What Makes a Good Open Source Project?

ascasson profile image Anthony Casson ・1 min read

I thought it fitting to ask a massively broad, hearty open source question on a platform that also happens to be open source: DEV. Additionally, it's also the first time I have posted here. Hooray!

The open source meetup I run in Bend, Oregon, was the source of this topic, and I wanted to present it to you, my wonderful reader, and ask for input. Let's poke at the question quickly and see what happens.

What makes a good open source project?

This is loaded with ambiguity, but it came out of the mouth of someone who has worked on and with open source projects for nearly 30 years. A genuine question. They have contributed to some of the most well known projects as well.

What gives? Shouldn't someone like this have all the answers? No. Thank goodness.

A decades-old veteran will be coming at this having a very different vision of open source than someone just starting - and everyone in between. The experiences will likely trigger a different reaction to the question, which is the point. But don't think about it too hard.

A good project seems to advocate by itself the importance of open source. But what does that even mean? I have some thoughts of course, but this is not for me. It's for you! What say you?

Your comments, new questions, ideas, etc. will help our meetup thrive! I'd love to hear from you in the comments or bug me on Twitter (@ascasson ). Cheers!


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cjbrooks12 profile image
Casey Brooks

What I like to see most in an open-source project is that it is focused. By having a clear vision for what the project is and is not, it shows me that thought has been put into it and I can trust that the project will continue to serve my needs into the future instead of morphing into something way more than I need.

I don't need a project to be maintained daily if it is small and focused in scope. In many cases, these projects are simply finished and the only updates necessary are bugfixes. There's something really nice about projects that are feature-complete.

christopherkade profile image
Christopher Kade

I've been dabbling with the OSS project for a short while now and I've come to some personal conclusions.

Some things seem to be a requirement for an OSS project to be "good":

  • Clear and concise contribution documentation (how to file a bug report, how to set up your environment and tests etc.)
  • Good management of issues (automatisation of everything that is repetitive can help a long way, such as imposing a format and closing inactive issues)
  • A well defined code of conduct

Other things were pretty noticeable for someone who's just been starting:

  • Marking issues as "good first issues" will help a LOT of new contributors to get started
  • Transparency and communication; meaning an availability to answer questions that newcomers may have (as much as I know it can be hard to manage multiple projects & issues at the same time)
  • A slack channel (or any other type of platform). Many people are afraid of flooding an issue feed with small questions, that's where the slack channel comes in.