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Open Source

All things open source.
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Daniel Oberhaus

The complicated economy of open source software

Daniel Oberhaus, writing for Vice Motherboard: Heartbleed wasn’t an isolated example of developer burnout and lack of funding, but an outgrowth of a systemic disease that had been festering in the open source software community for years. Identifying the symptoms and causes of this disease was the easy part; finding a cure is more difficult. It’s not enough to just throw more money at the open source community, however. Increased funding creates its own problems in terms of how that money is distributed and what the organizations supplying the funding demand in return. If you’re wondering how we got here in open source, this report is an excellent read on the subject.

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Linux Journal Icon Linux Journal

If software is funded from a public source, its code should be open source

Perhaps because many free software coders have been outsiders and rebels, less attention is paid to the use of open source in government departments than in other contexts. But it’s an important battleground, not least because there are special dynamics at play and lots of good reasons to require open-source software. Public money should produce public code, full stop. That doesn’t seem controversial to me, but it’s definitely easier to say than it is to execute.

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Data visualization

Mapping a universe of open source software

The repositories of distributions such as Debian and Nixpkgs are among the largest collections of open source (and some unfree) software. They are complex systems that connect and organize many interdependent packages. Is it possible to capture the large scale features of such a repository in an image? Are there common design choices of the contributors? Did they lead to any emergent structure? This work resulted in some beautiful (and interesting) visualizations. Here’s a sneak peak 👇

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Brandon Gomez

The current business model of Patreon is not sustainable

Jack Conte, the founder of Patreon, said the following in a report from Brandon Gomez on regarding Patreon’s sustainability as it relates to their recent rapid growth: The reality is Patreon needs to build new businesses and new services and new revenue lines in order to build a sustainable business. This thread from Dan Olson on Twitter is worth reading. It started off with this Tweet: I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but Patreon is about to eat itself. Or, more specifically, the investors who demand geometric growth are about to demand Patreon eat itself. I take particular interest in their revenue which is estimated at $55M versus the $107M of venture capital raised and how that relates to sustainability and the choices founders make on their journey to succeed and/or survive.

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Patrick Reynolds

GitHub open sourced the parser and specification for GitHub Actions

If you’re looking for a deep dive on GitHub Actions, check out The Changelog #331: GitHub Actions is the next big thing with Kyle Daigle. Patrick Reynolds, writing on the GitHub Engineering blog: Since the beta release of GitHub Actions last October, thousands of users have added workflow files to their repositories. But until now, those files only work with the tools GitHub provided: the Actions editor, the Actions execution platform, and the syntax highlighting built into pull requests. To expand that universe, we need to release the parser and the specification for the Actions workflow language as open source. Today, we’re doing that. I also want to point out this “we believe” section of the post to key in on their intentions and willingness to provide the community with the necessary tools to make GitHub Actions all that it can be for the community. We believe that tools beyond GitHub should be able to run workflows. We believe there should be programs to check, format, compose, and visualize workflow files. We believe that text editors can provide syntax highlighting and autocompletion for Actions workflows. And we believe all that can only happen if the Actions community is empowered to build these tools along with us. That can happen better and faster if there is a single language specification and a free parser implementation.

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Jeff McAffer

Open source engagement in organizations

Jeff McAffer (the Director of Microsoft’s Open Source Programs Office) says you can plot their course in open source quite closely in the model he describes in this post. A few years ago they were in denial about the open source movement. Today it’s a different story with 20,000 Microsoft folks activity working on GitHub. Companies, governments, and other organizations big and small are working with open source to achieve their goals. Teams range from barely considering it to betting their whole business on open source. Putting some structure on this spectrum has helped me think about and evolve Microsoft’s open source program. I’d love to hear if you find it useful, how, or why not. If you run, participate in, lead, or you are curious about open source programs you should read this.

