Ana Balica

Hi, I'm Ana.

I'm a software developer. I mostly do Python. This blog is about my adventures with code, travel experiences and relevant life events. I try not to take myself too seriously.

Here's what I'm doing now.

Occasionally I give talks.

Please don't take my words for granted, because Internet is full of bad advice, and I might be part of it inadvertently.

Systers Portal

Today I was listening to Swift episode by Programming Throwdown podcast series. At some point hosts raise the question of open source involvement. You probably also received this piece of advice:

If you want to get your hands on some programming as a beginner or a recent graduate, try doing some open source.

That is rather vague. What most people skip saying is what kind of open source work should you start with. Hosts of the show point out the fact that it’s not necessary to jump right into big popular projects, like Linux Kernel or PostgreSQL, simply because it will take tons of time to read and understand the existing codebase and get your patch accepted by the core maintainers. So the solution is to seek for a small open source project, that involves a technology you like or want to get better at it, preferably with few developers involved.

Systers Portal is one of those one-man-show projects, that might suit very well the open source beginners.

What is that?

Systers is the world’s largest email community of women in technical roles in computing. It is indeed huge and covers a lot of technical areas. It started as a small mailing list and grew to 4,000 members from all over the world. Considering the modern needs, a single mailing list isn’t very nifty to manage such a huge community.

Hence the idea of a portal came up. Systers Portal is a unified platform for Systers and its sub-groups to share information and get the latest news. This is a place to manage sub-communities, latest news, interesting and useful resources, community members.

Systers Portal was started in summer 2014 as a Google Summer of Code project involving two students: me and Chitra Khatwani, under the mentorship of Lynn Root, Rosario Robinson, Promita Bose and Laura Cassell. We launched a prototype, hosted on

Disclaimer: the prototype hosted on isn’t going to match exactly your development version from the official repository. The development version incrementally adds features present in the prototype.


Here are some of the obvious reasons why Systers Portal is so good for you:

  • It is a Django project, build using best practices and techniques, with readability and maintainability in mind. We try to keep up with the latest releases, hence we are using Django 1.7 with a set of up-to-date packages.
  • We are strict about styleguides and code readability. You will learn fast about one of my favorite Python mantras, called PEP8.
  • We have 100% code coverage and care about unittests.
  • We are hosted on GitHub, ready to be forked and accepting pull requests.
  • We have documentation. Particularly documentation how to get started, what should you know before getting down to code, how to run the project locally. The First Contribution article will drive you through all the necessary steps to make your first contribution to Systers Portal. The code contains helpful docstrings as well.
  • There is currently one developer working on Portal - it’s me. It is generally easier to read a single mind expressed in code, than a whole bunch. This doesn’t imply that the code is always obvious and clear. Particularly every time I review old pieces of code, I rewrite something. I need your help to see the errors and solutions.
  • We have a list of easy TODOs (initially created for Google Code-in).
  • By contributing to Systers Portal, you will help women from technical fields to enjoy a friendly environment via a unified portal.