JuliaCon 2020 BoF Session: Transitioning Code From Closed To Open

Hi all,

I’ll be running a JuliaCon BoF session next Friday wherein we’ll discuss challenges, strategies, and opportunities related to open-sourcing code from within private organizations. The basic premise:

Within private companies/institutions, it can be difficult to implement effective internal practices that enable internal code to smoothly transition into high quality, open-source contributions. In this BoF, we’ll swap techniques for maximizing open-source impact in the Julia ecosystem while minimizing refactor time/effort and code churn.

As many of you know, I left MIT a bit over a year ago to start a company with some incredibly talented neuroscience + Julia friends. We’re building technology to makes brain monitoring more accessible, interpretable, and actionable, and the Julia ecosystem has played a critical role in many of our early wins.

By now, we’ve accumulated a lot of interesting work internally that I’d love to open-source/upstream, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to actually prioritize doing so when there are so many other pressing concerns competing for the company’s finite bandwidth. I imagine that we’re not the only private entity in the Juliaverse in which the phrase “ah, we should definitely open-source <internal tool> at some point” is commonly uttered but seldom acted upon :wink:

Thus, I thought it might be fun to run a BoF where folks in similar enviroments could come together and figure out strategies to minimize effort and maximize impact when open-sourcing code.

As part of this BoF, I’d like to propose and solicit feedback on a very concrete idea: an annual community hackathon dedicated to open-sourcing internal work. An “Open-Source-A-Thon”, if you will (better name, anyone?). I imagine it’d go something like this:

  1. Before the hackathon, each participating organization forms a team and creates a backlog of preapproved items for them to open-source during the hackathon.
  2. At the start of the hackathon, each team shares a rough outline of their backlog with other teams. This way, folks can plan cross-collaboration for areas where they might be tackling similar work (e.g. team A and team B both have an internal patch that adds the same feature X to package Y).
  3. During the hackathon, teams crunch through their backlogs, hopefully resulting in many new joyous PRs and package registrations.
  4. Afterwards, all of the participating organizations can put out a blog post summarizing the results of the event and the impact to the Julia community.

My hope is that such an event would…

  • …foster/strengthen collaboration across organizational boundaries, and reduce potentially duplicated open-sourcing efforts.
  • …both push forward and prove the Julia ecosystem’s readiness for “production” use.
  • …serve as a nice promotional incentive for the involved organizations.
  • …provide nice promotional and technical benefits to the Julia community.
  • …be super fun!

If we move quickly enough, we could target scheduling this kind of event in October to align well with Hacktoberfest. There are obviously lots of details to work out, but I know Beacon Biosignals would certainly co-sponsor and participate in such an event if folks are interested :slight_smile:

I’ve already spoken to a few folks about all of this (big thanks especially to @omus for his awesome insights), but I’d love to hear more of your thoughts/ideas/questions. Additionally, if anybody has any agenda items they think might be interesting for the BoF, definitely let me know!

Looking forward to another awesome JuliaCon this year :rocket:


This sounds like a great idea! It would be great if out of the BoF there was a writeup or a blog post or something that can be used as a guide by companies (presumably for the managers) for open sourcing certain internal packages. Having a specific event around such a thing could also be great.

At Julia Computing, we already contribute heavily to Julia and existing open source packages, and have open sourced various things over time. Happy to share our experiences.



To update anybody who might be following along on Discourse:

The BoF was indeed quite fun :slight_smile: I wrote up a retrospective in the blog post here:

Would love your feedback!

We’ve also now have an #industry-users channel on the Julia Slack, and a working document for the proposed Contributhon:

If you’re a member of an org that might be interested in participating, let me know! We’re trying to select an initial date for the event over the coming week.


Blog post has landed: https://julialang.org/blog/2020/09/juliacon-2020-open-source-bof-follow-up/ :slight_smile: