Blog News Building a more inclusive and welcoming open source community on GitLab
Published on: January 29, 2024
9 min read

Building a more inclusive and welcoming open source community on GitLab

Open source projects using GitLab can now easily apply for CHAOSS DEI badges.

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At GitLab, our mission is to create a world where everyone can contribute. To keep building that world, we want to equip open source projects using GitLab with tools to foster more inclusive and welcoming communities. Today we're announcing one of those tools.

We're excited to share that GitLab has partnered with the Community Health Analytics in Open Source Software (CHAOSS) project to integrate GitLab with their recently released DEI Project Badging program. The DEI Project Badging program enables open source projects to:

  • Clearly signal their focus on building diverse communities
  • More easily highlight the work they are doing to welcome and support new members
  • Add visual badges to their projects to indicate their community's reflection on the CHAOSS DEI badging metrics

GitLab is already badged. Many of our open source partners are joining us (see below). Now your project can be badged, too. Everything you need to start using this new integration is on the CHAOSS Project Badging site.

Read on to learn how this initiative came together — and how you can get involved.

Productive CHAOSS

Finding an open source community to learn, connect, and grow with isn't always easy. In fact, a Linux Foundation report on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in open source communities highlighted just how difficult it can be for certain contributors. Open source contributors from underrepresented groups were more likely to feel unwelcome and experience exclusionary practices. The report noted barriers to representation in leadership and language blockers around reading and writing in the English language. Here are some findings from the report:

  • 36% of respondents reported experiencing some form of stereotyping behavior based on perceived demographic characteristics.
  • 30% of respondents were unsure a code of conduct would be enforced.
  • 22% of respondents disagreed that equal opportunity exists for people with different backgrounds to be part of the decision-making process.

These numbers are concerning. But to anyone familiar with the struggles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in open source, they're likely not surprising, either.

To better align on best practices for building inclusive open source communities, and to ensure that GitLab's company DEI value is reflected in our contributor community, GitLab partnered with an authoritative source: the CHAOSS DEI working group. Founded in 2017, the CHAOSS community is a Linux Foundation project that defines open source community health metrics.

The group builds tools that everyone working in open source — maintainers, developers, and community managers alike — can use to spot trends in their open source projects. Ultimately, CHAOSS wants to enable everyone to create healthier and more sustainable open source communities.

The CHAOSS DEI working group asked us to reflect on their open source inclusivity metrics and showcase what we were doing at GitLab to build a more inclusive open source ecosystem. They also invited us to contribute to one of their most ambitious projects: a system of badges that open source communities can use to clearly signal their dedication to making that ecosystem a more supportive place.

How the DEI Project Badging system works

It works like this.

Open source projects compose DEI Project Statements and place those statements prominently in their codebases (as a file named Writing the statement involves taking a real, hard look at what DEI means for a project's unique community — not just signing off on a shared, generalized statement. By publicly sharing these statements, the entire open source ecosystem learns and grows collectively.

CHAOSS offers an automated tool for scanning a project repository for the presence of the file, then returns its contents to CHAOSS for review. If the project meets the CHAOSS project's criteria for diversity, equity, and inclusion, CHAOSS awards that project a badge, signifying its status as an inclusive project.

"CHAOSS spends a lot of time thinking about open source community health, so we are thrilled to be able to help open source projects better communicate and surface their efforts to build more inclusive communities," says Elizabeth Barron, a community manager for CHAOSS. "We are hopeful that advocating for a more consistent way to do so (via a file) will offer a better way for a project to share their approach with other projects, in true open source fashion."

We liked what we saw. And we knew we could pitch in — not just by writing and certifying our own DEI Project Statement, but by integrating the CHAOSS project's tool with GitLab so other communities could, too.

GitLab contributes

So we got to work. We examined practices from teams across GitLab, including Developer Relations, Contributor Success, GitLab UX, the Product Accessibility working group, and the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging team. To help draft an initial Bronze tier for the DEI Badging program, we shared example practices from GitLab, including:

  • GitLab's project maintainers and merge request coaches span global timezones and work asynchronously with contributors across the world.
  • GitLab operates the GitLab Unfiltered YouTube channel that shares all publicly available meetings, recordings, and community pairing sessions.
  • GitLab uses weekly triage reports on first-time contributors who are awaiting a response to a merge request. This ensures newcomers always hear back from a real person about their merge request.

