Growing Open Source Seeds

By Kenneth Reitz

This talk will be an in-depth review of the stages that most open source projects go though, and the decisions their maintainers face. Requests will be used as an example — lessons learned and best practices will be covered.

Once upon a time…

The Facebook SDK Python library

  • Facebook rarely updated it
  • Became unworkable
  • People complained, got on Hacker News
  • Disabled comments

Now replaced by

Public Source Projects

  • Company open sources code
  • Doesn’t maintain it: motivations are unclear
  • Really sucks for users of the code

On the other hand.. Gittip!

  • Platform for sustainable development
  • Everything is open source, including internal discussions, interviews with media, etc
  • Everything is an issue
  • Major decisions are voted on github.
  • Interviewed with journalists are live-streamed
“I’m not building Gittip, I’m building the community that’s building Gittip.” – Chad Whitacre

Shared Investments

  • Shared ownership, extreme transparency
  • New contributors get involved by following a documented process
  • Low risk. High bus-factor
  • See also: Python, Django, Firefox, jQUery…

HTTP for Humans


  • One of the most installed PyPI projects
  • Key difference between gittip/django and requests: Kenneth makes all the decisions

Dictatorship Projects

  • Totalitarian BDFL owns everything
  • Dictator makes all decisions
  • Community feedback is encouraged, but users with feedback should have no expectation of change.

Lessons Learned

  • Be Cordial be on your way

    • Contributors

      • Keep all interactions with a maintainer as respectful as possible
      • They have likely donated a significant amount of time and energy into their project
    • Maintainers

      • be immensely thankful to all contributors
      • They are the lifeblood of your project
      • Ignore non-constructive feedback
      • Some people just take things too seriously

Avoiding Burnout


  • One of the biggest challenges for open source
  • Everyone has a limited amount of time in the day

Learn to do less

  • When an issue or pull request comes into the repo, two other developers usually triage it.
  • This saves an immense amount of time
  • I can focus my time on larger issues.

Learn to say no

  • Saying ‘No’ is really important
  • Learn to do it nicely

Simple Code is Good. Complex code is bad.

“Open source makes the world a better place. Please, don’t make it complicated.” – Kenneth Reitz