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The True Cost of Open Source


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I gave this talk at the Open Source Leadership Summit 2017 (


Open source projects can be extremely rewarding for both companies and participating employees, but there are associated costs that may not be immediately obvious. Engaging in public outreach, fielding community support requests at all hours, and responding to feedback and criticism are just a few examples of things that can consume maintainers and negatively affect their productivity and morale. For those on the front lines of open source maintenance, it is often more than just a day job and these associated extra hours can lead to burnout. In this talk we will examine the true cost of open source so that companies can take steps to mitigate those costs and balance their needs against the demands of open source while also encouraging a good work/life balance of its developers to ensure long-term open source program success.

Published in: Technology
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The True Cost of Open Source

  1. 1. The True Cost of Open Source Patrick Steele-Idem @psteeleidem
  2. 2. Maintaining and other projects Now leading our open source initiative Based on my experience at
  3. 3. Why open source?
  4. 4. Open source is easy Successful open source is hard
  5. 5. Open sourcing a project introduces a lot of extra work • Legal and security reviews • Marketing and branding • Public engagement • Community development and support • External bug reports and pull requests
  6. 6. Open source is risky • Security concerns • Reflects poorly on the company if done incorrectly • Potentially bad interactions with outside community • Employees may leave if they can take their code with them
  7. 7. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
  8. 8. Before you open source, you really need to know what you are getting into (both employer and employees)
  9. 9. Costs over time Time Cost Preparing Promoting Support Community We want to get down here as fast as possible!
  10. 10. • Personal attachment • Balancing work and open source • External criticism is taken personally • Distractions
  11. 11. Open source is not a one-person job!
  12. 12. Promote collaboration
  13. 13. Preparing a project for open source is costly Legal reviews, polishing the code, adding docs, removing internal references, etc. WARNING
  14. 14. Open source from the beginning! Build software with the mindset of “public scrutiny” Length of time kept proprietary Likelihoodofsuccess
  16. 16. Good documentation and extensive tests are critical Open source forces this, but you should be doing it anyway
  17. 17. Flexibility is not always needed Be prepared to say “no”
  18. 18. Breaking changes hurt Dividing your community increases your support costs WARNING
  19. 19. Open source projects require extra planning • Gather opinions • Keep the public API as simple as possible
  20. 20. Community !! Community !! Community !!
  21. 21. If you open source a project and no one knows about it, is it really open source?
  22. 22. Tips for building a community ”That is a problem. Do you have any ideas on how we can improve it?"
  23. 23. Make source code approachable
  24. 24. Company should help promote projects
  25. 25. Hire open source contributors
  26. 26. You’ll be obsessed with your successful open source project Notifications, page refreshes, scouring the internet, responding, etc. TWO NEW STARS! SINCE I LAST CHECKED TWO MIN AGO WARNING
  27. 27. Thanks for listening! Any questions? Patrick Steele-Idem @psteeleidem