SustainOSS and the FOSS tools that are used

It is nice to have funding, and the amount you need depends on your community organization and size. I host a number of open tools & platforms, all FOSS, and it costs me a few dollars. Something that should be easy to collect via some small donations e.g. on Besides that other FOSS tools are offered as SaaS, either for free or with a free plan, and still respect privacy (and do not bombard you with ads).

You should not make the transition all at once, but gradually. I’d advise to make it a policy to first look if there are any FOSS alternatives that might be useful, and only as second-best choice fallback to something proprietary.

I speak from experience that many people in the Free Software Community (where imho you probably find those most likely to contribute to initiatives such as SustainOSS) all this proprietary use of software is seen as very problematic, and frowned upon.

PS. Maintenance-wise many of these tools are a breeze to set up as well. But you can select on that, based on the technical experience level of the once that will maintain them.

Take for instance Just The Docs → Clone repository, turn on Github Pages… and you’re almost done (do some styling, link to custom domain, commit some markdown content). Slides? → use RevealJS or similar… same story. And they are web-ready everywhere.

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To be fair, Anatoli, yes, I’m fortunate to have a very compatible role for this sort of thing… but the UNESCO funding (~$5k/year for cloud hosting services) applies to only one of the two BBB instances I set up and maintain, and none of the 40+ other FOSS web services I’ve set up and maintain on my own behalf, and on behalf of a bunch of other organisations for which I volunteer. Any FOSS-specific community should be able to muster the expertise to do this sort of thing… to me, it adds significant credibility to such a community…

To be totally honest, in my experience, hosting for FOSS services is a fairly trivial cost for any community. The cost of adopting proprietary technologies (which, of course, might be “free” of cost today… but might not be tomorrow) can be a huge (existentially threatening) cost in terms of future $ when your data’s held hostage by a service provider who suddenly needs to “monetise” in order to please their VCs, or in terms of selling out your community members’ private data… Things to keep in mind.

For what it’s worth, I maintain a blog with detailed how-tos to help other communities make better use of tools that respect the freedoms (and wallets) of community members:

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I think you might summarize that your goal should be to “Sustain your FOSS community” :hugs:

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Over the last 10 years I’ve been a member of various communities in Belarus, for which we maintained our own infrastructure. What I see is that a lot of infrastructure maintenance is done only by two or three people, and once they got families to feed and join corporate ranks, their ability to support things starts to deteriorate, and eventually the whole thing goes down.

It’s always a danger Anatoli, but I’m an exception to that rule (age 50+, family with 2 kids, sold my 100% FOSS company of 14 years, now working full time for a charitable educational foundation) - a thriving community will aim to have succession planning for that sort of thing… And I supposed it all depends on the richness and depth of the communities we create. I assure you that, if I’m able to do what I do, given my constraints, I have no doubt there’re thousands of others who can do the same or better. To my mind, the best way to create those communities is to have consistent and clear principles… and avoid undermining them by using proprietary tools when we really don’t have to.

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I wish we can scale your example.

Back to the topic. I guess nobody objects against self-hosted alternatives if there are people willing to take over the maintenance and having some backup and the mechanism of passing the baton. The missing part right now is a collection of links showing where SustainOSS is using non open source technology. As far as I know Discourse is FOSS, and I can don’t remember where Slack or Read The Docs are used, even if RTD is open source while GitHub isn’t.

What I would like to ultimately see, though, are metrics about time and expertise needed to maintain those hosted solutions. People need to know what it takes to maintain community infrastructure to be able to support people behind it.


Agreed. This information would not only be valuable for SustainOSS, but anyone else that sustains open source projects. Note that especially what you mention is a niche that many other projects / curated lists do not provide details on. I don’t know much about work methods here, but this might be part of Working Group activity.

Hi Anatoli - I made another post on this thread providing more details on the services I support and the sort of time requirements it entails (and expertise) but it’s been flagged as “spam” because it has a lot of links in it… (as someone who runs several Discourse instances and acts as moderator in them, I suspect they’ve got the settings of this one wound a bit tight).

