Open Path

by Chad Whitacre

Welcome to Open Path

By Chad Whitacre ❧ Published on January 4, 2024
tl;dr Open Path is a new blog by Chad Whitacre about Open Source, tech, and society

Greetings! Welcome to Open Path. The purpose of this blog is to contribute to important conversations about topics that matter to the Open Source community, the wider tech industry, and society at large. In this intro post I’ll give you a little background on myself, and sketch the big picture for the direction of this blog.

A Little About Me

My name is Chad Whitacre, and I’ve been involved in Open Source since 2001, soon after Christine Peterson coined the term. I participated in the Python web development boom in the 2000s that gave rise to Django and Flask. During this time, I experienced first-hand the tension between volunteer Open Source work and paid closed source work, so I spent the 2010s as founder of a crowdfunding startup called Gittip (later Gratipay). Now, here in the 2020s, I am Head of Open Source at Sentry, an application monitoring company with deep roots in the Open Source community.

In the past I’ve published on the Gittip and Gratipay blogs, as well as on OpenSource.com. In my current role I publish on Sentry’s blog, but there is more I need to say than makes sense to post there. With Open Path I am establishing a platform for myself to explore themes in Open Source and beyond.

Why? So I Won’t Get Fined

To be honest, I’m irrationally terrified to start blogging again. A psychologist evaluated me in 2018 (a routine part of kidney donation). He diagnosed me with PTSD from all of the online conflict related to the end of Gittip (Gratipay). 2015–2017 did, in fact, suck.

In one sense, then, I’m just here so I won’t get fined. I work for Sentry, and my job requires me to be a “thought leader,” so I need a platform. Others at Sentry have theirs:

Those are theirs. This is mine.

Now, I’m a mission-driven guy. I naturally tend to want to relate my work in the world back to crisp fundamentals. Sentry’s mission is to enable developers to ship with confidence, so that guides my work in Open Source at Sentry.

Our Open Source Program Office (OSPO) has four programs:

  1. Self-hosted. Our business model is SaaS, but we want all developers to be able to use Sentry and Codecov. My team is responsible for our self-hosted offerings, which are suitable out-of-the-box for small-volume and proof-of-concept deployments, and can serve as blueprints for more robust setups.

  2. Community engagement. Open Source is the de facto development model for developers society-wide. Practically speaking, my team maintains GitHub automations to help us stay on top of inbound issues.

  3. Licensing and compliance. We work closely with Legal to ensure compliance with the terms of the licenses of the components we use, and to properly license the software we ourselves produce.

  4. Funding. We give lots of money to Open Source projects. It’s fun.

I see (1) as directly related to our mission. My team “enables developers” by making Sentry and Codecov available to use in a way they couldn’t otherwise. I see (2) as one degree removed. When developers have trouble using our products, we want to hear about it, so we can help them out and potentially improve the products.

I see (3) and (4) as further removed from Sentry’s mission, narrowly understood. Our licensing and funding activities do not directly help Sentry and Codecov users ship their own software with confidence. If you squint, you could be like, “Well, Sentry and Codecov need a strong Open Source supply chain in order to be stable products.” Meh, maybe. I think this only really gets interesting when we start talking about the state of the Open Source ecosystem as a whole, beyond just our own products.

Broadly understood, Sentry’s mission includes solving the Open Source sustainability crisis. We want to enable developers to ship with confidence, meaning:

Both are way bigger than Sentry, and that’s where thought leadership enters my job description. Hence, this blog.

Really Why? The Lens of Love

Sentry’s mission is to enable developers to ship with confidence, but this is my platform, not Sentry’s. These are my opinions, not those of my employer. What is my mission? What are the fundamentals I care about?

I wrote about this when Gratipay was dying its slow death. Love is the word. That’s the lens I come back to, trite and loaded as it may be. Open Source is not an end in itself. To get from Open Source to Love and back, we have a lot of ground to cover:

Like I say, I naturally tend to want to relate my work in the world back to fundamentals. If I’m going to blog in my own voice on my own platform, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to avoid going down rabbit holes such as these. 🐰🕳️

I do think Open Source is one of the most interesting things going right now, precisely because it does touch on so many fundamental questions about what it means to be human in the world. I’m terrified at the prospect of engaging these questions publicly—to press the metaphor, this path seems to be starting out along the edge of a cliff!

Hopefully Open Path leads to a good place. Hopefully I won’t get fined.

Thanks for visiting! 💃

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