On being a maintainer

3 minute read Published: 2021-11-28

I've watched a couple talks from the Emacs Conference 2021, one in particular struck me as a very powerful witnessing from the open-source world.

The speaker is Bastien Guerry, maintainer of Org mode (an Emacs mode for keeping notes, authoring documents, computational notebooks, literate programming and so on) and this is the link to his talk: how to help Emacs maintainers?.

The thing that struck me is the greatly inspiring perspective of a person that have been taking care of a FLOSS project for +10 years, much more inspiring than the "rockstars" sometimes under the spotlight on Hacker News.

I'd like to summarize some of the main points of his talk and remove all the Emacs context since this talk could easily apply to a lot of other FLOSS projects; but there is more than the following points, so I encourage the occasional reader of this article to watch the talk, which is also quite short (about 10 minutes).

So, what does "being a maintainer" mean?

There's one point not mentioned in the talk that I think is the lesson I want to bring home:

Contributing to a FOSS project is all about motivation. It's not a "gym exercise" 
or a "checkbox to tick" for personal goals (example, to brush up the personal resume):
it should come from passion and from the heart, for the good of the project and 
their users.

Note that I didn't mention anywhere the word "money", because I think it's completely orthogonal (making a living out of a FLOSS project is not "immoral", does not imply that users become customers and does not contradict any of the previous points).