A lot of non-coding work is done by people who would rather just be coding.

As previously noted, the typical path into FOSS infrastructure projects is by contributing code. However, a lot of work is done that is not directly connected to coding: project management, financial administration, design, community management, event organization, communication and coordination with other projects and companies, representation at events and public speaking. This other work is seen variously as a burden, an annoyance, an unwelcome surprise, and a side hobby.


  • These non-coding tasks are taken on by developers involved in the project. They recognize they are neither qualified for this work, nor are they especially interested in doing it. Despite being a source of frustration that keeps them from doing what they enjoy, they do not easily delegate this work to others – one reason being that there are few people inside the community with the necessary skills.
  • In spite of frequent complaints about this work, where dedicated roles exist, they are not much valued.
  • Developers undertaking non-developer work can favour technical fixes to non-technical problems. One example is the “social fork” where a lack of community and care work within a project leads to massive social friction. Instead of solving the problems on a social level, parts of the community fork the code and establish a new technical project, partly to circumvent social tensions or abusive behavior. Matthew Garrett’s work on the Linux Kernel is a well-publicized example of a developer avoiding “the behavior of various high-profile people within the kernel community,” in this case the Linux Kernel Mailing List.


“We are not very good at marketing; we are problem solvers.”

“I would prefer to be just an engineer. In practice I am a community manager.”

“We are developers. We also do community and outreach, but that is learning by doing.”

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