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Duane O'Brien

Sustaining FOSS projects by democratizing the sponsorship process

I wish I was there to see Duane O’Brien talk through this in person. This talk at FOSDEM examines how he got executive buy in at Indeed for their internal FOSS Sustainability Fund, how the fund was set up, how they encouraged participation, and what the impact has been so far. Within a given company, there are typically only a few people involved in deciding which FOSS projects and initiatives to support financially. This year we [at Indeed] changed all that and democratize the decision making process. We set up an internal FOSS Sustainability Fund, and invited everyone to participate in the process.

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Travis CI Blog Icon Travis CI Blog

Travis CI has been acquired

Congrats to our friends over at Travis CI. A dollar amount wasn’t mentioned for this acquisition and I don’t know enough of the backstory to be able to tell if this, is in fact a good thing or a bad thing for Travis CI. It sounds like there aren’t any planned changes coming out of the gate with the acquisition, so that’s a good start. Regarding the state of Travis CI open source, Konstantin had this to say… Open source is at the heart of Travis CI. We will continue to maintain a free, hosted service for open source projects, and will keep building features for the open source community. Additionally, our code will stay open source and under an MIT license. This is who we are, this is what made us successful.

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Drew Devault

I’m going to work full-time on free software

A year ago Drew Devault laid out his future plans and path to sustainably working on open source full-time. Today, those plans have been realized. I don’t want to make grandiose promises right away, but I’m confident that increasing my commitment to open source to this degree is going to have a major impact on my projects. For now, my primary focus is its paid users make up the majority of the funding. Drew goes on to say how he’s making this leap before the needed income is actually there, so if you dig what he’s up to, you can play a part in making his choice a success. I need to clarify that despite choosing to work full-time on these projects, my income is going to be negative for a while. I have enough savings and income now that I feel comfortable making the leap, and I plan on working my ass off before my runway ends to earn the additional subscriptions to and donations to fosspay et al that will make this decision sustainable in the long term.

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Ben Thompson

The economic realities of open source

Ben Thompson, one of the voices behind Exponent and writer at Stratechery, covered the economic realities of open source from a lens of the music industry. More specifically, Ben talked about how the music industry’s revenue, medium, and distribution relates to that of open source in today’s world where AWS, Microsoft or Google are able to make money off of open source like MongoDB and Redis without having to share any of that money with the developers of the open source. He describes this conundrum for open source companies: MongoDB leveraged open source to gain mindshare. MongoDB Inc. built a successful company selling additional tools for enterprises to run MongoDB. More and more enterprises don’t want to run their own software: they want to hire AWS (or Microsoft or Google) to run it for them, because they value performance, scalability, and availability. This leaves MongoDB Inc. not unlike the record companies after the advent of downloads: what they sold was not software but rather the tools that made that software usable, but those tools are increasingly obsolete as computing moves to the cloud.

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Paul Graham

What business can learn from open source

Sometimes you need to look back in order to go forward. In this 2005 Paul Graham essay derived from his talk at OSCON that same year, Paul contrasts open source and blogging to extract wisdom for companies to follow. What’s more interesting is just how right this essay was, with the luxury of hindsight and history on our side today. …the biggest thing business has to learn from open source is not about Linux or Firefox, but about the forces that produced them. Ultimately these will affect a lot more than what software you use. Like open source, blogging is something people do themselves, for free, because they enjoy it. … People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored. And in both cases, feedback from the audience improves the best work. In a world where the playing field is leveled and everyone has the same or similar access to share their ideas, ideas will “bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top.” Well said Paul.

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Nadia Eghbal

User support systems in open source

As with any research Nadia Eghbal shares, this is a deep dive into understanding the user support systems present in today’s open source. It’s very detailed, highly researched, and more importantly it’s actionable. Here’s a sample of Nadia’s closing remarks: I barely scratched the surface on user support systems: there’s a gold mine of data waiting to be played with. I’d love to see more research on how support communities form and maintain themselves (particularly Stack Overflow, mailing lists, forums, and synchronous chat). Why do some have only one or two answerers, while others have many? Does the growth of these communities mirror that of the code contributor community? Implicitly, a deeper understanding of support communities would help validate the growth model and hub-and-spokes model presented above.

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