Open-Source
February 14, 2021

Open Source Needs Your Help

We all know that the world runs on Open Source. From bank transactions to medical records, police and fire department logistic software, and even national defense - Open source code is involved in it all. With much of our daily lives depending on work that happens largely for free, how do we ensure this ecosystem stays healthy, dependable, and innovative?


GitHub, npm, and StackOverflow


There is no shortage of tools to ensure that developers can host their code, consumers can have questions answered, and software can be downloaded and installed on demand, whenever necessary.


While these tools and their variants provide helpful functionality to open source developers and consumers alike, they represent a fragmented ecosystem that creates several headaches within the community.


The Problems


  1. Open Source maintainers aren't getting paid


While this isn’t a surprise to anyone, it may be hard to understand how the current ecosystem contributes directly to the problem. The simple answer is that none of the platforms that help to make open source code popular are sincerely focusing on monetization. Monetization is not a hard technical problem to solve, but it does take sincere effort, and realization that the community benefits as a whole when developers are compensated for their contributions.


  1. Discussions are disjointed


Between Stack Overflow, GitHub Issues, Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, and many more, there’s no shortage of places to talk about open source code. The proliferation of channels creates a disjointed experience for consumers of Open Source products, thereby creating extra work for maintainers (a GitHub Issue requesting an answer to a question that can be solved by glancing over the readme, for example).


  1. Discovery isn’t optimal


Most of the time, when you need an open source package, tool, or library, you go to Google. Of course, what Google believes to be the most relevant result may not be what you’re looking for, or worse, a better option is hiding on page two of your search results. Open source maintainers shouldn’t have to worry about SEO, and consumers should be able to search using a tool that is designed specifically for them to find what they’re looking for.


The Outcome


This collection of problems may not seem like too much to worry about. After all, the open source community seems to be humming along just fine, with new packages popping up every minute. As far as consumers go, it seems as if we’re finding free tools to use whenever we need, so why worry?


The truth is that in the open source community, the rate of burnout is exceptionally high. Maintainers of popular packages do a majority of their work for free, while being expected to consult for free and answer all ranges of questions from users. This high workload and added stress can stifle innovation, as maintainers are forced to focus on several matters outside of improving their code, solving bugs, and adding new features.


As far as consumers go, while there's no shortage of open source tools and packages to choose from, we’re often blindsided by deprecation, slow (or no) responses to critical issues, and the unending need to upgrade critical pieces of software pipelines every few years (bundlers, frameworks, utilities, etc).


Simply put, the open source ecosystem is working for some when it could be better for all.


The Solution


Few of these problems are easy to solve, but Openbase intends to address them all. To start, we’re here to make package discovery simple, intentional, and fast. Searching for the tools you need no longer requires crawling through Google, npm, or anywhere else. Simply head to Openbase.com and search through our categories or collections to find what you’re looking for.


Need to compare two different packages? Our user reviews and statistics will make that easier than ever. We’re also working to enable discussion features that allow users to help each other evaluate packages and solve challenges around the open source code and tools they’re using. Need to reach out to a maintainer? We’ll soon have you covered there too.


For maintainers, we’re working hard to provide the tools and resources you need to be able to focus on your work with fewer distractions. This includes areas such as monetization, discussion (keeping your GitHub issues clear and available for their intended purpose), discovery (no need to promote your work, we’ll handle that for you!) and much more. Rest assured, we love open source, and our job is to equip you to work efficiently without headaches.


If you’re an open source maintainer, we’re excited for you to sign up on Openbase.com and claim your package. We’d also love to hear from you regarding pain points you’re running into and tools or features you’d like to see on Openbase. Please feel free to reach out to developeradvocate@openbase.com