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Chris Grams for Tidelift

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Maintainers want to do creative work that matters and makes an impact

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 sixth 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.

Over the years, as we’ve explained the concept of open source to people who are unfamiliar, one common question often comes up: “why do maintainers work on these projects if they aren’t being paid for it?”

In our previous maintainer survey, we asked maintainers what they enjoy about being an open source maintainer, and in our new survey we asked the same question again to see if the answers had changed.

Maintainers want to do creative work that matters and makes an impact

The number one answer in this year’s survey was “getting to work on projects that matter to me,” which was cited as something enjoyed by a remarkable 83% of maintainers, up from 59% in our previous survey.

While last time the top answer was “making a positive impact on the world,” this came in a close second in our new survey, followed once again by “allows me to fulfill a need for creative, challenging, and/or enjoyable work,” “improving my coding skills and knowledge of software,” and “I enjoy learning.”

While other answers like “working with peers and my community,” “knowing my work is used in important organizations and projects,” and “building my reputation and resume” all were answered by similar percentages of maintainers in our previous survey and this new one, there were two other big movers up this year.

“Receiving recognition for my work” was mentioned by only 43% of maintainers in our last survey, but this time around was mentioned by 57% of respondents. And while we pointed out in our previous survey that “getting paid for my work” was the LEAST cited reason for enjoying being a maintainer, there was a slight—but noticeable—increase this year from 21% to 35%. It is nice to see getting paid moving up the list of things maintainers enjoy about the work, and we hope this percentage will continue to accelerate.

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 RSVP for the webinar on Thursday, May 18 at 3 p.m. ET, where we’ll be unveiling the top findings from the survey.

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