We gathered 16 open source maintainers in Boston. Here's what happened.

Luis Villa
by Luis Villa
on May 30, 2019

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.

We invited sixteen lifters who have been highly engaged in our discussions and product research. They represented several big communities—JavaScript, Java, Ruby, and Python were all present—and included lifters from the Netherlands, Canada, and Argentina. Most of the Tidelift team members were also there, including our engineers (who were very excited to meet developers of software they use regularly).

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.

ideas

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.

Success!

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.

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!

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