[Proposal] FOSS Labs

(initially proposed during the intro call for members)


Me and Kailash were having a discussion on the Telegram group about Bell Labs, and this sparked a question in my head, “Do we have something like Bell Labs but for FOSS in India?”

This is where the idea of FOSS Labs came into existence - like-minded people tinkering and experimenting with ideas and bringing them to life.


I propose FOSS United could start a new initiative called FOSS Labs. FOSS Labs is a dedicated place for people to tinker and work upon those ideas.

The idea is to promote communities who work on niche fields - systems programming, functional programming, scientific computing, etc. These communities are under-represented in India, and I believe FOSS United could be a great platform for them to collaborate with like-minded people.

Since getting more people involved into FOSS (outreach) is the first step of FOSS United’s goals, setting up a great environment for contributing to projects would be a nice next step.

This is basically Open Source. How is it different?

It’s easy for beginners to get puzzled while finding a project to contribute, and it’s hard for project maintainers to get more people involved with the project. FOSS Labs could help in reducing this gap. FOSS United has a large pool of talented individuals who want to contribute, and a lot of people who actively maintain projects and are looking for contributors.

How does it work?

I have two plans:

  1. Interested project maintainers can choose to “donate” their project to FOSS Labs. FOSS Labs will host a set of projects (projects donated by maintainers, or projects built at FOSS Labs). This allows contributors to find a project to get involved with, and allows maintainers to build a great community!
  2. FOSS Labs could set up a repository for finding projects - something like goodfirstissue.dev. There isn’t a similar website/collection for Indian FOSS projects, we could be the first! And, other websites require you to have at least 5/10 contributors on board, for getting the project posted. (we could control spam by manually reviewing each submission?)

Future plans:

The main focus is to help under-represented developer communities (Haskell, Clojure, systems programming, etc.) to get more people contribute to their projects, and also help new contributors find a good project to get involved with!

This also brings a set of more diverse people to FOSS United, and maybe, we could have some interesting talks for IndiaFOSS 3.0? :smile:

this is a draft, please feel free to suggest something!

cc: @WishArya


Just to clarify, what you are saying is this:

  1. FOSS United should have a permanent space (FOSS Labs)
  2. FOSS United should have resident fellows working on FOSS projects in the space.
  3. FOSS Labs should also be a space for people to educate and learn?

This is a great vision! Next steps would be:

  1. Pick a city (BLR?)
  2. Make a budget (space + furniture + hiring)
  3. Find a champion
  4. Raise money

Maintaining this as a permanent space is hard; it adds some operational costs, and makes it inaccessible for people living outside the physical space.

I’m aligned on making it an online space, here’s how I think it could be:

  1. A GitHub organization under the name of FOSS Labs, or FOSS United Labs?
  2. All projects can be maintained under the umbrella organization, leaving the current FOSS United Github organization, as it is. It also allows us to set more granular access: reviewers, maintainers, etc.
  3. The repository for finding projects (as mentioned above) would be a website where maintainers can choose to “register” their project. Allows more visibility and exposure for Indian FOSS projects!

It would be great to have a physical space, but we might be missing out on some participation from talented folks living somewhere else. This is why I think having it on code sharing platforms like Github, etc. would be a great way to make it accessible and inclusive!

Since donating an existing project to the FOSS Labs organization won’t be ideal; we can start out with hosting a set of projects under the FOSS Labs GitHub organization.

The way this could be set up is as follows:

  • We could create a FOSS Labs website using Frappe, which could have a voting system, similar to what we had for FOSS Hack 2.0; under the “project list” section.
  • Ideas for projects could be suggested using the web interface.
  • Conversation around the projects could be handled in the web interface itself, or an external forum/chat. (Discourse, Telegram, etc.)
  • In order to limit the number of projects, a couple of quality control measures could be taken:
    • Votes as a criteria (prone to spamming?)
    • A reviewing system, similar to the reviewing meant for reviewing grants but less rigid.

We should be aware that accepting every new project under the organization isn’t possible. If a project doesn’t get accepted, it still has made some progress: it might have generated some interest in some possible contributors and probably, might have got some suggestions from the community!

IMHO, one could fashion this similar to Linux Foundation rather than a physical entity and the disadvantages that it brings. Linus Torvalds is a Fellow of Linux Foundation and gets paid to work on the Linux kernel full-time. So do many other people across the world that the members of Linux Foundation consider worthy of that title on a variety of different open source projects.

Similarly, LF hosts projects that its members deem worthy of investment and provides these projects with infrastructure, IT help, and sometimes even sponsors the developer.

FOSS United Labs could start with stipends instead of a full salary.