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Mifos OSCON Recap

oscon2014_logoIt’s become an annual tradition for our Mifos team to gather in Portland for a week of reaching out to new contributors and immersing ourselves in the latest in open source technology and communities at OSCON. This year we had a busy week with the Community Leadership Summit, our quarterly Mifos Initiative board meeting, an exhibition booth in the non-profit pavilion and a speaking slot on the Business and Javascript tracks at OSCON.

Once again throughout the hallways and in our conference booth, our initiative was very well-received. In general, the sector is  familiar with microfinance and their curiosity is piqued when they discover our initiative, an open source platform for delivering financial services to the poor. This year I noted a larger presence of financial services people more heavily involved in open source, including regulators, payments providers, and those involved in alternative currencies like Bitcoin. We are interested in bringing to bear their skills in both open source technology and financial services.

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Ishan’s GSOC’14 Experience with Mifos

Story So Far

gsoc-aspirant@mifos: Finding Organisation….[Done]
gsoc-aspirant@mifos: Introduction to Developer Community….[Done]
gsoc-aspirant@mifos: Finding a Project….[Done]
gsoc-aspirant@mifos: Contributing – Iterating – Contributing…………………………………………….[Done]
gsoc-aspirant@mifos: Selected @ Mifos
ishan@mifos: Developing Android Client………………….[Working]

 

androidThis is my first experience as an open source developer for an organisation and undoubtedly it’s been awesome so far. Working alongside experienced developers is always fun, for I love learning from others’ experiences.

Writing code that others can contribute to as well had always been a challenge, until I started with my android-client project. What can give nightmares to others is now a child’s play for me. A cool thing about Mifos is that I just don’t have one mentor, but anyone I ask for help behaves like a kind mentor to me. Always ready to help! Full of zeal and readiness to clear all your doubts! Read more

GSoC ’14: A mid-term experience

Working with strangers spread all over the world can be a double-edged sword. You’ll face the “Time Zone Pain”, barriers in communication, and cultural pitfalls. On the other hand you’ll meet like minded geeks that share the same passion, coding for good – making the world a better place.

The Mifos community offered me the possibility to mentor a project for this years Google Summer of Code. It took me one light-second to agree. I love to share my experience and knowledge with others and I was lucky to find my counterpart with Rishabh. He is a 3rd year undergraduate student from Jammu in India.

During the last 6 weeks he is like a sponge absorbing everything, advancing his knowledge on a daily basis and increasing his coding skills like I never expected. We communicate at least once a day and we start to become friends. We not only talk about our project, we talk about our families, circumstances in life and even our plans for the weekend. Read more

Meet the 2014 Google Summer of Code Class of Interns

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It’s official. Coding for the 2014 Google Summer of Code has now begun. Once again we’re lucky to have a diverse and talented group of students interning with us this summer. This year we have seven interns from four different countries who will be working under the leadership of our mentors from six different countries.  They’ll be working on a wide spectrum of projects that range from the back-end platform to the front-end community app, on down to mobile apps used directly in the field. By the end of the summer, our community will benefit from a native Android app dedicated to making field staff more efficient, a mobile app for enabling Pay as you Go Solar Energy transactions, a vastly improved user experience for our community app, enhancements to our data migration tool, a batching API that will unlock performance improvements across the entire platform, as well as a powerful ad-hoc reporting tool and evolutions to the client impact portal to a production-ready release. Read more

Mifos at LinuxFest Northwest

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This past month we had the chance to experience LinuxFest Northwest for the first time. Over the years, we’d heard many good things from Adam Monsen and Bill Wright had always stopped by our booth to invite us to come. Their unique northwest logo always captivated us and given it was directly in our backyard, we had no excuses not to intend when we were offered a free booth as a Community Supporter.

This year, Ollie and I hosted a booth in the Exhibitor Hall for two days and got to meet hundreds of potential new supporters and contributors. It turned out to be one of the most well-run conferences we’ve attended and we look forward to returning for many years to come – hopefully we’ll get Vishwas to speak next year!  It’s a shame it took us to the 15th year of LinuxFest Northwest to finally come but LinuxFest Northwest has clearly perfected their conference over all those years and should be proud of their efforts.

