Before we get started, I need to clear a few things up:

First, I’m specifically referring to software that is both free and open source (FOSS/FLOSS). That’s both “free as in freedom” and “free as in whatever-your-beverage-of-choice-is.” Plenty of software is one and not the other, but my experiences mostly lie in the place where the two intersect.

And second, what follows are thoughts on navigating that landscape for the individual, not for NPOs, or for-profit companies built around their FOSS offerings. What’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander on this front, and it’s not my realm of expertise besides.

As a Maintainer

  • Have a vision.
  • Set healthy boundaries.
  • Make it easy to contribute.
  • Be open to new ways of doing.
  • If there’s adjacency, consider integrating.
  • If there’s overlap, consider collaborating.

As a Contributor

  • Follow the vision, refine through consensus.
  • Set healthy boundaries.
  • Where possible, contribute. “Ideas are silver, code is gold.”
  • If there’s fundamental disagreement, consider a fork.

As a User

  • Be respectful, be gracious.
  • Read the documentation.
  • Write good bug reports.
  • Offer support when and how you can.
  • If possible, become a contributor. Ideas with code are more likely to happen!