Doubling Down: What It’s Like Contributing to Open Source at Logz.io

What's It Like Contributing to Open Source at Logz.io?

Logz.io has always prided itself as a company pushing the use of open source tech. As we have moved to expand our reach with metrics and traces over the past year and a half, we have doubled down on our own contributions to the community.

With (distributed) traces in particular, we have been able to forge ahead. Our relationship with the teams at Jaeger and OpenTelemetry have really blossomed (and we are kind of proud to have supported the latter in the run-up to the OpenTelemetry v1.0 release). The same goes for open source culture in our (distributed) office spaces.

Albert Teoh (software engineer) and Yogev Metzuyanim (integration developer) are leading the Logz.io effort on the OSS tracing front. I sat down with them, I mean, via Zoom obviously, and asked them to go into more detail. 

What is the balance between the company and the open source community like? How does it affect, or mold, Logz.io? And, what have they been getting out of the experience?

Here’s what they had to say.

Contributing to Open Source as Part of Your Job

“I think it’s awesome,” says Albert. “I couldn’t have imagined being employed and paid [to do these things.]” At one point, he says, he had “had the impression that os is volunteer work. It’s fantastic that Logz.io is willing to invest in that.”

He’s not the only one that loves this kind of combo of objectives in the office. But it can also be a different type of pressure. Getting started meant facing an unusual confluence of nerves.

“It was initially quite daunting, mainly because you’re putting yourself out there for the public to see.” 

Yogev had a similar reaction, describing a slight fear before jumping in. But then he realized a couple of things.

“Everyone’s standards are lower than you think, even if I see our standards are pretty high,” Yogev says. In other words, no one expects your contributions to be revolutionary or gargantuan. Nor do they expect you to be perfect. Additionally, the confluence of resources minimizes errors or their influence even more.

“Someone else might come along and correct you from the outside, Yogev added. “It’s like another pair — well, pairs — many, many eyes that see what you’re doing and can help you.”

Albert shared that impression.

“There’s a range of developers that you can access and get knowledge out of. They’re very willing to help if you ask the right questions.”

Logz.io Expanding Role with Open Source Tracing 

Albert and Yogev are mainly working on Jaeger and OpenTelemetry. The pair are working on making it easier to handle, send, and parse data. They’ve also worked on the gRPC interface with Jaeger (beneficial to Logz.io’s integration and others’).

There is an interesting little wrinkle to deal with when you’re also contributing as the face of your company. But what might have been represented professional and personal pressure in tandem, has yielded quite the intrinsic reward for the Logz.io team. 

And yet, Albert does admit, “It feels to me they’re quite different worlds.”

“What I do seems a bit estranged from what the rest of my team is doing.” However, his work is bringing open source’s influence to the rest of that team.

Albert sees contributions like his and Yogev’s as the natural outgrowth of Logz.io’s goals, even an elevation of the company’s contributions to a responsibility. 

“Especially with our commitment now to contribute to the fork of Elasticsearch and Kibana, there’s an increasing emphasis on giving back to the community. And, in terms of being more responsive to contributions.”

It’s a huge milestone for Logz.io as a company, but an enormous one for Albert himself.

Soon after this interview, Albert was promoted to be an official maintainer of the Jaeger project by the other eight on the maintenance team. Along with those nine people, Albert estimates about 30 or so active volunteers watching for new issues and keeping track of updates.

Similarly, Yogev sees the chances for devs to better themselves in a sort of pressure cooker where you are working with peers across the industry.

“You know, it’s funny, you have to think it through everything you write. You’re representing our company and want to do it as well as possible. You really want to shine. You really try to do your best in one shot. “

Businesses Driving OSS Projects

For the uninitiated, it would be reasonable to ask if it looks odd to contribute to a non-profit project on behalf of a for-profit company.

“I didn’t actually think about that and jumped on the bandwagon straight away.,” says Albert. “I really enjoy it.”

With people less familiar to this sort of dynamic in the open source world, Yogev simplifies the web of relationships pretty well: 

“Even though your motives aren’t exactly what you’d call pure, everybody wins. We have another way to ship data to us and users have another source to ship to.”

Competitors by Day, Open Source Partners by Night

Beyond just being the norm for companies to add their fair share to crowdsourced dev projects, some might be more surprised with how closely business rivals will end up working together to inject progress into these initiatives.

For novices to the phenomenon of open source work or for people in the industry who aren’t on the developer side, it can feel a bit strange: rival companies working together on the sidelines on projects of common interest. As Yogev puts it, “There are no rivals here.”

Yogev: “It’s actually cool. You get to see how other companies and open source technologies work and their pipeline of receiving and contributing code.”

Albert actually didn’t realize how diverse the crowd was working on Jaeger and OpenTelemetry.

“Honestly, I was blissfully unaware at first. It’s a real mix of different people,” Albert describes, before listing off companies like Splunk, Datadog, RedHat, and Grafana Labs as companies involved in either or both efforts.  “For OpenTelemetry it’s actually much bigger. A lot of projects are involved with hundreds of people.”

A Different — and Motivating — Inspiring Experience

With so many people, there will inevitably be differences in how people contribute. 

“Time is always an issue,” says Yogev. There is always something more you can do and almost certainly that you want to do. “It really depends on how much you have, what you want, if we can take it slow and think of every step we make. If we have some sort of rush deadline.”

New ideas creep up on you when you work on little features or fixing mistakes on these types of projects. That is, especially when you realize that so much of the software out there — and that Logz.io uses or builds — is open source. There is a process from trepidation to enthusiasm.

“Like I said, I was afraid initially because everyone can see your mistakes if you have any,” Yogev explains. “But as time goes by, I can’t help but think it’s a really good experience here.”

And then not just as individuals, but as a company.

“We’re more a part of the community this way. It’s big. It’s a big deal. It’s not like we’re some company that just keeps its cards to itself. Here, we put all the cards on the table.”

“It gets noticed. There is always a good association in your mind when it’s open source.”

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