Sustain Together Summary January 26th

Hello everyone!

Here is the summary of last weeks Sustain Together. Our next call is happening Friday, 9th February, 16:00-17:00 UTC 2 (12 pm ET / 9 am PT)

Here’s a summary of the last week’s meeting:

Events/conferences: There are a few OSS events taking place in the next couple of days


  • Open Source Collective (OSC) dashboard: Andrew is working with OSC to develop a dashboard that will show all the collectives. This project aims to help us understand the overall health of OS projects under OSC.

General OSS Sustainability:

Codes of Conduct:

  • Call to Action for the COC Survey: There is an ongoing research study led by Dr. Shurui Zhou to comprehending the implementation of Code of Conduct (CoC) in open-source communities. If you have an open source collective and you’re interested in being part of our study on CoC’s, check out this study

    • Action
      • We should curate a list of Code of conduct in OSS


For more information on these topics, please refer to the meeting minutes


@RichardLitt Anita_Ihuman @andrew, Elizabeth Barron, @gvlx @Ly0n @Ibiam @Peace_Ojemeh @Yiga @Erioldoesdesign @Busayo_Ojo @coni2k Seán Lynch


topic created: Takedown on FLOSS repositories and projects

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  • I’ve emailed Frank Nagle about the paper.
  • I’ve set up this repo to track takedown notices for reverse engineered protocols. Read this piece by Cory Doctorow on the enshittification of the internet for some context on why back-engineering apps is considered a huge no-no.
  • Perrie created an issue on Foss Funders.

I’m not sure about asking OSC about all of the businesses - we need them to ask their sponsors if anyone has published a blogpost about their strategy, because if so, they’re eligible to add it to FOSS Funders. @souravcipher, what do you think?


Thank you for so much great info, ReSA will help share some of it with the research software community :slightly_smiling_face:. Michelle


Richard is to ask Frank Nagle to open the model/data for this research study.

Yes, please. I wrote up a response to the paper, and I reached out to Frank on LinkedIn and Twitter:

Why take the labor market approach over goods market? Buy, borrow, build. If “borrow” (OSS) disappears, isn’t it much more likely that companies would buy (goods market) than build (labor)?

In other words, here are the two basic alternate timelines for a world without OSS, using curl as an example:

  1. Build - Every company that uses curl—i.e., probably tens of thousands of companies—rewrites curl from scratch for themselves alone.
  2. Buy - One company (hopefully Daniel’s :wink: ) writes curl and sells it to every other company.

It seems obvious to me on its face that (2) is the realistic alternative worth exploring for purposes of a thought experiment to estimate the value of Open Source software. The paper includes (2) in an appendix, and it leads to a much different result:

  1. Build - Open Source is worth $9 trillion and companies would spend 3.5x on software without it.
  2. Buy - Open Source is worth $200 million and companies would spend 1.00005x on software without it.

Why did they report (1) when (2) is pretty clearly the more realistic answer?

Frank has not responded on social media. Manuel gave me a follow, so someone on the author team has noticed. I sent the following email just now:

Manuel, Frank, and Yanuo,


My name is Chad Whitacre. I’ve been working in the area of Open Source sustainability since 2012. I currently run the OSPO at Sentry, a software monitoring company, where I run a forward-thinking Open Source funding program. I recently read your working paper, “The Value of Open Source Software.” This is an important research topic, which I’ve taken a much less rigorous stab at in the past. Thank you for working on it.

As I was reading the body of the working paper, the main question that emerged for me was: why assume that all OSS “has to be recreated at each firm that uses a given piece of OSS” (12), rather than that commercial alternatives would become available? Then I read the appendix, which does in fact consider this scenario. It concludes:

Given all the complexities and assumptions one has to make due to lack of data for a goods-market approach, we place stronger emphasis on the labor cost approach highlighted in the main body but we include this method here for completeness.

I have to admit I find this unconvincing. It’s not obvious to me that the goods market approach displays any more complexity or requires any more assumptions than the labor market approach. The options for procuring software are buy, borrow, or build. In an alternate timeline without “borrow” (OSS), it seems so much more likely to me that “buy” (goods market) would prevail over “build” (labor market). In view of this likelihood, the goods market approach seems to me to deserve the bulk of the research effort, almost to the exclusion of the labor market approach.

Before submitting your working paper for peer review, it might be greatly strengthened by either a) making a thorough case for adopting the labor market over the goods market approach, or b) adopting the goods market approach as the primary focus.

Thank you again for your work on this important topic.


Thanks for writing this up! I agree with your assessment. Also - we talked about your response on the day, too, it just didn’t get folded in here in the summary.

Nagle is an academic, so he may be waiting for a response in a journal. If you wanted to coauthor a rebuttal paper with me about that, I’d be interested and happy to take a lead on that.

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What journal did he publish in? His posts on social media only link to a preprint, and he is engaging on social media, at least with folks taking the results at face value (one, two, three).

I might not be entirely opposed, if a) there’s no real engagement in current venues (blogs, social media, email, this forum), and b) the claims of the paper do end up taking on a life of their own, as the social media response and yesterday’s FOSS Funders call suggests they will.

It looks like it’s going to be super brief, but Manuel Hoffmann, one of the co-authors, will talk about the study tomorrow at The EU Open Source Policy Summit ~ for your info:

10:10-10:15 - Expert intervention: The Value of Open Source Software

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Some good further discussion on GitHub:

However, if we were in a buy-only world, I do think that:

  1. prices for software would be much, much higher than they are today
  2. companies would spend a lot more on training for specific, proprietary platforms

I bet there would be other ramifications on the price of “Buy/Build” if “Borrow” were taken off the table entirely but I haven’t thought through all of them yet.

Hoping to join the meeting today to hear about all the conferences, and to share my new sponsorship reporting project!

Since I figure my FOSS Backstage attendees will expect a deeper dive into how foundations are funded, I’ve been experimenting with building a model of foundation’s sponsorship levels, and then scraping actual sponsor listings to calculate rough overall dollar numbers in various ways, mapping who sponsors who. I’d love feedback both on the data model I’m trying to build, as well as what kinds of stories we should talk about based on what we find.

Note that this will never be a comprehensive sponsorship mapping - some foundations don’t make it obvious what their list or levels are, and things like in-kind donations are impossible to strictly value. For example, I’m starting by booking in-kind services donations at full value from the foundation’s point of view; but only 50% value from a sponsor’s point of view (since the sponsor is only donating service, which is easier than cash outlay). Some foundations have “academic” or “enduser” levels of sponsorships, which don’t easily map to other orgs, etc. But if I can capture enough different sponsorships, I think it will still tell an interesting picture.

Foundation data model - manually evaluate a sponsor prospectus from a foundation and map to ordinal sponsorship levels:

Actual scrape of the first set of foundations I’ve quantified:

Listing of how often companies (mapped to rough domain name) sponsored which organizations:

Listing of approximate cash values (USD only for now) represented by the foundations I’ve scraped so far:

Comments and contributions appreciated! The manual effort is quantifying sponsorship levels, and figuring out a repeatable scraping of lists. I hope someday to be able to do a historical review too: it would be really fascinating to see how the sponsors of the ASF change over time.

  • Shane
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