Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software Hardcover – August 4, 2020
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From the Publisher
From the introduction
Until recently, information was good, and more information was better. If the free exchange of ideas formed the basis of a flourishing society, then we had a moral imperative to connect more people to one another.
The spirit of openness lasted more than 200 years. We championed the value of literacy and education. We built roads, bridges, and highways that brought together previously isolated communities. We careened toward the new millennium, flushed with the global triumph of Western liberal democracy.
Then we hit a snag. Suddenly, there was too much information. Too many notifications made us want to check them less. Too many social interactions made us want to post online less frequently. Too many emails made us not want to answer. Our online public lives became too much to handle, causing many of us to shrink back into our private spheres.
A must-read in open source software communities
"Working in Public is the fantastic follow-up to Roads and Bridges, and shows how Nadia's scope has widened and thoughts have evolved since the first book. A must-read for anyone interested in open source software communities."
—Mike McQuaid, engineer at GitHub and Homebrew maintainer
The definitive book on the dynamics of online creative communities
"Nadia writes from a unique perspective at the intersection of open source, economics, and poetry. This is the definitive book on the dynamics of online creative communities."
—Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub
An anthropological dive into the stories of real developers
"In the age of information abundance, we're all maintainers now. Working in Public is an anthropological dive into the stories of real developers, providing us a lens of open source with which to ask new questions. Nadia presents us with a book not focused on just money, licenses, or code but for all of us who make, as creators of all kinds."
—Henry Zhu, open source maintainer, Babel
About the author
Nadia Eghbal is a writer and researcher who explores how the internet enables individual creators. From 2015 to 2019, she focused on the production of open source software, working independently and at GitHub to improve the open source developer experience. She is the author of Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure, published by the Ford Foundation, where she argued that open source code is a form of public infrastructure that requires maintenance.
About the publisher
Stripe Press publishes books about economic and technological advancement. Stripe partners with hundreds of thousands of the world’s most innovative businesses—organizations that will shape the world of tomorrow. These businesses are the result of many different inputs. Perhaps the most important ingredient is "ideas." Stripe Press highlights ideas that we think can be broadly useful. Some books contain entirely new material, some are collections of existing work reimagined, and others are republications of previous works that have remained relevant over time or have renewed relevance today.
Other titles by Stripe Press:
- High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil
- The Dream Machine by M. Mitchell Waldrop
- Stubborn Attachments by Tyler Cowen
- The Revolt of the Public by Martin Gurri
- An Elegant Puzzle by Will Larson
- Get Together by Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh, and Kai Elmer Sotto
- The Making of Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner
- The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard W. Hamming
"Nadia is one of today's most nuanced thinkers about the depth and potential of online communities, and this book could not have come at a better time as the ways we relate to each other has become sharply more mediated by the internet. It dives deep into the heart of how some of the most complex and productive online communities open source projects have grown along with the internet they helped create, with lessons for many others far beyond software." --Devon Zuegel, director of product, communities at GitHub
"In the age of information abundance, we're all maintainers now. Working in Public is an anthropological dive into the stories of real developers, providing us a lens of open source with which to ask new questions. Nadia presents us with a book not focused on just money, licenses, or code but for all of us who make, as creators of all kinds." --Henry Zhu, open source maintainer, Babel
"Working in Public is the fantastic follow-up to Roads and Bridges, and shows how Nadia's scope has widened and thoughts have evolved since the first book. A must-read for anyone interested in open source software communities." --Mike McQuaid, engineer at GitHub and Homebrew maintainer
About the Author
- Publisher : Stripe Press (August 4, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0578675862
- ISBN-13 : 978-0578675862
- Item Weight : 1.27 pounds
- Best Sellers Rank: #53,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Beyond the scope of the book are some interesting things that needed to be in the book. The central underlying axiom is that Github is the pinnacle of where open source is happening, and nothing will replace that. Except that some of the most widely used open source software pieces are not on Github, or use Github as a mere repository out of convenience. No space is given to dive into how for-profit, commercial companies "interface" with open source in so many ways. And the notion that code does not have monetary value is simply laughable.
Instead of looking at anecdotes that are more amusing than illuminating, the narrative needs to span the history of free software and open source from the early days. In depth, and not just in passing. The author's own experience with open source does not mark the "true" beginning of the story. It might be for the author personally, but the "book" reads more like a hastily-slapped together high school essay that needed to fill the page quota.
Every single chapter is, unfortunately, a disappointment. There are, as I mentioned, a couple of decent observations that hold right now, in this very moment. But there's no meat. No substance. No narrative. Nothing to chew on. Nothing that keeps you thinking and coming back to it after you're done with it.
The book gives a nuanced overview of the many communities and economics of open source, from the idealistic communities of 30 years ago that we usually think about to the modern GitHub era.
"Working in Public" offers a unique lens into the economics and communities of online creatives, tracking open source's evolution from fringe idealism to becoming a ubiquitous utility - while creating trillions in economic value along the way (relatively little of which went to creators).
As work on a project gets less and less fun over time, the book offers creative solutions for incentive problems, ranging from creator monetization features from Twitch, to patronage, to a peer-sourced community, to not maintaining projects to get your attention back - all part of a buffet of emerging options for an economic model stuck in the past that looks like Esports a la 2011.
The book is also witty and funny (my favorite analogy for maintenance was a neighbor who comes and knocks on your doors with requests for how you should put up your Christmas lights), and has a high bar for craft throughout - everything is impeccably well designed, including the cover texture, page weight, and lie flat binding. The same level of craft and precision went into every detail about what was in and out of scope for the book, necessary given how demanding extractive contributors can be (and surely will be about this book!).
Creators first. This book lives that message, from its physical form to its message. Great book!
Like.. the cover is pleasant to touch, the paper is decent, fonts are clear, colors are bright, binding is strong, etc. I wish more good books were reissued in the same quality prints.
This is why i give 2 stars instead of 1.
Book is like TL;DR of twitter topics over last 5 years. Nothing new.
p.s.: maybe this book will be much more valuable to people of the future, as a slice of history of "public open source" culture.