I used to join mailing lists and accept committer access to open source projects with enthusiasm: I interpreted invitations to join the community as a badge of respect. Now, I often find myself rejecting invitations. Two things have changed my opinion:
1) github, bugtrackers and the like – infrastructure-backed projects makes it so easy to make fire-and-forget contributions to a project that mailing lists and SVN commit rights seem onerous by contrast. I used to propose solutions to problems and have several iterations with project developers, but now I find myself submitting prototype patches along with bug reports and walking away. I still think that needing to create a Jira login for every project it annoying, but at least all of the apache.org projects share the same login
2) volume of projects – it seems each year we all use a larger number of third-party components to complete a project. A half-dozen external libraries seemed excessive a decade ago, but 150 or so small libraries is normal now. If you joined every project that you used, the information flood would lead to madness.
This seems both good and bad to me. It’s good that many projects have lowered their barrier to entry via either infrastructure or architecture. But it’s bad that projects may find it harder to grow a stable community (or maybe they don’t? I suppose it varies by project).
I don’t think that communities need to be stable, it makes sense for them to rise and fall around where the work is. While the number of tools I’m tying together may seem to be growing, the number that I actually need to mess with isn’t. Part of the joy I take in watching the complexity of stacks grow is in noticing just how many more components that I used to need to fuss with are now routinely ignored.
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