Meet Liu Yu from StreamNative: My Growth Path to Open Source in China

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In this article, we invited Ms. Liu Yu, Apache Pulsar's second female PMC member, who is now employed by StreamNative, a provider of Apache Pulsar open-source infrastructure software, to share her vie

As open source gained popularity in China in 2016, the emergence of the country's first open-source projects and startups helped to make the term more visible. That year, Liu Yu, who graduated merely 12 months earlier, was introduced to open source by accident and gradually transformed into an open-source professional along the way.

In this article, we invited Ms. Liu Yu, Apache Pulsar's second female PMC member, who is now employed by StreamNative, a provider of Apache Pulsar open-source infrastructure software, to share her views on the open source development landscape in China.

"Open source path, my path"

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

—Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Many Chinese might not be familiar with "open source" six or seven years ago. At that time, Liu Yu gradually acquired an interest in this still cold field of study. It took some time for her to grasp the concept, but once she did, she was more attracted to it. Liu Yu entered a new professional route in 2019 when he joined StreamNative, a firm based on Pulsar and BookKeeper. Liu Yu was one of the initial handful of workers to join StreamNative and began working as a technical documentation engineer.

According to Liu Yu, the decision to pursue a career working with open source software is "the outcome of a combination of internal and external forces."

"Last year, I heard a speech by Mr. Ma Yue entitled '13 Years of Open Source in China'. In that speech, he divided the growth of open source in China into three stages, of which 2016 to 2019 is exactly the period of rapid growth."

At this point, China's open-source force had begun to spread overseas as international foundations recognized a large number of open-source projects led by Chinese individuals. In these years, Liu Yu worked hard to gain a greater understanding of this field, and open-source projects went on to have a much better position in China than before.

In addition to external factors, Liu Yu is a curious person who is open to new experiences. In those days, open-source was a relatively niche product within the technical communication community, so almost no one did this work. Being one of the first pioneers, Liu Yu was not making a sudden move. She was also mentally prepared for personal gains and losses. "I am more of an adventurer; even if risks are beyond my prediction, it would not be a big deal. At worst, I can remain a traditional technology evangelist."

StreamNative style work model: result-oriented

StreamNative, an open-source startup, was Liu Yu's first step toward a career in open source after considering her options carefully. The company was formed by the founding team of Apache Pulsar, a leading project of the Apache Software Foundation, to build a next-generation cloud-native batch-streaming convergence data platform around Pulsar.

Liu Yu made this decision for two reasons: "First, I respect our CEO Guo Sijie for his working and thinking methods are highly promising; second, Pulsar is focused on cloud-native technology, which I believe is the future of Big Data development."

Liu Yu appears to have made a wise decision. Pulsar is the only cloud-native platform that is competitive and leading among all existing messaging platforms. Simply put, Pulsar covers open source, infrastructure, and cloud-native services, and there are very few companies in China that can match StreamNative on these three aspects.

StreamNative views the phenomenon of involution as a kind of vicious, ineffective, and meaningless competition, even though it is pretty typical in many Internet companies. Although the organization does not object to competition and hard work, it does not wish to waste our precious time on unproductive and pointless tasks.

Due to the asynchronous nature of open source community collaboration, many Chinese open-source startups have implemented telecommuting, and StreamNative is no exception.

StreamNative's employees come from all over the world, which naturally creates an atmosphere of openness and freedom for the company. Upon its founding, StreamNative once rented an office in Beijing. As the office was unused during the lockdown period, StreamNative surrendered the lease and ceased to operate the office completely.

Liu Yu has become accustomed to working in this manner. She does good time management and keeps a healthy balance between work and life. Using online meeting tools, she could efficiently work with colleagues and ensure the implementation of OKRs.

The collaborative nature of open source itself ensures that each engineer's output is visible. StreamNative is a commercial company based on the open-source community, and this trait is written in their DNA and represented as a result-oriented approach. In addition, remote working patterns would prevent employees from displaying their attitudes with overwork or presenting themselves as busy, allowing them to concentrate on their work more effectively.

Liu Yu illustrated the "result-oriented" approach with the case of a technical documentation engineer. "We will do regular questionnaires to identify how users perceive our documentation. For example, we will consider user feedback based on mainstream factors such as ease of use, ease of understanding, and ease of finding. Furthermore, we will set some milestones for ourselves and check their completion each quarter, making adjustments when they are not completed. The results speak for themselves under the system of clear authority and responsibility. "

China has a more friendly open-source atmosphere

"There are only two kinds of languages: the ones people complain about and the ones nobody uses."

