Open Source Exploitation and Burnout

Posted July 30, 2016

It seems like every week there's another developer, somewhere, who's giving up on open source, tired, burnt out, and maybe even depressed.

The latest casualty is Tim Wood of moment.js, who posted on Medium about how open source led him to depression. Do companies realize their exploitation of open source is driving open sourcers to depression?

Open source burnout has been discussed often already, but the discussion should go one step further, to a discussion open source exploitation. Yes, open source is voluntary; nobody's forcing you to write code for them. But it's still exploitation, because it's unfair how many companies take and take and take from open source, and so rarely give back. (Excepting a few companies who give back with their own open source projects, for instance Facebook's React) The dictionary definition for exploitation fits here: the action of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.

It's also exploitation in the economic sense of the term. Open source is creating a ton of value, yet the open source developers, as a class, are capturing none of that value. The value is owned by the business owners, which means shareholders (for public companies) or founders and VCs (for startups). One things for sure: the developers writing open source definitely aren't capturing the financial benefit of their work.

In theory open source isn't about the money, but there's an emerging consensus that funding makes a big difference. If you're working a job, have a social life, and try to run a popular open source project, you're going to have a hard time. Trying to handle all the incoming bugs, feature requests, support tickets, and other emails is going to be a huge time sink. Money can't buy happiness, but it can help. SaaS companies hire separate teams for customer support, marketing, and engineering, so why is open source trying to do it all with no funding?!

Here's an alternative: Super Source. Let's charge companies for using our software, but keep collaborating in the open!

If open source pushed back a little and companies gave a little more in return, we'd be capable of so much more. Instead of burnout, abandoned projects, and sparse documentation, we could have a healthier ecosystem.

Join Our Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the Super Source newsletter. Enter your email address to join.

Success! You have joined the newsletter.

Go Super Source

Great projects deserve more than charity. See your project earn meaningful financial support with Super Source.