Is There a Maintainer Burnout Epidemic?

Is There a Maintainer Burnout Epidemic?

It's not a secret that open source maintainers are burning out, whether that's from increased pressure, lack of time, support, and resources, or demanding contributors or users. In fact, according to a 2023 Tidelift report, "almost 60% of maintainers have quit or considered quitting maintaining one of their projects."

Open source software is essential to the tech industry, but the "free" business model often leads to burnout and lack of incentives for maintainers, leading to quality issues, security concerns, and even sometimes an abrupt end to a project. Things aren't going to get better magically though. Addressing the crisis requires collective action from all members of the open source community – developers, organizations, and users. What are some ways we can do that?

Supporting Open Source Maintainers

Stop Burning Out Maintainers

If we want a healthy open source ecosystem, we cannot put all the work on maintainers. Contributors have to share the responsibility and be good open source citizens.

Connect and Recognize Maintainers

When maintainers feel seen and heard, they’re more likely to have positive interactions with the community, which can lead to a ripple effect, creating a culture of recognition and support that everyone in the open-source ecosystem can benefit from. But more importantly, it can help to decrease the pervasive loneliness that many maintainers feel.

Pay Maintainers

46% of maintainers surveyed said they weren't paid for their work. But who is responsible for paying maintainers? This is part of the question we continually see being asked. There are quite a few suggestions for how to collect funds, but no universal consensus for how to distribute funds and who should qualify. With software giants consuming OSS extensively but often failing to sufficiently contribute back to the community, should we be placing the burden of responsibility on them?

Educate New Maintainers

Education is a huge part of improving the world's problems. Open source is no different. This is why we're working to prepare the next generation of maintainers and contributors who are curious about what goes into being a maintainer. Soon, we'll be launching a course that expands on basic topics of maintainership like setting up your project, maintainer power-ups, building community, and maintainer health. You can watch or star our Intro Repo to see when it goes live.

What do you think we should do about maintainer burnout?

If you're a maintainer and you want to share your experience, we encourage you to take our survey.

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What we're up to in the Community

πŸ“š Check out our 29 Days of Open Source Alternatives Series
πŸŽ₯ Stop Burning Out Maintainers YouTube Short
🎀 Stop Burning Out Maintainers Twitter/X Space, Tuesday 2/6 12p ET | 9a PT

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