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Google Summer of Code 2014 – End Poverty. One Line of Code at a Time.

gsoc-2014This summer you’ll have the ability to change lives – three billion of them – one line of code at a time. The Mifos Initiative will be participating in Google Summer of Code for the fourth time and our second consecutive year as an independent project. Mifos X is an open source technology platform for enabling financial inclusion to the poor. Google Summer of Code is a global program sponsored by Google that offers students stipends to write code for open source projects.  Students accepted to the program will spend their summers coding from May 19 to August 22nd and upon successful evaluation receive a $5500 stipend provided by Google. For full details on GSoC, read the FAQ and browse the program timeline – student applications open March 10! You can apply from our organization page. Read more

COSM ships Mifos X Platform 1.0

Mifos X Platform 1.0 is the first official release of the completely re-architected and re-written codebase that the Community for Open Source Microfinance has been working on since the transition of Mifos from the Grameen Foundation. As the next generation of the Mifos software, we are building off of everything we learned as the industry’s first web-based and open source software. We’re pleased to release the first open source platform for technology-enabled financial inclusion.

The Mifos X Platform is at the forefront of COSM’s strategy to scale Mifos through a community-driven development model and a network of local Specialists all contributing to a global cycle of innovation.

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ThoughtWorks HSP team gives Mifos X community a solid footing to grow from

I’d like to give a big thank you to the ThoughtWorks HSP team. Their team has only been a part of our community a few weeks but it seems like they’ve been with us for years. They’ve helped us at a critical time in the launch of Mifos X to our developer community. They’re putting the infrastructure in place to guide a smooth transition to our community-driven development model on top of the Mifos X platform.  

Here’s a guest post from Gurpreet on what’s been keeping them busy so far.

Recently, folks from ThoughtWorks started contributing to Mifos X as part of their Humanitarian Software Program (HSP). HSP is a ThoughtWorks initiative to help Humanitarian Open Source projects by channelizing beach and volunteer time of ThoughtWorkers. Gurpreet & Deepali from the HSP team at ThoughtWorks work full-time in connecting ThoughtWorkers to Open Source projects adopted under the HSP Program.

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Building a Better Community Experience

main-board-everything1Thoughts on how the Mifos community can follow David Eaves’ advice on enabling a better community experience based on his analysis of Mozilla metrics and dashboards analyzin contributors and their interactions.

David Eaves, a public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert who advises businesses on open source strategies and community management, put together a fascinating post on his blog. He takes a look at a set of dashboards and metrics Mozilla is using to measure the efficiency of its contributor community. He has pulled together some great insight that our (and any open source community) could follow to maintain better relationships with contributors and enable greater interaction and collaboration across a community.  We’re very excited to see such a large project like Mozilla doing this and should try to do it more formally with our contributor data in MifosForge.

For us, an area that we would really like to dig deep down into is metrics of our implementer community. We’re building pretty solid data on who our independent users are and who are specialists implementing Mifos along with rough metrics to measure that progress.  To help grow the user base of our software and identify how we can increase adoption, we need to understand the overall implementer experience. We’ve begun to analyze the lifecycle of a deployment, pinpointing the pain points along the way. Once we know more about where our users are, why they use our software, and what stage of deployment is most challenging, we can begin to improve the overall experience – i.e. make our software easier to deploy, improve our documentation, etc.

Here are a few noted highlights from David’s post.

Reducing Barriers to Cooperation

David on “Why the contributor experience is a key driver for success of open source projects”

“This task is made all the more complicated since Mozilla’s ability to fulfill its mission and compete against larger, better funded competitors depends on its capacity to tap into a large pool of social capital – a corps of paid and unpaid coders whose creativity can foster new features and ideas. Competing at this level requires Mozilla to provide processes and tools that can effectively harness and coordinate that energy at minimal cost to both contributors and the organization.