—Bjarne Stroustrup

China's open-source business is truly experiencing a period of growth in 2019. According to Liu Yu, this rapid development is primarily visible in three ways.

For instance, two of the top five accounts with the most followers on GitHub are Chinese; more local vendors have also become partners of open source foundations.

In 2021, all projects incubated by the Apache Software Foundation were from China. Additionally, more prominent members of the domestic open source community are participating in the management of international mainstream open source foundations, such as the founder of SkyWalking, Wu Sheng, who was elected to the board of ASF last year becoming the first Chinese member of the ASF board.

Furthermore, with the expanding number of open-source projects and communities, the viewpoint of Chinese corporate users of open source software has also evolved more favorably.

Combining her views and experiences, Liu Yu added more clarifications:

The first trend is that Chinese enterprises are increasingly adopting open source and becoming more receptive to the commercialization of open source.

Second, they will place a greater emphasis on the code quality and the activity of communities than on cost alone. They are more likely to examine whether the software is suitable for their needs than to accept the words of some large manufacturers blindly.

Third, more companies are beginning to care about open source compliance and pay more attention to open source agreements.

Liu Yu provided her advice on open-source contributions and governance: "Many developers were not paid to participate in open source. Perhaps the major open source foundations should consider establishing some financial return mechanisms. In terms of governance, some enterprises should play a more active role in guiding. Companies such as Google and Microsoft have their own open-source offices, which can provide education and training on compliance and open-source best practices.

In China, open source governance is still at an early stage. There is no unified team to handle open-source projects in many businesses. This is a problem because, if their open source components or off-the-shelf components have security vulnerabilities, they may not be able to detect the blast radius in time to prevent damage. In my opinion, enterprises should pay more attention to the training of open source talent and focus more on developing open-source projects that comply with security and compliance requirements.

Liu Yu revealed the following plan as part of the interview: "We are building a new Pulsar official website based on the role of users and their cognitive pathways, which will allow us to redesign information architecture and create a new browsing experience." In the near future, we will be able to see the results of the experiment.

Q & A

Q: What does it feel like to contribute to open source communities as a female?

A: Honestly, the number of female developers is relatively tiny for the whole IT industry.

In open-source organizations, it appears that female contributors are more concerned with operations than with core development.

However, each contributor has their own strengths as well.

Women could be more empathetic and capable of listening to others than men, so they could play well in conducting operations and interacting with individuals.

Obviously, gender will not be a barrier to participation in open source initiatives. Your gender has little impact on the style and quality of your work, regardless of whether you are engaged in operations or development. We may never meet people in real life in the open-source community; therefore, gender differences will be diminished in the online chatting of text.

Q: Any books you recommend?

A: If you are interested in developing technology and like to relax by reading, I have three books to recommend.

The first is marketing-related and titled "The Content Code: Six Essential Strategies to Ignite Your Content, Marketing, and Business." It provides insights into making your marketing content detonate hot spots, including how to harvest core fans, build social identities, and build your corporate brand.

The second is called "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products." Whether you are a document engineer or a programmer, you need to consider product managers' challenges and issues frequently. This book is famous among entrepreneurs and product managers in Silicon Valley because it focuses on the four primary product logics that establish customer behaviors.

Third on the list is a way of thinking-related topic entitled "Thinking in Systems." It is essential to develop your way of thinking, whatever your profession. The primary purpose of this book is to explain how to analyze problems with overall dynamic correlation.

About StreamNative

StreamNative is an open-source infrastructure software company formed by the founding team of Apache Pulsar, a leading project of the Apache Software Foundation, to build a next-generation cloud-native batch-streaming convergence data platform around Pulsar. Former members of the founding team have worked for Yahoo, Twitter, Splunk, EMC, and other major companies.

About Apache Pulsar

Apache Pulsar​ is a cloud-native, multi-tenant, high-performance solution for server-to-server messaging and queuing built on the publisher-subscribe (pub-sub) pattern. It offers an enterprise-level read-write quality of service and strong consistency guarantees for queuing scenarios. A storage and computing separation architecture is used with advanced features for enterprises and financial institutions, such as supporting large clusters, multitenancy, millions of topics, cross-territory data replication, persistent storage, layered storage, and high scalability.

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