Anonymous Open Source Projects

Solomon asked an interesting question on Twitter:

He made it clear he is not advocating for this view, just a thought experiment. I had, well, a few thoughts on this.

I tend to think of open source projects in three broad buckets.

Firstly, we have the overall workflow in which the community works together to build things. This is your code review processes, issue management, translations workflow, event strategy, governance, and other pieces.

Secondly, there are the individual contributions. This is how we assess what we want to build, what quality looks like, how we build modularity, and other elements.

Thirdly, there is identity which covers the identity of the project and the individuals who contribute to it. Solomon taps into this third component.

Identity

While the first two components, workflow and contributions are clearly important in defining what you want to work on and how you build it, identity is more subtle.

I think identity plays a few different roles at the individual level.

Firstly, it helps to build reputation. Open source communities are at a core level meritocracies: contributions are assessed on their value, and the overall value of the contributor is based on their merits. Now, yes, I know some of you will balk at whether open source communities are actually meritocracies. The thing is, too many people treat “meritocracy” as a framework or model: it isn’t. It is more of a philosophy…a star that we move towards.

It is impossible to build a meritocracy without some form of identity attached to the contribution. We need to have a mapping between each contribution and the same identity that delivered it: this helps that individual build their reputation as they deliver more and more contributions. This also helps them flow from being a new contributor, to a regular, and then to a leader.

This leads to my second point. Identity is also critical for accountability. Now, when I say accountability we tend to think of someone being responsible for their actions. Sure, this is the case, but accountability also plays an important and healthy role in people receiving peer feedback on their work.

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