As I discussed in my Mozilla Summit talk on Community Management, processes that limit the size or potential of our community limit Mozilla.Conversely, making it easier for people to cooperate, collaborate, experiment and play enhances the community’s capacity. Consequently, open source projects should – in my opinion – constantly be looking to reduce or eliminate transactions costs and barriers to cooperation. A good example of this is how Github showed that forking can be a positive social contribution. Yes it made managing the code base easier, but what it really did was empower people. It took something everyone thought would kill open source projects – forking – and made it a powerful tool of experimentation and play.”

We have struggled with this given the learning curve for Mifos is so high and the codebase can be so murky once you get deep into it.  Seeking to overcome that, we try to put out as clear of documentation as possible, use tools that are open and transparent, and use the best-in-class open source libraries as we modularize our platform.  That being said, it requires a strong culture and a deep commitment to reducing these barriers that we as many open source projects must improve upon.

Building a Better Experience

David on “Using Data to Build a Better Contributor Experience”

“Unfortunately, it is often hard to quantitatively assess how effectively an open source community manages itself. Our goal is to change that. The hope is that these dashboards – and the data that underlies them – will provide contributors with an enhanced situational awareness of the community so they could improve not just the code base, but the community and its processes. If we can help instigate a faster pace of innovation of change in the processes of Mozilla, then I think this will both make it easier to improve the contributor experience and increase the pace of innovation and change in the software. That’s the hope.

…An open source communities volunteer contributors should be a treasured resource. One nice thing about this dashboard is that you can not only see just volunteers, but you can get a quick sense of those who haven’t submitted a patch in a while.

Using this view we can see who are volunteers who are starting to participate less – note the red circle marked “everything okay?” A good community manager might send these people an email asking if everything is okay. Maybe they are moving on, or maybe they just had a baby (and so are busy with a totally different type of patch – diapers), but maybe they had a bad experience and are frustrated, or a bunch of code is stuck in review. These are things we would want to know, and know quickly, as losing these contributors would be bad. In addition, we can also see who are the emerging power contributors – they might be people we want to mentor, or connect with mentors in order to solidify their positive association with our community and speed up their development. In my view, this should be core responsibilities of community managers and this dashboard makes it much easier to execute on these opportunities.”

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With a business domain that is so complex and a product that is so niche, we fully know that finding quality contributors is a challenge.  Retaining them and keeping them actively involved is a priority. We can use data to help us know who is actively contributing, who is dropping off and what areas of the product they’re contributing to. By understanding the overall contributor experience, we can build the processes and culture to increase community stickiness and incent volunteers to participate more.  Our mission of 3 Billion Maries is strong and we try to actively recognize our Star Contributors but we have much more we could do – how do you think we can increase volunteer contribution? More in-depth projects? Greater ownership of the project? Deeper connection to the entrepreneurs we’re empowering? Simpler projects? More engaged mentorship? Professional Networking and Development? There are many levers we can adjust to build a better experience, which matter to you most?

Understanding community is vital to helping it thrive and be successful.  For Mifos we need to focus on both our contributors and even more so our implementers – this community is the group that can help take our technology the last mile to the regions where microfinance institutions need it most.

Mifos Earns High Ratings in CGAP Software Review

Grameen Foundation today announced that Mifos®, its open source technology solution, has earned high marks in its first rating on the Microfinance Software Listings and Reviews published by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). The leading resource for information on microfinance software products, it gave Mifos maximum points for technical capabilities and for its suite of professional services. The reviews are conducted by independent evaluators with feedback from users.

Launched in 2006, Mifos provides microfinance institutions (MFIs) with both a centralized, web-enabled platform and an online hosted model (“Mifos Cloud”).  Its high-level security features, connectivity, flexibility and overall architecture earned Mifos the highest marks for technical capabilities.  Additionally, it received 4 out of 4 stars for the comprehensive implementation, training and support provided by Grameen Foundation and its specialists in the various regions.

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