Fireside Chat with Node.js Foundation Chairperson: Todd Moore, VP of Open Technology at IBM

As Vice President of Open Technology at IBM, Todd Moore leads the IBM global team working to develop open communities that are the building blocks for future tech innovations and new markets. He is engaged with communities and technologies that span cloud computing, AI, quantum computing, mobile computing, languages, and more.

His first foray into computing was wire wrapping a Fairchild SCMP chipset into a simple computer and then doing the same with a Zilog Z80. Building his own first computer and then teaching himself to program set him on a path to a career in the industry. He still designs, builds and programs projects.

Todd works with leading open source communities such as the Apache Software Foundation, Linux Foundation, eClipse, OSGi, Cloud Foundry, Docker, JS Foundation, OpenStack, Kubernetes and more. Along with serving as the chairperson of the Node.js Foundation, he also chairs the governing board for the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

We recently sat down with Todd to learn more about the Foundation’s mission, what he and other board members have accomplished this year and goals for 2018. Happy reading.

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What is the Node.js Foundation’s purpose and mission?

The Node.js Foundation is here to support the community. It enables the ecosystem and makes sure that the community has what it needs to succeed, whether that’s setting aside a budget to help Node.js collaborators come to Node.js Interactive (Node.js Foundation’s annual event) or supporting the Community Committee’s initiatives to get more programmers into Node.js.

We also help set the budget for Foundation staff needed to make sure the community interacts as smoothly as possible and programs exist to best serve end users. As a result of the work that we do, we hope to better understand end users’ concerns, and can highlight their stories to build a more robust community.

The thing that is always most shocking to me is the sheer number of people using Node.js — from 3.5 million instances online daily in 2016 to 8.8 million instances online today. Wow. Therefore, making Node.js as safe for mass adoption as possible, and making sure we don’t stumble with security or anything else that might deter users now and in the future is a top priority for us. We care deeply about this and are committed to making Node.js better for the community and overall ecosystem.

The Node.js Foundation is a non-profit, so all the money that we spend from membership goes directly into the health of Node.js. Our overarching mission and purpose is to keep Node.js healthy and growing through the various initiatives that I covered above and more.

What is the main value the Foundation provides to the project? Why is a Foundation important to Node.js?

The Foundation provides a neutral and independent home for community activities and ensures our community’s long-term sustainability. This means institutions and businesses who are looking at using Node.js are not tied to a single vendor. Because of open governance, through the Foundation, anyone interested in using Node.js can fairly and easily assess the project and identify plans for future progress.

Under the Foundation, the Technical Steering Committee was created. The TSC was able to create a long-term support plan that provides stability and security to the project. This helps both end users and the community.

When the Foundation came in, the project was stalled. Without the Foundation, I don’t think we would be here today, or experiencing anywhere near the level of success we have today.

What are the Foundation’s biggest accomplishments this year?

There’s a lot of accomplishments that we can be really proud of as a community this year. When we started the Foundation, a lot of the work in Node Core was being done by only four individuals. This just wasn’t viable at all.

Now there are 12 working groups, 21 members of the Technical Steering Committee, and more than 1600+ contributors. We have more than 40K stars on GitHub, in large part thanks to Node.js Interactive 2017’s Code + Learn, which is an in-person event series where developers receive mentoring from Node.js Core Contributors to learn the step-by-step process of contributing to Node.js Core. A thank you to all those from the community that helped volunteer their time to get folks started on their first PR with Node Core in Vancouver!

The Long Term Support strategy that we established in 2015 is seeing great success. Our last LTS release (Node.js 8) has a major performance boost — it is up to 20 percent faster than its predecessor Node.js 6 in typical web applications — and lots of great features for developers like Async / Await. LTS releases are increasingly becoming the most popular downloads.

We also launched an early preview of the Node.js Certification Program that will provide a framework for general Node.js competency, helping enterprises quickly identify qualified Node.js engineers, while providing developers, contractors and consultants with a way to differentiate themselves in the market. This is something that many people in the industry are eagerly awaiting and the first vendor-neutral certification around Node.js.

I’m extremely proud for what we’ve accomplished, but know there’s a lot more that we need to do.

