A year of Program Management for Open Source Projects

Today, I celebrate the first anniversary of Program Management for Open Source Projects. It officially hit the shelves on July 19, 2022. I am proud of the work I put into it and I’m honored that so many of you were willing to buy a copy. Thank you!

Of course, a book is rarely the end. Since I launched this site in early 2022, you’ve told me about the parts that are meaningful to you on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Mastodon. We’ve connected at conferences, and I’ve been invited to give several talks to companies and open source projects. (I can talk to yours, too, just let me know!)

To mark the anniversary, I invited the newsletter subscribers to submit their questions. Here’s a selection. If you have your own questions — or things you’d like to see me write about — let me know.

Do you feel differently a year out than you expected to feel prior to publication?

I’m not sure how I expected to feel. There’s a sense of relief that the book is done, but I think I expected that. Writing books is much better in the past tense. I definitely didn’t expect the number of times I’d use it as a reference for myself.

What did you edit out of this book? Do you regret it?

I didn’t edit out much of substance. There were a few parts where I cut really obscure references that only I would understand. I also cut out a little bit of the first few chapters when we rearranged them because they no longer fit cleanly.

What do you wish you had included in the book?

I’d have liked to include details on specific tools in the appendix. But software moves quickly and I knew it would be out of date before the ink dried.

I intentionally kept the scope of the book relatively narrow. I wanted to focus on the engineering program management aspects. There are a lot of books about leadership, community building, and so on. But those are important parts of the role, and I sometimes wonder if I should have accepted the overlap.

How do you handle negative feedback from your editor? How does it help you grow as a writer?

I was lucky to draw Michael Swaine as my editor. He was incredibly supportive. I never got what I’d call “negative” feedback from him. That’s good because my ego is remarkably fragile. Mike’s feedback was always “here’s how you could make this better” not “this is awful.”

I think the most valuable lesson I learned from him is the “hero’s journey” style that the Pragmatic Bookshelf uses. I’ve found myself writing in a way that guides the reader instead of lecturing at them ever since.

How awesome is your wife?

She’s the best. And not just because she subscribes to the newsletter.

This post’s featured photo by Patti Black on Unsplash.

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


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