Silence in Open Source Projects

If you contribute to open source projects, or are the sole creator of an open source project, you need to keep talking about that status of what you’re working on. Never stop.

Silence will deter people. Even if your code is super stable. Even if all features have been added. If I see that the last update on your blog/twitter/etc. was a year ago, I’ll assume the project is not actively maintained. That you’ve moved on. That OS updates and/or browser updates will render upon me issues and bugs that will never be addressed. That I should find something else to use.

In a world where OS updates are yearly and mobile apps are updated without interaction, it’s maddening to see open source projects – good, solid, useful projects – go into a sort of hermit state.

Quicksilver went through a period where it wasn’t actively being developed. Now that it’s seen some love, updates are frequent and communication is constant. I know that it’s a living project and something that is being worked on. I can rely on it and treat it as something that is solid and tactile – not infirm or fragile. A feeling I often felt during the ‘dark times’ where it lacked leadership.

Most recently I’ve seen this with the Sequel Pro application. An application I love and use frequently1. Sequel Pro hasn’t updated in over a year 2. Devs say it’s still active, but aren’t communicating that.

I’m not advocating for point release updates just for the sake of appearance. I’m advocating for putting effort into your communication.

If you’re part of an open source project that is actively being developed – even by just a few contributors – make sure it is kept alive. Make sure new users, and existing users returning to see what’s new, know the status of things. Clearly and plainly. If the project is still active, communicate that. If the project is done and mothballed – let us know that as well.

The result is more people using your thing. More people making it better. That’s worth your time.

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  1. It’s also included in Panic’s Coda and MAMP!

  2. Yes, nightly builds exist. Suggesting folks use nightly builds to work with databases is not something that jives well for me.