I also note the irony that, as a forum whose name suggests they’re after “sustaining open source software” and making it sustainable… there’s a surprising reluctance to even talk about actually using open source software. Several of my posts in this forum in which I try, in good faith, to explain why we should do so have been flagged… and I can’t see how they contravene the “guidelines” to which I’ve kindly been pointed. I’m thinking that perhaps it’d be better to find a community that actually likes, values, and uses open source software. Still haven’t had any contact from a moderator to explain what’s objectionable about my posts…

Too bad. I note that moderators on the forum have now blacklisted my personal blog… So much for rational, open discussion, eh. Very disappointing. @abitrolly - if you’re interested in seeing it, I’ve posted a response to your question on my personal blog - my

And, with that, I’m giving up on “SustainOSS” - this is their forum, and they can police it how they like… but seems its governance priorities are seriously conflicted. I anticipate that this post will also be removed… Good luck folks.

10 links should be no problem, but you can raise the question here.

I think that anybody who received at least two replies from existing members is no a new user anymore. Maybe that’s the rule that could be added.

It may happen that flags are not supervised and the default action is to hide anything flagged. When I got into this situation I opened a question at Need human help with Community Guildelines

There are people with different backgrounds there, including those who use non-open source software and those daily jobs are unrelated to software development at all. Maybe they came here, because they’ve discovered the sustainability problem from other sources, such as Nadia’s report, and would like to help with the cause that nobody from us can solve on our own.

I would say that the job of moderator for any forum that brings diversity is not just to hide or unhide posts, but also to contact people who flagged to resolve the underlying conflict that the person experiences while flagging things. Text messages are imperfect medium. Some people may interpret critics as a personal attacks and flag posts, some may feel like the post is too heavy on them and they would rather spend their time on another forum. I am just telling that it is better not to jump to assumptions and ask and wait to clarify each case.

I took a look at your blog and I must say I well understand your position. I spent like 20 years “tilting at windmills” as I say it now, earned a title of a “well known troll” in certain open source communities (hence my new “business” nickname). While it was fun, it was not a battle against a cause - it is all a battle against the effect. If we deny that proprietary software should exist, we may as well implicitly ignore all people who are writing and selling such software, and the reasons they do this. To be straight to the point - most people do this, because they need money. The stuff that your blog, from what I’ve scanned so far, ignores. For me the money that are necessary for a living is the reason I am on this forum. That’s the problem that this forum tries to solve - how to make open source sustainable, not how to get rid of proprietary.

I guess that’s my point, Anatoli, I’ve been a software developer for 26 years… and I’ve only ever created FOSS. Almost all GPL licensed (I respect the upstream license if modifying something existing). You don’t need to build proprietary to earn a living. Some of the folks running this initiative, however, work for proprietary software corporations, and I gather they’re not fans of people like me pointing out that, well, not only do you not need them and their proprietary products… but in fact, their offerings are bad for the world. I don’t see it as tilting at windmills - it’s just stating a fact that I myself have proven. Proprietary undermines the sustainability of FOSS simply by existing, as I explain in my blocked blog.

I haven’t had any contact from any moderators. I’ve had 3 of my posts flagged, and my blog blacklisted… I would expect at least the latter to be an act of a moderator but I very much hope not.

There’s a definite faction of people - who work for proprietary software corporations - who want FOSS to be sustainable but perhaps not in the way the rest of us do. We have a similar thing with cows here in New Zealand - some people want to make them sustainable so they can continue profiting massively holding them captive and milking them.

Hey. :wave: If we haven’t “met” before, I’m one of the organizers of Sustain and I help keep the conversations here going, both in this online forum and the working group forums. I by no means run things, but I do help out very often.

@lightweight – all that said, I don’t know who flagged your posts or why they were flagged at all. I’m not super familiar with Discourse and I asked some other Sustain organizers and none of them knew why your posts were flagged. I’m sorry to hear that this has distressed you!

I also don’t know what you mean by blacklisted or why your posts were hidden without at least a backchannel comment to work things out. I suspect it is an automatic function of Discourse. I’m looking into it and will circle back. I encourage you to be patient.

Regarding responses: I didn’t have time to respond to this before now, today. Everyone here has some sort of day job. It’s not that I or anyone else is reluctant to talk about this. I suspect that there weren’t a ton of comments because this was posted on Friday, and people take the weekend off. On a similar note, this thread has far more responses than most other threads. For my part, I’m glad you’re here, because I think Oeru is an awesome example of open source done right.

