Responsibilities of Open Source Developers

Posted 23 Jul 2003 at 16:21 UTC by AlanShutko Share This

What level of commitment should a developer be prepared to devote to a project when he or she is ready to release it to the world?

NickK made a comment that I thought could spark a good discussion:

I wonder how long it will take for the community to finally learn that bringing a project to production stage is not an achievement. Rather, keeping that project maintenained and supported is.

See http://wakkawiki.com as an example: Programmer "proofed" that he could do, did, and.. faded away afterwards to face other challenges. Of course it's a personal project, and it's open source, but leaving behind a void is not nice. Sure, everyone is grateful for the programmer's time and code, and he is not obliged to do anything, but.. I think this behaviour is still a problem with the Open Source movement.

How long should a developer be willing to devote time to a project before deciding to release it? If I write something that may be useful to others, I probably wouldn't release it at all if I felt obligated to support it to the end of my days. Commercial companies won't do that... it's easy to come up with software that I or someone else I know has depended on at one time that has since been discontinued. Some companies like Corel seem to make a habit of introducing new software which never sees more than one or two releases.

Personally, I don't think that OSS developers should feel required to continue development on something once it has been released. Certainly, it's an achievement worthy of aspiring to. But I've gotten lots of use from software which has been dead upstream for years. It requires me to fix anything that goes wrong all by myself, but OSS lets me do that. And a person, or group of people, could decide to revive a package that's been idle.

While it's good that there are maintainers which companies can rely on, I think I'd rather have the current situation than one with less diversity and experimentation. What do other people think?

(Footnote: Folks, please certify NickK to let him participate in this discussion.)


I agree with Alan, posted 23 Jul 2003 at 20:06 UTC by shlomif » (Master)

I think any contribution of open source code, documentation, etc. is a good one, regardless if the author is willing to maintain it. After all, a peer developer can choose to adopt a project that has been neglected this way.

It would have been a good thing if more developers knew to concentrate their efforts on a few maintained projects that a gazillion of phantom projects. That way we would not have a whole slew of Wikis, bug trackers, incomplete sound editors, mp3 front-ends, and all the other vain that you can find on Freshmeat, and a few truly great implementations of every kind. But still, developers should be free to follow their bliss, and I think eventually a category will be dominated by a few winners, that will concentrate all the effort in that area.

Free software is not called "free" for nothing.

release regardless, just state your intentions, posted 23 Jul 2003 at 22:47 UTC by splork » (Master)

I can't count the number of useful open source things that I have stumbled across that I was quite happy to find and use despite signs of no longer being maintained or very low maintenance.

My only gripe recommendation: state your true maintenance intentions on the projects web page, and include an accurate last modified date on all web pages and documentation. Use of a hosting service such as sourceforge to allow the project to live even if your own hosting disappears is appreciated. it also gives you free bug tracking and mailing list archives.

Maintenance, posted 29 Jul 2003 at 01:10 UTC by neil » (Master)

I'd rather people release unmaintained code than not release at all. You never know what might be useful to another person who is willing to maintain some software.

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