“Let Maintainers Be Maintainers”

Graydon Hoare:

[…] Corporate-employed FOSS maintainers working at a firm with these [very common] “growth and novelty” incentives [… are] in a position where their job performance is very likely to be evaluated in terms of visible growth and novelty (it might be dressed up in more abstract terms like “real-world impact” or “visibility” but it still means the same thing) even though that is exactly the wrong thing for the health of the project they’re maintaining.

I’m excerpting the gist of his article here but actually I suggest reading all of it. It’s not very long but gives flesh to this skeleton argument.

It doesn’t help that what he is talking about isn’t limited to employed maintainers; profit is not the only growth incentive structure that can lead to this novelty mindset, so this can exist entirely outside commercial context.



I have heard programming compared to brain surgery. If that's true, maintenance programmers do brain surgery on American football quarterbacks during the Super Bowl, and it's the programmer's fault if the team loses.

Most projects have zero need of growth or novelty. What they need is to keep doing the job they're already doing perfectly, occasionally implementing small changes when a dependency hoses some functionality.

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