Interview with Kris Borchers, JS Foundation Executive Director

As part of Open Source Week 2016, we took a look at the JS Foundation, an organization whose mission it is to create a center of gravity for the open source JavaScript ecosystem. Backed by such big names as IBM and Samsung, they offer technical governance and mentoring to a host of well-known projects such as ESLint, jQuery, Lodash and Webpack.
Recently, we were lucky enough to catch up with Kris Borchers, the JS Foundation’s Executive Director. We asked Kris all about the foundation, its inner workings and how people can get involved. Enjoy!
Elio: Thank you Kris for joining us today!
Kris: My pleasure.
Elio: For those that might not know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Kris: Sure. I started my career with a Bachelor of Applied Computer Science degree with which I could not get a job directly out of college, as the tech bubble had just burst. After teaching myself web development and working through a couple of jobs at small companies doing tech support to web consulting, I decided to go work at a university where I then also earned a Master of Applied Computer Science and an MBA. From there I took over the external web presence and intranet website and applications for a community college, and while there, began contributing to the jQuery project as my first venture into more than just consuming open source. I eventually earned my way onto the jQuery UI team and some time later while working as the JavaScript lead on a mobile team at Red Hat, I was asked to join the board of directors of the jQuery Foundation. Eventually the Executive Director at the time moved on to another opportunity and I interviewed and was hired for the role. Then, in October of last year I guided the jQuery Foundation through the transition to the JS Foundation and here we are today.
Elio: Wow. Quite a journey. Could you tell us more about how the jQuery Foundation transitioned to the JS Foundation? What role did you play in the process?
Kris: The JS Foundation was the natural evolutionary next step from the jQuery Foundation. I ran the jQuery Foundation as Executive Director for about 3 years. As we grew in terms of the number and types of projects we served, as well as the other initiatives we cared about, it became clear that an update to our name, brand and organizational structure was in order. I drove that process for about the last 1.5 – 2 years to get us fully transitioned into this new organization.
Elio: So what is the foundation attempting to do for the JS community/ecosystem?
Kris: We are working to create a center of gravity and focal point for innovation and collaboration across the entire JavaScript ecosystem.
Elio: Can you elaborate on what that means and on how do you intend to do it?
Kris: So one of the main ideas we have been talking about is the idea of innovating together and there are sort of 3 pillars to that idea: Community, Collaboration and Continuity. By fostering a large and healthy JavaScript community around the projects at the JS Foundation, we provide a location and mechanism that encourages collaboration within and among those projects as well as with the rest of the JS community. We then provide principles and guidelines for that community and the individual project communities to implement and follow which promote larger, more diverse contributor bases. This then leads to long-term stability and sustainability for the projects, or continuity, because having them all start with “C” looked and sounded better.
Elio: I see. How do you intend to encourage further innovative uses of JavaScript?
One area we are really starting to see growing interest and amazing use cases for JavaScript is in the IoT space. We currently have two projects really gaining steam in that segment in JerryScript and Node-RED.
JerryScript, originally created by Samsung, is an ECMA 5.1 compliant fully-functional JavaScript engine for memory constrained devices. This allows you to write JavaScript and run it on small microcontrollers with less than 64kb of RAM and less than 200kb of ROM and have direct access to device APIs which is pretty amazing.
Node-RED, originally created by IBM, is a flow-based programming environment built on Node.js – commonly used in the IoT space – and aimed at creating event-driven applications that can easily integrate APIs and services.
Between these two projects and a number of our other projects and partnerships, we will continue to push JavaScript deeper into IoT and other tech sectors.
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