I wouldn't say popularity matters. It's a dedicated maintainer that matters. A project could have practically no following but is actively maintained by someone dedicated and smart and is passionate about their project. I wouldn't stop a project because it's not popular enough. I think popularity comes from whether or not the project suits a large majority of people and gains its popularity through that. It also helps to have a known name behind you... if you're a known name, you get 1000 stars in the drop of a hat and the project could be about dolphins.
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