What is your new role on the Node.js Foundation board and what does it entail?

I’m the new chairperson for the Node.js Foundation. This can be a very challenging, but rewarding role. It is a role that has to balance the business of the Foundation and the needs of the community and the user base. It’s one that includes helping to judicate disputes; find solutions when there are resource problems; and execute new projects and programs like the certification program because they bring value to the end user.

The chair really needs to look at the health of the community as a whole and make sure everyone is included. I also need to make sure the board carries out its duties, voting on various issues that come up, while working with everyone to do what is best for the community now and into the future.

What is the Foundation doing to ensure Node.js will be a sustainable ecosystem for the next five years?

As Mark Hinkle mentioned in his keynote address at Node.js Interactive, Node.js is in a very enviable place by many means. In 2016, there were 3.5 million daily instances of Node.js, now there are 8.8 million daily instances of Node.js. Every week there are more than 3 billion downloads of npm packages.

The technology is growing so quickly in a lot of different areas whether that’s within the enterprise, with IoT (largely due to the strength of the NodeBots community) or fueling the API economy. Node.js is the most popular language on IBM Cloud, and one of the most used workloads on Google, Microsoft and Amazon’s clouds. Not to mention, it’s use with AWS Functions and IBM Cloud Function for serverless. It is the language of choice in serverless.

These numbers are great, but growth like this sometimes creates growing pains. We earmarked resources to help put in place procedures and processes that will help our project work through ailments that occur when you grow so quickly.

For example, we are working with outside counsel on community mediation and arbitration to make sure there are processes in place that will best sustain and grow Node.js. This is something that we take seriously. I believe we have a very friendly and inclusive community; it is one of the most friendly and productive ones that I’ve ever worked with, but when controversies happen we have witnessed people outside the community try to disrupt it and we can’t have that. That’s not to say we don’t have rough patches. We do have rough patches, but this is something we are working towards changing.

We are also actively recruiting others to join the Foundation, so we have resources that we can reinvest into the project from a technical, community and end user perspective.

What will you be working on for the remainder of 2017? Anything new planned for 2018?

We are really looking forward to fully launching Node.js certification in early 2018. This has been tremendously successful already with over 2,300 early signups. We are continuing to see people respond to 101, 102, 103 tutorials on Node.js and how to operate it in various environments. Certification will provide developers with a lot of resources to really get Node.js kicked off the ground.

We see Node.js as a de facto language for serverless, microservice-based architectures and containerized workloads. We are looking to build out a strategy and engage with those in these types of communities more to help indoctrinate folks into our base. This is a really exciting prospect for us.

I’m really excited to see all of the projects that the Community Committee is going to be kicking off this year. This group reflects a formal voice for the community. They are working on a lot of great programs to get folks into Node.js that have no programming experience and also easing the process of contributing to Node.js. This group, which is comprised of some really talented folks, is just getting started. We look forward to helping them achieve their goals in this space.

What do you see as the value of participating in the Foundation for users, solution providers and/or developers?

From the end user perspective, by participating in the Foundation you can really get your usage story out there, so others can see examples and learn. It’s a great way to give back to other users and to those who develop Node.js. The developers behind Node.js can see the fruit of their labor and learn how they can improve work in the future. There’s a really great synergy that’s created between end users and those working on Core.

From a corporate perspective, Node.js has a huge developer user base. The most important thing for anyone working with IT developers to know is that the developers have all the power. Developers make purchasing decisions and guide where their companies are heading. If a company has an insider’s understanding of the technology and a strong relationship with the creators of the project, you have a much better chance of attracting and hiring the best, most talented developers. Not being a part of the Foundation, leaves companies at a major disadvantage when it comes to talent acquisition and hiring. The Foundation provides a direct connection to the developer base that backs Node.js.

Developers come because they have benefited tremendously from the project. They want to contribute back and do in many ways, and that doesn’t always include writing code. It can be talking at a conference, sharing experiences with others, or managing a meetup group. We have an individual membership too, which provides them with special discounts to conferences and also a voice in the vote for the Node.js Foundation Board of Directors.

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