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Nadia Eghbal’s new book, Working In Public: the Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software, explores open source projects, roles and responsibilities; the rise of GitHub as a developer platform; and how developer culture is evolving around the new power of creator platforms.

Working in Public opens by challenging a common perception about open source today: the idea that it’s collaborative.

The widespread perception of open source is that it’s community work. Looking back at the first heyday of open source in the 90s, you picture these loosely organized, squabbling, collaborative efforts between a closely-knit group of nerds. Some special technology, notably Linux, emerged from that era as evidence that self-motivated teams of volunteers could build world-class products.

Those lessons have carried forward to today, where open source has become so widespread we’ve dropped the name: it’s just “The Ruby community”, or “the Python community”. Eghbal writes: “The default hypothesis today is that, faced with growing demand, an open source “maintainer” – the term used to refer to the primary developer, or developers, of a software project – needs to find more contributors. It’s commonly thought that open source software is built by communities, which means that anyone can pitch in, thus distributing the burden of work. On the surface, this appears to be the right solution, especially because it seems so attainable. If a lone maintainer feels exhausted by their volume of work, they should just bring more developers on board.”

Unfortunately, for many maintainers, that collaborative mindset no longer reflects reality.

Read more in this article on alexdanco.com


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