After Reading: Working in Public

After Reading: Working in Public

I’ve been a distant fan of Nadia Eghbal for years, following her wonderful notes and speaking. When she released her first book this summer, I eagerly pre-ordered a copy (and with beautiful printing from Stripe Press no less!)

I initially thought the book would be more of a summary of my own lived experience - an overview of the open source development landscape. I’ve been consuming and contributing to open source since before I was ever paid to write software. And a good portion of the book is just there to explain open source mechanics to non-developers.

But, excitingly, there was also a substantial amount related to categorization of that lived experience - putting names and borders to the groups I had seen form over the last dozen years of open source project growth. If you’re involved in open source work and want to gain a clearer lens on things, it will be useful.

I was most interested in her sections on the current and future patterns of making money in open source. If you’ve been paying attention elsewhere, I don’t think anything in these sections will be new to you or will provide a definitive answer on how you can best monetize work, but they’re thought provoking.

Some thoughts that I wrote down while reading:

  • GitHub is a social network almost on par with Twitter and Facebook now (work gets done on those platforms too…)
  • Should I treat GitHub more like a megaphone and less like “just” a code distribution platform?
  • Should there be more dedicated tools for code collaboration as opposed to project promotion and open source consumption?

Open source developers are chronically undervalued because, unlike other creators, they’re tied to a platform that doesn’t enable them to realize the value of their work.

  • There are competitors to GitHub in terms of code collaboration and distribution (that I think are better than GitHub in some ways), but no competitors in terms of developer valuation and network (even though I think GitHub is bad at this, hopefully getting better).
  • Could something better be built on top of GitHub?

Is [this person] “doing open source” or “doing code stuff in public”?