In partnership with CHAOSS, we'll continue to build more tiers into the program. This will help motivate projects to continue their DEI efforts and reflect on more CHAOSS DEI metrics.

And we've made it easier for open source projects on GitLab to get badged, too, by collaborating with CHAOSS to directly integrate GitLab with the badging application process. The CHAOSS badging website features a "Login with GitLab" button, which provides project owners a single-click connection between their GitLab projects and CHAOSS.

For communities using GitLab to build open source software, this makes submitting a project and scanning it for a file fast and easy. For self-hosted GitLab projects, applicants can submit a form on the CHAOSS badging website to get a review.

To help sustain this initiative, GitLab is sponsoring the CHAOSS Africa chapter, the team behind development of the DEI Project Badging system. Since its inception in 2022, CHAOSS Africa has seen impressive growth while solving the challenges of open source communities in Africa and helping newcomers become open source contributors. We're eager to see what they continue building together with their communities.

With help from our friends

We're not acting alone. Building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive open source ecosystem requires collective commitment. In that spirit, several of our open source partners are announcing their support of the badging integration.

Here's what they had to say:

"The Drupal Association is proud to be reinforcing our longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice by partnering with CHAOSS and GitLab right at the launch of this initiative. Drupal is recognized as a Digital Public Good by the United Nations-endorsed Digital Public Goods Alliance, and we feel the responsibility of building a better, more open internet that recognizes, elevates, and serves historically underrepresented communities. We're hopeful that this effort is part of a sea change in open source communities, and software development in general, to better recognize, evaluate, and redress DEI challenges that we have a collective responsibility to solve. We believe this metric-driven approach will help projects reinforce each other's good behavior, and inspire the industry as a whole. We're looking forward to cataloging our DEI commitments according to this new process, to share and compare with the wider ecosystem." Tim Lehnen, CTO, Drupal Association

"The Good Docs Project is excited to join with CHAOSS and GitLab to promote the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in open source. We want to empower our community members to do their best work and be their authentic selves. By participating in this initiative, we hope to think deeply about how we can promote greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in our project and then develop concrete policies and actions to support those goals. We pledge to develop our policies and earn our DEI badge from CHAOSS within the next few months." Alyssa Rock, Community Manager, The Good Docs Project

"The integration of CHAOSS project's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative with GitLab is an important milestone for building more inclusive open source software, one that resonates on all levels with our Colmena Project. The initiative creates the necessary visibility for many inclusive open source projects, not only paves the way for an ecosystem-focused approach to software development in general, but also encourages greater cooperation at a peer-to-peer level. It enables community members to recognize the vast diversity of contexts involved in the work of software development, and to inspire each other. This is important to the Colmena project, which is focused on supporting community and local media that makes visible the reality of indigenous peoples, women, youth, and different identities that are not part of the agenda of mainstream media. Participating in this initiative gives us the opportunity to better recognize DEI challenges and constantly reflect on our work to readjust and improve our efforts. We commit to continuing the dialogue with our community on these issues, documenting our efforts transparently and making necessary readjustments to policies and procedures." Nils Brock, Program Director, Colmena

"The Kali Linux team is very proud to have been invited to take part in this initiative, and we are looking forward to what it means for the open source community. We are committed to being as inclusive as possible and hope to demonstrate that through our efforts. For more information on what we are planning on doing to support it, please read our DEI Promise." Joe O'Gorman, Community Manager, Kali Linux

Let's build together

The work is far from over.

"We are committed to diversifying open source communities on GitLab. It's a critical part of our strategy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, at GitLab in 2024 and beyond," says Sherida McMullan, Vice President of Diversity Inclusion & Belonging at GitLab. "This DEI Project Badging program launched in partnership with CHAOSS helps us to make great strides in fostering an inclusive open source space and highlighting inclusive projects. As we enter Black History month, this is just the beginning of the impact we are looking to make in GitLab's open source communities."

We invite every member of the GitLab community to join us in making the open source community on GitLab a more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive place to build the future together. Get started today by certifying your project, contributing to GitLab, and helping us create a world where everyone can contribute.

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