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Caitlin Bixby
Caitlin Bixby

Posted on • Originally published at blog.tidelift.com

The experience of being a maintainer—in their words

In late 2022, Tidelift fielded its second survey of open source maintainers. Hundreds of maintainers responded with thoughts about getting paid for their work, the security and maintenance practices they have in place for their projects, and where they need help most, along with a host of other interesting insights.

Some of the most impactful findings in our survey come not from charts and graphs, but directly from the words of maintainers. From general opinions on the maintainer experience to thoughts on the state of open source now and in the future, the maintainers we surveyed were not shy to tell us their thoughts.

Here are a few unfiltered insights:

On the relationship between open source and corporate users

“If you asked me this 20 years ago I might have something inspiring to say, but now that open source has ‘won,’ it feels like we’re just giving away our work to companies who profit from it.”

“It seems like companies are starting to understand how much they rely on OSS and are becoming more willing to contribute back where they think it could help the projects they depend on remain in a state that enables the use they depend on.”

On the impact of open source and being a part of it

“Open source is providing the tools and protocols that currently power and will continue to power the software we use now and into the foreseeable future. Being a part of that, and helping shape both the status quo and the next generation of applications is hugely rewarding.”

“Endless possibilities of creation, even simpler work due to a myriad of tools and significant improvements of platforms like GitHub.”

On the challenges of being a maintainer

“If I got paid enough money to quit my day job to work on OSS full time I’d love love love that. Things would get done so much faster on my library, etc. But alas I’m well paid at my job and like the lifestyle that being well paid affords. And even if I could find a benefactor that’d pay me as much or more than my job currently pays such an individual could, at that point, have an undue influence.”

“I feel the visibility of big projects are amplified, but the work of small but often essential maintainers is not recognized. #frustrated”

So there you have it, what it is like to be a maintainer today, from the mouths of maintainers themselves.

And with that, we conclude our second Tidelift open source maintainer survey. We hope you found these insights valuable.

To read more insights from our eleventh and final headline, visit our blog, and to read maintainer responses to all eleven insights, you can download the full survey report right now.

Want the TL;DR? We hosted a live webinar where Tidelift’s resident data nerd Chris Grams shared the most interesting bits. Watch now.

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