Hoodie aims to be one of open source's most diverse and inclusive communities

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Too often web apps and the frameworks they're built on support only the privileged—the always-online users and development teams with both front-end and back-end expertise. In open source, this support of privilege is usually reflected in the contributor community.

Hoodie, a new web app architecture, does things a little differently. Simply put, Hoodie is a back end for front-end people. Started in 2013 as a spinoff of CouchDB, Hoodie provides a fast, easy, and accessible way for developers to focus on the front end of a project without getting caught up in the time sink of back-end administration.

Hoodie's dedication to decoupling front and back-end code to create offline-first web apps made of Dreamcode is something that simply cannot be found in other open source projects. This is reflected in the team's creation of the noBackend and Dreamcode initiatives and their advocacy of the offline-first approach.

Hoodie's support for noBackend happens by abstracting away the back-end layer and allowing those services to be accessed via the JavaScript API. The API itself is classed as Dreamcode, meaning that it allows developers to create the readable code they would like to write, as opposed to boxing them into hard-to-understand syntaxes and code structures. In addition to all this, apps built using Hoodie use offline sync by default, so users can continue to use an app without worrying about data loss or connection problems.

Although it's still in the early stages of development and therefore has a small user base, the Hoodie community is still a force to be reckoned with. The "Hoodies" bring a wide range of skills and backgrounds to the project and share a passion for its values of empowerment, diversity, and independence. Hoodie developers, designers, and writers work cohesively toward the project's goal of aiming to make the web a better place for everyone, but that didn't just happen. Although co-founder Jan Lehnardt says that inclusivity and diversity weren't necessarily a consideration at the beginning, it soon became clear that making the project more inclusive was a logical consequence of making the web more accessible to more people. As Hoodie contributor (and creator of Your First PR) Charlotte Spencer put it, "An inclusive environment transcends any technical barriers. You don't need to know how Hoodie works to understand our work on inclusivity."

The Hoodie project was one of the first to implement a Community Code of Conduct—guidelines commonly used in other industries to set expectations and define conflict resolution processes. The popularity of such measures has spread swiftly since then with the creation of the Contributor Covenant, an open source Code of Conduct adopted by more than 14,000 projects.

Based on conversations with the Hoodies, it seems that Code of Conduct violations have so far been minimal. Several prominent Hoodies are known in the European web development community for both their technical prowess and their public alignment with diversity initiatives. For example, team member Stephan Bönnemann was a co-organizer of .concat() conference, an event that, for many attendees, set the standard for tech conference inclusivity. Fellow team member and editor of feminist blog kleinerdrei.org Lena Reinhard was also shortlisted for 2015's Net Awards Conference Talk of the Year for her keynote speech discussing online harassment.

Part of the drive to increase inclusivity in the project has stemmed from the inclusion of an onboarding process and building teams of contributors in order to meet milestones faster. This has caused the Hoodie community to evolve significantly. In the last eight months, it hosted interns from the Rails Girls Summer of Code, saw an increase in prioritizing accessibility issues, and held events to introduce people to open source. "We've shifted our focus from 'code, code, code' to 'How can we help others to code with us?'" Charlotte said.

However you approach the Hoodie project, whether via the website, GitHub repository, or a talk given by a team member, the community's belief in diversity and inclusivity shines through. Even in day-to-day community conversations, the Hoodie team holds itself accountable. They have implemented a bot that monitors all Slack communications and suggests corrections to any sexist, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory language—and it seems to be working. In Charlotte's words, "It has made the Hoodie team itself try harder with their language." Upon investigation, I found that the bot has been triggered significantly less since its creation, despite an increase in communication. The team plans to build on its current success with plans to include an editorial team language style guide and create a continuous integration bot to support the Code of Conduct in rejecting any commits containing offensive language.

During my discussions with the team, it became clear just how well a diverse and inclusive environment works to create a project that goes beyond just being a great piece of software. By making community cohesion as much of a priority as the code, each contributor knows they they are being measured by more than just their pull requests—it's their contribution to the team as a whole which matters. Judging by their current progress, the Hoodie project looks set to continue their success in challenging privilege both in the the world of web apps and in the open source community.

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Gem Barrett is a developer, open web advocate and gamer. She is currently based in Washington, DC at the Open Technology Institute in New America as part of the inaugural cohort of six Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellows.

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