Episode 73

Reflections on the LF OSS Maintainer Report


2 November 2023

41 mins 25 secs

Your Hosts
Special Guests

About this Episode

Thank you to the folks at Sustain for providing the hosting account for CHAOSSCast!

CHAOSScast – Episode 73

In today’s episode, the conversation dives deep into the Linux Foundation Research Open Source Maintainers Report. Georg, Alyssa, Dawn, Sophia, and Anita engage in a thoughtful discussion about the report's methodology, findings, and implications for open source projects. They explore topics such as the challenges of obtaining a representative sample in open source research, the bias toward technical contributors, and the importance of considering the long-term engagement lifecycle of contributors. Additionally, they touch upon the report's best practices, including documentation and diversity, and how these practices can be connected across different categories. Download this episode now to learn more!

[00:2:50] Georg discusses the two main sections of the report: demographics of maintainers and contributors and maintainer best practices. He asks for thoughts and questions about the report.

[00:03:13] Alyssa expresses curiosity about the methodology, the number of interviews (32), and the diversity of projects covered in the research. Dawn shares her perspective on the number of interviews, stating that in-depth qualitative interviews can lead to convergence on key topics.

[00:05:32] Sophia discusses the challenges of obtaining a representative sample in open source research and mentions the effort to increase diversity in project types. She highlights the discussion of findings in percentages and expresses that it may be more quantitative than typical interview-based research.

[00:07:54] Dawn agrees with Sophia’s points and mentions her skepticism about percentages based on a small sample size. Georg mentions concerns about small sample sizes affecting the ability to make claims, especially with regards to best practices.

[00:09:49] Alyssa expresses that some sections of the report resonated with her, while others, like the funding and satisfaction sections, did not. She questions the methodology and the types of questions asked. Sophia responds, mentioning the challenges of sampling in open source research and how the findings resonated with her to some extent. She highlights the issue of funding and its potential impact on open source community culture.

[00:13:24] Georg asks if the findings and best practices aligned with their understanding the methodology helped in interpreting the findings. Anita adds her perspective, mentioning that the research highlights the transition from contributors to maintainers but raises questions about the representation of non-technical contributors.

[00:14:45] Alyssa notes the term “super coders” used in the report and how it implies a technical background for maintainers. Dawn and Anita express concerns about bias towards technical contributors and the exclusion of non-technical contributors in the research. Sophia acknowledges the bias in open source data and the need for more inclusive understanding of contributors.

[00:17:19] Georg raises the intriguing issue of maintainers being paid but feeling unsupported by their organizations. Dawn shares her experience of challenges in justifying promotions for open source developers within companies, and the visibility issue of open source work within organizations.

[00:19:33] Alyssa highlights the tension between company priorities and open source community priorities, and the balancing act that open source developers have to manage while wearing multiple hats, and Sophia shares her thoughts on this.

[00:21:53] Georg transitions the discussion to the best practices section of the report, and Anita shares that she finds the documentation, especially when engineers are tasked with writing it. She discusses issues related to technical jargon and the usability of documentation.

[00:24:00] Georg acknowledges the recuring challenge of documentation in open source projects and mentions the importance of considering different learning styles when creating documentation. Alyssa suggests that there could be opportunities to connect best practices across different categories.

[00:26:27] Now the conversation shifts towards the diversity section of the report, where Georg discusses the lack of well-structured diversity efforts in many open source projects.

[00:28:09] Sophia comments about the identifiable interviews in the research, noting that having named participants may have limited the depth of the diversity discussion due to privacy concerns. Alyssa comments on the decision to have identifiable interviews and highlights that it influenced the way the research results were presented, including the discussion on diversity.

[00:30:41] Georg brings up the connection between the discussion in the report and the work being done in the CHAOSS Project. Dawn emphasizes the importance of thinking about metrics and how they can be applied in open source projects, and she provides examples of how metrics can be used to measure specific aspects of project health.

[00:32:43] Alyssa expresses curiosity about what others think of the report’s conclusion and the attributes table, which suggests a strategy for project health assessment and improvement.

[00:33:30] Georg shares his perspective on the conclusion and mentions that the strategy for improving project health based on complexity and lifecycle stages seems self-evident. Sophia mentions that it doesn’t fully address the lifecycle of contributors beyond the onboarding phase and points out there is a lack of discussion about when contributors may want to step away from a project and the issue of aging out of longstanding projects.

Value Adds (Picks) of the week:

  • [00:36:44] Georg’s pick is visits from families.
  • [00:37:08] Anita’s pick is recently getting her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and wondering what her next steps are.
  • [00:37:39] Dawn’s pick is walks around the Old Town section of her neighborhood seeing really old buildings.
  • [00:38:18] Alyssa’s pick is the sun and seeing a Yayoi Kusama art show.
  • [00:39:14] Sophia’s pick is making a lot of homemade herbal tea.


Georg Link

Dawn Foster

Sophia Vargas

Alyssa Wright

Anita ihuman



CHAOSS Project Twitter

CHAOSScast Podcast


Ford Foundation

Georg Link LinkedIn

Dawn Foster Twitter

Sophia Vargas Twitter

Alyssa Wright LinkedIn

Anita ihuman Twitter

Linux Foundation Research Open Source Maintainers July 2023 Report

Mozilla-Open Source Archetypes: A Framework For Purposeful Open Source

Yayoi Kusama

Support CHAOSScast