Sudo Show 32: Open Source Sustainability

Eric and Brandon jump and their soap box this episode to address the critical issues surrounding open source development, ongoing lifecycle management, securing the supply chain, and monetizing developers time.

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Sponsor: Bitwarden
Sponsor: Digital Ocean
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Tidelift: Finding #5: More than half of maintainers have quit or considered quitting, and here’s why.
Linux.Com: Measuring the Health of Open Source Communities (Blog)

MongoDB Switches Up Its Open Source License
Twitter: Brandon’s Thread
Ars Technica: No, Open Source Audacity Audio Editor Is Not Spyware

Joplin Notes
Open Collective


00:00 Intro
00:42 Welcome
01:30 Sponsor - Digital Ocean
02:34 Sponsor - Bitwarden
04:03 The Open Source Problem
10:47 MongoDB and Elastic Search
15:19 Just Fork It
21:18 Development Isn’t Just a Hobby
31:47 How Do We Fix FOSS?
41:07 Wrap Up

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The state of donation systems in Linux is extremely poor. Even if donations are successfully encouraged toward different projects, the projects those projects rely on don’t see any of that donation despite being part of what makes them work (sometimes 99% of what makes them work). Similarly contributors who might be critical to the project’s success aren’t included unless the project implements something. This leaves core development, frameworks and contribution mostly out in the cold.

What i’d like to see is an industry standardized format in which developers and projects can notate their donation information in their GitLab profile or perhaps at the bottom of the license so it’s machine readable and if someone wants to donate they can see everyone involved along with some mechanism to make donating to everyone a “one-click affair”.

Of course the devil’s in the details in terms of “who gets what for doing what”. Presenting sliders with a suggested value can help but the incentive structure around weighting would need to be VERY carefully addressed.

All said… it’d be another vast improvement even if it’s not perfect.


Like a package manager manages dependencies, just with developers instead.


I think that’s where a company like Tidelift and Open Collective come in. They’re goal is to help developers get paid for those underlying libraries and development tools.

It’s definitely a step in the right direction and as you said, no solution is perfect but every step we take towards paying developers for their work helps not only open source developers but also helps protect the future of open source!

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I think Tidelift and Open Collective are a giant leap forward and I have the uptmost respect for them. They do more for FOSS in a day than I might do in a lifetime. I also agree nothing’s going to be perfect especially in this space but I think some tools for greatness are still missing.

Though a godsend…

  • They’re proprietary solutions with closed databases.
  • Donation can’t occur unless both? parties sign up for the platform.
  • Donations trickle down through projects but only for maintainers who signed up.

I can’t for example just Paypal the 3 people who fixed my bug request as a thank you unless I manually hunt down their information or message them. A “greatness” solution would make the information freely available so users and developers can decide how they’d like to interact with it. Where things become burdensome (like sending Paypal to 1,000 individuals) it opens the field to competition for solutions because there’s no database lock in.

An example solution would provide a REST API that accepts the donation parameters set by the user in a 3rd party app and distributes the payments to those 1,000 individuals requiring the user only pay the bulk amount to one address.

No accounts would be required and both the app and payment splitting service can be created by anyone so competition will favor ease of use and the best deal for the transaction.

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