On the topic of the thread, thanks @aschrijver for bringing up the importance of open source tools in this forum. In helping the WGs, I try my best to balance our commitments and respect individual workflows. Groups are encouraged to use the tools that work best for them. For example, some WGs use Zoom while others use BBB. I have more to say here, but will leave that for another time.

In closing - there are no committee overloads that decide on tools. But we do hold to a standard of respect in our Code of Conduct. Please, be civil. If we feel that any comments breach the CoC, the mods would be in touch, and not simply flag posts.

I wish I could be as optimistic. For me that’s survival bias. I couldn’t survive on open source alone and I’ve seen numerous projects failing to crowdfund even $200 over the project lifetime on Gratipay. You speak about your own experience, but what is the total capacity for open source developer positions that you managed to create as a company owner?

Let me repeat that proprietary software is not the cause, but the effect. People write the code they won’t own not because of their free will. People writing software may concur for resources to feed themselves, but hating some work that people do doesn’t help to solve that conflict.

Since you’ve got the whole 3 posts flagged, I may suggest that absence of work experience from the other side of the fence (if there is a fence at all) got you write something in those posts that made some people unhappy. Your position is clear and you’ve been heard, but if the lose the people who didn’t have the courage to speak up, we may lose some valuable allies. If you’re ready to get rid of some Apple fanboys/fangirls who mastered an art of communicating with people with beautiful design made in proprietary Adobe products, then I am not. I know that I can not do beautiful things in Blender or GIMP, but every time a person from proprietary world who knows I love Blender tells me about some awesome thing he could do with it, I am a happy.

The best way to advocate things is pro-something, not anti-something. And if something bad needs attention, speak with data, not emotions.

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Thanks for looking into it Richard - we’ve communicated in person via BBB previously.

Any post I make which references my personal blog (which I cite to provide to support my statements with further reasoning) is automatically blocked from saving, stating that my blog URL has been blocked (blacklisted). Perhaps it’s an automatic function of Discourse… but I do know that 3 of my posts have been flagged by forum users, and I’m not really sure why that would happen.

Thanks for that vote of confidence, Richard - I think we’re in a fortunate position to be able to speak from experience to counter the common message that “open source is too hard to use, even for communities championing open source”…

I agree… I think that hiding behind anonymous “flagging” of content can be just as damaging to rational and civil discourse as being abusive with words. Robust discussion is a requisite if we’re to have any hope of solving difficult problems (and, surely, that’s why we’re all here!).

Sure, I have survivor’s bias… but, despite what many folks (including you!) say, I can also say that I’ve proven that it’s possible to live quite well and sustainably as a pure FOSS developer.

Regarding your question - it’s a good one. The short answer is… “all of them”. In my particular case, I employed 20+ developers… we were acquired by a company with 300 in NZ. There’re quite a few other FOSS here - and they exist because people like me didn’t listen to the many naysayers who used to chide and even shun us back in the early days (they used to yell “this open source stuff is going to kill our software businesses! Shun them.”). And that’s in an environment where the vast majority of computer users are hopelessly locked in to proprietary software supplied by big tech. Imagine if that wasn’t the case.

If we helped gov’ts to realise that FOSS is part of our global virtual infrastructure (the digital equivalent to roads and power grids) that they should be funding, not leaving it to the capricious whimsy of big tech corporations, then all development jobs could (and should) be for building FOSS. Software has little inherent direct value in and of itself - only things you can produce/manage/organise with software has value.

Yes, if you read through my posts, I’m quite pro-things. But we also have to point out counterproductive blockers to our stated goal (sustainable OSS) when we see them. The power usurped and wielded by proprietary software proprietors over their users is the biggest blocker there is. I’d point to concrete examples of that detailed on my blog if I could :slight_smile:

In my opinion - the way we can achieve the “gov’t support/funding for FOSS” I mentioned above, I’ve outlined in some detail here (I don’t think this one is blocked):

I’ll be interested to see whether my “ignored” posts (due to being flagged by one or more community members) are reinstated by the moderators as I’m not convinced (although I accept I’m biased in the matter) that I’ve violated any aspect of the forum’s posting guidelines…