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Adopting projects out of the limelight: Why David Rodriguez works on byebug and Active Admin

Amy Hays
by Amy Hays
on November 20, 2018

Updated on December 5, 2018

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When David Rodriguez first started working with the Ruby programming language, he noticed the Ruby debugger didn’t work properly.

“It was a bit hard to get started without being able to investigate and debug things,” David said. “So what I did was try to fix that first.”

He started contributing to the existing project, but the maintainers accepted different suggestions from a more established Ruby contributor. David’s fixes performed better, though, so he forked the project and created byebug.

That was his first foray into being an open source maintainer. Over time, byebug got more popular than the original, because David loved spending time working on it.

“The reason why I became a maintainer was to fix my own problems,” David said. “I guess most people don’t like working on things like fixing the nasty bugs of a debugger, but I love it.”

Active Admin hadn’t been updated in years

He started getting involved with Active Admin in a similar way. He was working on a website for a nonprofit called Nolotiro, which used an old version of Active Admin. He wanted to update it, but the project maintainers hadn’t released a new version in a few years.

David’s thought process was this: “I really wish I could use these features, so I’m going to try to help these people finally release the 1.0 version so we can all use them.”

So he started contributing fixes, and eventually took over as a co-maintainer.

“I like getting to know how things work and why things don’t work,” David said. “Sometimes it’s stuff that not many people care about, although I feel they should because they are relying on it for their projects. I like being the guy who cares about that.”

Helping end customers see value

David’s day job is as a contract developer. Sometimes he has a ton of projects going on, and other times he’s not that busy. He’s worked solely on open source projects in the past few years, but he earns his income by charging hourly for contract development projects.

David would love to work as an open source maintainer full time, though. So when his fellow maintainer told him about a new opportunity to earn money via the Tidelift platform, he was totally on board.

“I had never seen a subscription model before and the reason these kind of things usually don’t work is because it’s hard for end customers to see the value,” David said. “I think it’s a good idea to provide some value on top of an open source library.”

Get support for Active Admin Get support for byebug

He also said he likes the assurances Tidelift provides to him as a maintainer. Even if he doesn’t find a contracting project for a couple months, he said, he has some income coming in from maintaining Active Admin and byebug through the Tidelift platform.

One of his favorite aspects of being a core maintainer is helping people fix things.

“The reason I became a maintainer is to fix my own problems,” David said. “I like helping people to fix the issues they’re having. Sometimes it’s just for fun. I don’t get anything out of it.”


If you’re interested in supporting David’s work on Active Admin and byebug while also getting security, maintenance, and licensing assurances for Active Admin, byebug, and other open source projects you already use, check out the Tidelift Subscription. David is happy to help subscribers fix issues.

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