linux.conf.au’s focus in 2017 is The Future of Open Source, so we’re delighted to welcome Nadia, a noted researcher on sustainability in Open Source.
Nadia's talk examines the inherent tension between keeping code free, and better supporting the people who maintain that code. She'll focus on why the future of Open Source requires turning our attention from freedom of the user to freedom of the maintainer.
Originally from a venture capital background, in January 2016, Nadia started investigating Open Source as the “digital infrastructure” upon which the tech industry is built.
Her initial reports painted a worrying view of the sustainability of Open Source software: Many Open Source projects – ones that form the digital infrastructure that many big organisations in tech and government rely upon – aren’t in very good shape. Most of Open Source is not well-funded, and depends heavily on the contribution of free time on the part of a small pool of maintainers.
She also highlighted that despite building their success on this infrastructure, much of the leadership in the tech industry was largely unaware of these issues.
This research culminated in Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure, a 142-page report published by the Ford Foundation, that highlights the scale of the problem:
› Everybody relies on shared code to write software, including Fortune 500 companies, government, major software companies and startups. In a world driven by technology, we are putting increased demand on those who maintain our digital infrastructure. Yet because these communities are not highly visible, the rest of the world has been slow to notice.
› In the face of unprecedented demand, the costs of not supporting our digital infrastructure are numerous. No individual company or organisation is incentivised to address the public good problem alone. '''
More recently, Nadia has joined GitHub, focusing on finding ways that GitHub can empower open source maintainers to create and nurture thriving, healthy open source projects.