Consider the Maintainer





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Published on Jan 19, 2017

Nadia Eghbal
Does Open Source have a sustainable future? One of linux.conf.au
2017’s four keynote speakers, Nadia Eghbal will help you find out!

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.


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