The Dark Side of Open Source

The numbers game

It’s all in the numbers — followers, contributions, comments, stars. Have none? Less than twenty public commits per week? What have you been doing lately?

The difference between public and both public and private contributions on Github

We want to be seen and have our work acknowledged. We’re humans after all.

That number and credibility game makes us forget our humanity. It fosters neglecting physical and mental health. It breaks relationships. The time we might come to realise that, it might be too late. Stop racing.


Privilege might be a vague, abstract idea if you’re not a member of an underrepresented group (Open Source has been historically more development than design focused). I’ve been working simultaneously as a designer and developer for almost ten years now and it has been tremendously challenging to break the barrier to entry and start collaborating in the open. It mostly happened thanks to encouraging, empowering people from the community. No one judged me based on my empty collaboration graph as I offered design advice and mentoring. That was my entry point. As someone coming from a non-English speaking country I’ve been quite lucky with getting quality education, so communication wasn’t an issue.

Impostor Syndrome

Open Source often is a constant, vicious cycle of ego games. Ever-present expectations of performance and arbitrary success bring people to a breaking point. We confuse approval with love and self-worthiness, which becomes dependant on achieving. At the lowest levels of behaviour we engage in phenomenon called impression management — we’re always thinking about how we appear to others, even when no one’s around.



Co-owner and Product Design Lead at Curator

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