Sustainability of open source projects - a look at Octobox.io

The Changelog released this interesting piece on Octobox.io's journey to sustainability. Octobox was an open source project to improve notifications on GitHub, that the creators decided to work on full time last year. The folks involved are both well known and respected when it comes to open source sustainability efforts, previously having been part of Tidelift, one of the better known players in helping open source maintainers get paid.

To summarise the article:

  • Octobox is now one of the most popular open source tools on GitHub, with over 11,000 developers using it
  • It's used internally by big companies such as Shopify, and even GitHub itself
  • Despite that, It is not yet sustainable, with the income not covering the time of the 2 project founders
  • To that end, they are introducing new paid features, but offering the user the choice between whether the money goes to the company behind it, or back to the community

Whilst a lot of software in conservation occupies a very different space from developer tools like Octobox, I think there's a lot to learn from experiments like this. The conversation around open source sustainability seems particularly advanced in developer tools products, perhaps simply because of the fact that the products target other developers and therefore they expect the burden of open source maintainership to be understood.

I'd love to start a conversation here around the sustainability challenges faced by open source projects within this community, and conservation technology more generally. Are you working on an open source project? Have you managed to build a community around it? Is that community contributing to the project and making it easier to manage, or are contributions taking up more and more of your time with no relief in sight?
 

PS. Hi! Hello! This is my first post in WILDLABS. I joined the WILDLABS team last week to help out with project management. I join from GitHub Education where I helped students take their first steps in open source and industry, and I'm very excited to learn more about conservation and how tech is being used. Thank you for being a part of this wonderful community, and I look forward to getting to know you!

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