I just listened to Mike McQuaid‘s FOSDEM talk, Why People Don’t Contribute to Your Open Source Project. If you are interested in communities and how they grow, I highly recommend you take a half hour and watch it.
Some of the things I got from the talk:
- I get asked a lot what the difference between a contributor and a maintainer is. Mike does a great job of explaining it around minute 4:00. Contributors are people who write code or docs or do triage for your project but who need help from others to get their work included. Maintainers are people that review and merge contributions.
- You should users as your source for contributors. The type of contributor that is not a user is not likely someone you want.
- Once maintainers are not users, they are not likely to continue contributing. So if you stop using your project, you need to start recruiting someone else to maintain it because it’s unlikely that you’ll continue to maintain it.
- Most maintainers are talked into it. Nobody thinks they are qualified at first.
I did wonder what Mike would think about open source software projects where most of the contributors are people paid by a company to work on it. There are projects that are unlikely to be used by individuals, that are primarily supported by paid contributors. Do the same rules apply?