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Discussion on: Let's talk about open source

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Michael Tharrington • Edited on


I'm the Community Manager at DEV (, which is the first community built on Forem. Forem is also the software that this community — The Web Monetization Community — is built on. You can read a bit more about Forem here.

I joined DEV shortly after they made the decision to make open source. At this point in time, they had begun to conceptualize Forem — with a plan to generalize the code behind DEV and make it so that other folks could build communities using the platform. I got to see this concept come to fruition as we worked in the open over GitHub with community members to both improve but also generalize the platform so that new communities could be built on Forem.

It's been a super interesting ride. To be clear, I'm nontechnical, but I know how to make both feature requests and bug reports over GitHub. I also like to think that I understand the power of having people work with you in the open — especially people who are users of your product. Community members put forth some of the best ideas for new features and definitely catch a lot of bugs too. 😅 It's nice that we have a technical community because they're often the ones jumping in to proposes fixes and changes too.

There are certainly challenges too. Maintaining an open source project is often like maintaining it's own little community too. You need to appropriately recognize and give attention to folks involved, you need to be prepared to code a little less and review other's works a little more. But, I do think it's a rewarding experience and a great natural way to make allies in whatever you're building.

Personally, I think open source is cool because it's often one of the best ways to be transparent with your decision making behind whatever it is you are building. To me that honesty is a good service to all involved — folks working on the thing you're working on and those that are using it.

jsenyak profile image
Josh Senyak Author

This is very helpful. Thank you Michael. I'm coming to understand that open source is largely about a community and only partially about shared code development. Since I'm a writer I'm especially intereted in the crucial role that documenters (and community managers!) play in that community.

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

Awesome! Well, if I can help, please let me know. 🙂

I think you're exactly right... open source really depends on community. Generally everyone is by themselves at home working solo on their machine, so good docs and patient communication are super important for setting clear expectations and connecting everything together with little friction.

Community is also just important for the morale aspect. While I'm not a dev and not merging loads of code or anything, I'd like to think that if I did, someone would notice and give some sort of shout out. We generally all want some recognition; I'm thinking about when I work with folks over GitHub and don't see the person (in person) who is helping to create that feature request I requested, it's important that I make the extra effort to give them a shoutout.