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Yes, Open Source Is Sustainable

Two months ago, we announced our annual investment in open source maintainers, mostly folks whose work we depend on to deliver Sentry to you, plus a few research and hobby projects that our employees put on our radar. Two days ago, six of these maintainers joined us for a one-hour panel called “The Future of Open Source: Is It Sustainable?” I co-hosted with Jessica Lord, Product Manager of GitHub Sponsors. Our panelists were:

The purpose of the event was to inspire maintainers to pursue a community-supported open source career, and to inspire companies to pay for the community-supported open source software they use.

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The conversation started with three slides to get us thinking: a definition of an ideal open source career, a framework for ways to relate economically to our open source work, and a model for categorizing open source projects (borrowed, with permission, from Nadia Eghbal’s book, Working in Public).

What was our conclusion? Though there are many challenges and different approaches, the fact is that yes, open source is sustainable. We have clear existence proofs of maintainers making a living from community-sponsored open source through platforms such as GitHub Sponsors. We also have existence proofs of companies like Sentry stepping up to the plate, out of enlightened self-interest, to make such careers possible.

Daniel shared with us that he just celebrated his 25-year anniversary “doing HTTP client code,” and towards the end of the session he drove home the point that “it’s absolutely better and easier to do now, than ever before.” Tom followed up to emphasize that “even five years ago,” the idea of a community-supported open-source career was an unrealized dream. But today here we are with multiple examples of people who are living the dream, including some of our panelists.

There were many great moments and insights during the conversation, so watch it if you haven’t yet. Thank you to everyone who joined us live, participated in the chat, and engaged on Twitter. Thank you to all of our esteemed panelists, to the event and marketing teams at GitHub and Sentry for making this possible, and to Jessica for co-hosting.

Open source is not perfect, but the overall trend in sustainability is positive. Just imagine where we will be five or twenty five years from now. Keep up the good work!

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