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Chris Grams for Tidelift

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Maintainers need help building a sustainable community around their projects

In late 2022, Tidelift fielded its second survey of open source maintainers. Hundreds of maintainers responded with thoughts about getting paid for their work, the security and maintenance practices they have in place for their projects, and where they need help most, along with a host of other interesting insights. In this post, we share the tenth of eleven key findings. If you don’t want to wait for the rest of the results, you can download the full survey report right now.

The community around an open source project serves to not only provide feedback and additional contributors to maintain the health of the project, but to support maintainers in keeping their projects secure, well maintained, and viable well into the future. Faced with increasing demands from users, maintainers are finding new ways to strengthen the communities around their project in ways that support long-term project health.

Two-thirds of maintainers are making an effort to create a welcoming atmosphere around their projects

Far and away the most popular response, with 67% of maintainers reporting, was creating a welcoming atmosphere for all identities around their project. Meanwhile, 37% prioritize efforts to improve the inclusivity of information and communication, including providing clear documentation with inclusive language, while 35% of respondents prioritize community onboarding and outreach. Having a set of onboarding and support documentation without knowledge bias has proven an effective method to gaining contributors who feel confident to participate in maintaining a project.

Maintainers understand that preparing new contributors coming in is just as important as supporting contributors and themselves. Twenty-eight percent of respondents work to provide mentorship opportunities to new and ongoing contributors.

We also found that 27% of maintainers are creating tools to help non-developer contributors submit impactful pull requests, which could also aid in both retention of longer-term contributors and the maintenance of non-code assets that serve as support and onboarding tools.

Of the choices we provided, the least commonly used strategies are efforts to improve the accessibility of information and communication (20%), efforts to address project burnout (20%), and creating / using a conflict resolution process (14%).

Finally, while we’ve noticed a consistent trend in maintainers taking steps to keep the community around their projects engaging and open, a small segment of maintainers are still not making any of these sorts of investments. Seventeen percent of survey respondents reported that they are not currently investing in any of the strategies outlined above for building communities around their work.

While our data provides a snapshot of what maintainers are doing currently to build and support communities around their projects, these practices continue to evolve and we look forward to sharing more innovative practices in surveys to come.

We hope you found some useful and actionable information in this blog post. If you’d like to get notified as future posts come out, please give us a follow. Or if you don’t want to wait, download the full survey results today and watch our webinar where resident data nerd, Chris Grams, unveils the top findings from the survey.

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