to do a lot of project management, too.

Some of the tasks of a program manager include:

  • Feature planning
  • Release scheduling
  • Bug management
  • Leading meetings
  • Facilitating decisions
  • Providing status updates

You’ll read about all of those things—and more!—on this site. And in Program Management for Open Source Projects.

About Ben Cotton

A man sitting at a table with a copy of "Program Management for Open Source Projects" propped up on the table and several more in a pile in front of him. He is holding a book open to sign it. A credenza with fresh flowers is in the background.

Ben Cotton is the Open Source Community Lead at Kusari. He previously led open source strategy and messaging at Docker and before that was the Fedora Program Manager at Red Hat for five years. This site, of course, does not represent the views of any current or past employer. Ben has been active in Fedora and other open source communities for over a decade. His career has taken him through the public and private sector in roles that include desktop support, high-performance computing administration, marketing, and program management. In addition to Program Management for Open Source Projects, Ben has contributed to the book Human at a Distance, and to articles in The Next Platform, Opensource.com, Scientific Computing, and more.

Ben still lives in Lafayette, Indiana—a city he forgot to leave after graduating from Purdue University with a bachelor of science in synoptic meteorology and a master of science in IT project management. Should you feel brave, you can follow Ben on Mastodon, on his personal website, or on LinkedIn.