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Michelle Mannering
Michelle Mannering

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Lessons from a ten year open source maintainer

They say talking to someone about their experiences is the only legitimate form of time travel. Well that's what we did when we spoke to Mislav Marohnić. He's one of the maintainers of the GitHub CLI and he's been in open source for more than a decade.

We were lucky enough to chat to Mislav on the GitHub Twitch channel for our Open Source Friday live stream. Mislav originally worked on Hub before starting to work on the GitHub Command Line.

The GitHub Command Line was recently launched out of beta. It's free, and it's open source. We asked Mislav what it's like running a large open source project like the CLI. How to get maintainers and contributors on board and how to create the right culture.


Get involved in Open Source

I think Mislav really outlined the community well. He said to get into open source, you need a few things:

  1. Courage: get out there and just give it a go. You need to start somewhere.
  2. Find: search for something you're passionate about. Either you already use it, or want to start using it.
  3. Humility: don't be discouraged if your Pull Requests aren't always accepted. You aren't always going to make the best contributions, or the right ones. Keep at it and always keep learning.

He also pointed out, if you keep at it, there is a massive community you'll be a part of. There are networks and connections and amazing people to be met. Mislav also said your skills are available. Whatever skills you have, they'll be useful... if you want them to be! So find something you're interested in and just go for it.

Top Tips for Maintainers

Mislav didn't just have pointers for contributors. As someone who has been maintaining projects for over ten years, he has a lot of tips for maintainers. The first one is to build a culture. Build a diverse and inclusive culture. If you as a maintainer are gatekeep everything, then you'll end up with lots of people on the project who all think, act, and write code just the way you do. Chances are your product is for more than just one type of person. So encourage contributors from all walks of life.

There's lots of tips for maintainers, so make sure you watch the full recording to hear from this master. I will leave you with one final thought piece though... and that's trust. Mislav says always remember, people are putting their trust in you and your product. When someone downloads or forks your code, they're trusting that it will do what is says it will do. They're trusting that the code is not going to break your computer. Always remember you hold a certain amount of power and people trust you. Never abuse that.

Come along to Open Source Friday

If you like the sound of Open Source Friday, or want to engage with really cool maintainers like Mislav, come along. You'll find us streaming on the official GitHub Twitch channel. Jump in while we're live and ask questions. You'll also have the opportunity to connect with other cool devs in the chat. And don't forget to follow us on our meetup page. We post up timings, guests, and more information about each week's live stream. See you then!

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