An inside look at modern open source software development and its influence on our online social world.
Open source software, in which developers publish code that anyone can use, has long served as a bellwether for other online behavior. In the late 1990s, it provided an optimistic model for public collaboration, but in the last 20 years it’s shifted to solo operators who write and publish code that's consumed by millions.
In Working in Public, Nadia Eghbal takes an inside look at modern open source software development, its evolution over the last two decades, and its ramifications for an internet reorienting itself around individual creators. Eghbal, who interviewed hundreds of developers while working to improve their experience at GitHub, argues that modern open source offers us a model through which to understand the challenges faced by online creators. She examines the trajectory of open source projects, including:
The GitHub platform for hosting and development
The structures, roles, incentives, and relationships involved in open source projects
The often-overlooked maintenance required of its creators
The costs of production that endure through an application’s lifetime.
Eghbal also scrutinizes the role of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram, which reduce infrastructure and distribution costs for creators but which massively increase the scope of interactions with their audience.
Open source communities are increasingly centered around the work of individual developers rather than teams. Similarly, if creators, rather than discrete communities, are going to become the epicenter of our online social systems, we need to better understand how they work—and we can do so by studying what happened to open source.
PART 1: HOW PEOPLE MAKE 01: GITHUB AS A PLATFORM 02: THE STRUCTURE OF AN OPEN SOURCE PROJECT 03: ROLES, INCENTIVES, AND RELATIONSHIPS
PART 2: HOW PEOPLE MAINTAIN 04: THE WORK REQUIRED BY SOFTWARE 05: MANAGING THE COSTS OF PRODUCTION
CONCLUSION CREDITS NOTES
Nadia Eghbal is a writer and researcher who explores how the internet enables individual creators. From 2015 to 2019, she focused on the production of open source software, working independently and at GitHub to improve the open source developer experience. She is the author of Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure, published by the Ford Foundation, in which she argued that open source code is a form of public infrastructure that requires maintenance. She lives in San Francisco.
"Nadia writes from a unique perspective at the intersection of open source, economics, and poetry. This is the definitive book on the dynamics of online creative communities." —Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub
"Nadia is one of today's most nuanced thinkers about the depth and potential of online communities, and this book could not have come at a better time as the ways we relate to each other has become sharply more mediated by the internet. It dives deep into the heart of how some of the most complex and productive online communities open source projects have grown along with the internet they helped create, with lessons for many others far beyond software." —Devon Zuegel, director of product, communities at GitHub
"In the age of information abundance, we're all maintainers now. Working in Public is an anthropological dive into the stories of real developers, providing us a lens of open source with which to ask new questions. Nadia presents us with a book not focused on just money, licenses, or code but for all of us who make, as creators of all kinds." —Henry Zhu, open source maintainer, Babel
"Working in Public is the fantastic follow-up to Roads and Bridges, and shows how Nadia's scope has widened and thoughts have evolved since the first book. A must-read for anyone interested in open source software communities." —Mike McQuaid, engineer at GitHub and Homebrew maintainer