This month, we had our first in-person event for open source maintainers who get income from the Tidelift Subscription (we call them “lifters”). The energy and engagement at the event really excited me—it was an amazing reminder of what can happen when the critical work of maintainers is supported by the enterprises that depend on them.
What we did and why
We decided a few months ago to tell our most engaged lifters more about our roadmap and to learn more about their needs. As every mature open source project knows, face-to-face is the best way to do those kinds of things.
One project sent two maintainers who had never met in real life before! Watching them chat about their project, and about Tidelift, was an amazing, tangible reminder that paying maintainers can really boost maintainer engagement and long-term success.
What we told lifters
The event started by going deep on Tidelift and how we think about the company, because we think lifters need to know how we work in order to make them our most effective promoters.
Donald (co-founder and CEO) dove into our business model—what it is, how it works, and how it creates income for participating maintainers—while Havoc (co-founder and head of product) showed how the work lifters do creates value for subscribers.
What we heard from lifters
After lunch, we focused on gathering feedback from attendees in two sessions: one about product and one about sales/marketing. We got a lot of detailed, useful feedback.
There was so much detail that it is hard to summarize it all, but two things in particular jumped out at me.
First, I was reminded how eager maintainers are to become experts at maintaining. There’s a real passion there that often gets overwhelmed in the day-to-day grind, especially when there isn’t enough time to really focus on their open source project. And they wanted to learn not just from the team at Tidelift, but from each other, which we were thrilled to facilitate in a cross-language-community way.
Second, there was a real focus on experimentation. We’re still learning how this model might fit into all the things they do with their projects and life, so being willing to try new things is important and exciting.
It was great to see lifters deepen their engagement with us in person, and it was even better once we started to see some feedback after the event.
How to make open source sustainable? A hard problem but @tidelift seems on the right track: https://t.co/O18JbqnZvL Open source maintainers should take a look. If your biz uses open source you especially should. Pay the maintainers, everyone wins.— Ned Batchelder (@nedbat) May 20, 2019
I spent the day with @tidelift in #Boston yesterday. They seem to be doing a great job of understanding what open source maintainers need, and I’m really excited to see how they develop in the future.— Forbes Lindesay (@ForbesLindesay) May 18, 2019
We really are doing this because we want to do the right thing for maintainers, so it was amazing that so many people took the time to travel and talk with us—and we know it’s just the start of our growth together!