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Intel Survey Finds Maintainer Burnout & Documentation Top Open-Source Challenges

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  • Intel Survey Finds Maintainer Burnout & Documentation Top Open-Source Challenges

    Phoronix: Intel Survey Finds Maintainer Burnout & Documentation Top Open-Source Challenges

    At the end of last year Intel hosted a survey of open-source developers to collect their feeback on various open-source software issues. Intel’s 2023 Open Source Community Survey is all wrapped up, the data tallied up, and the results emailed out today to participants...

    Phoronix, Linux Hardware Reviews, Linux hardware benchmarks, Linux server benchmarks, Linux benchmarking, Desktop Linux, Linux performance, Open Source graphics, Linux How To, Ubuntu benchmarks, Ubuntu hardware, Phoronix Test Suite

  • #2
    I got a survey e-mail from some hinky e-mail address instead of an official Intel address so I marked it 'Junk'. If it *was* the official results, they really should have used an official Intel account.


    • #3
      The most important thing is that the project is under a true open source license (approved by FSF and OSI) else I don't want to get involved, I don't even want to use it. I prefer the established and common open source licenses and am not really found of vanity licenses or project-specific licenses such as Ruby License, PHP License, PostgreSQL License, Python Software Foundation License, etc.

      Another annoyances is having to sign contributor-license agreements (CLA). I just wanted to help out, maybe fix something, maybe something small, and now I have to sign a CLA. Ugh, no thanks.

      It has happened that I've made a PR or seen someone else do a PR just for it to never be merged. What a disappointment to spend the time and effort just to have it not merged.

      Contributing can be frustrating, there are times where I've managed to add some feature pretty quick which was fun, but then started the pain. Unit tests, integration tests, snap tests, merge conflicts, it ended up taking a lot of time and effort. Sometimes the maintainer says I have to squash the commits, other times that my commit message didn't comply with the convention so now I have to wrestle Git to rebase it or something. Git can be a nightmare to work it.


      • #4
        Originally posted by sophisticles
        The results in some of those charts do not add up to 100%m so to me they are worthless.
        Obviously for some questions you could select multiple answers. I don't see how that makes it worthless.


        • #5
          Fixing "the code", that is, "my code", or the "core code", is interesting, exciting and fun. It's "the code", making it work is key and fun. However, having to constantly "fix" the code because the lunacy of things I'm dependent upon... especially if done quite often... this is tedious.

          "Why do I have to change my code?"

          Because Bozo the Clown is forcing you too.



          • #6
            The survey results show that Open Source has not lost its spirit. They don't care about corporate priorities, which is a very good sign. Furthermore, the license matters.


            • #7
              Originally posted by uid313 View Post
              Contributing can be frustrating, there are times where I've managed to add some feature pretty quick which was fun, but then started the pain. Unit tests, integration tests, snap tests, merge conflicts, it ended up taking a lot of time and effort. Sometimes the maintainer says I have to squash the commits, other times that my commit message didn't comply with the convention so now I have to wrestle Git to rebase it or something. Git can be a nightmare to work it.
              If you don't squash the commits, fix up commit messages or adjust coding style to align with the project you're contributing to, the maintainer has to spend time doing it. Why do you feel you can demand that time from the maintainer if you're not willing to spend it yourself, what makes your time more valuable than theirs?

              Yeah sometimes reviewers can be nitpicky, things don't always go smooth when it appears they should. But in general, you needing to adjust to the project makes sense. It lowers exactly the burnout this survey identified as a problem.


              • #8
                It would be nice if Intel offered some grants / donations to open source developers!
                I think that would help a lot with their burnouts!
                Maybe they can get some vacations or buy something nice for them or for their families.
                Seems to me like a good way for them to recharge their batteries.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gusar View Post

                  If you don't squash the commits, fix up commit messages or adjust coding style to align with the project you're contributing to, the maintainer has to spend time doing it. Why do you feel you can demand that time from the maintainer if you're not willing to spend it yourself, what makes your time more valuable than theirs?

                  Yeah sometimes reviewers can be nitpicky, things don't always go smooth when it appears they should. But in general, you needing to adjust to the project makes sense. It lowers exactly the burnout this survey identified as a problem.
                  That was not their complaint though, the complaint was that GIT sometimes makes those things a real chore to perform, which is extremely unfortunate considering that GIT was supposed to make distributed development easier.


                  • #10

                    I want to give my perspective on the whole "open source is not sustainable" and "often leads to burnout" discussion. This is a long post, but it all ties into the point I'm making. I expect many won't read it, I don't blame you. But I wouldn't write all of it if I didn't genuinely think there is something to it. If just one person takes something from it, then it's already worth the time spent writing.

                    I tried making it short, but short is not my strong suit. There are many things I didn't touch on, but I needed to restrict the length.

                    A large aspect of the problem, in my opinion, is that money and philosophy tends to control things and large corporations will build their empire, in part, from a bunch of small open source projects without properly "paying it forward" and giving back. I know you can't necessarily pay for all projects you use, there are so many of them and that could raise a sustainability problem on its own. However, these large corporations already employ a "us first" way of thinking, and first and foremost follow a proprietary and self-serving product philosophy. They just happen to benefit a lot from open source.

                    There are reasons why I follow a principle of avoiding proprietary products whenever possible. And advocate and work towards open standards and software. And whatever will take the industry into a more open and healthy direction.

                    I undestand how the vast majority of people are too busy, overwhelmed and saturated to even begin to research everything they use in life and then make sacrifices. But personally, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice, because I don't want the proprietary, slow-running data mining software bound to locked eco systems and untrustworthy and greedy corporations that have strongly contributed to a mental health problem beyond proportions and creating an unsustainable and a toxic society where the little man becomes more and more dependent and have less and less autonomy. To me it feels relieving and like freedom. Open source for me is a source of energy and optimism.

                    And it doesn't need to be this thing that threatens whether you can afford food or live a healthy life. Quite the opposite, actually. It's just a matter of asking the right questions.


                    A little context before giving my perspective on this. I worked more than the legal limit for years, multiple jobs and a lot of overtime. Over the years I have realized, by the method of burnout, that neglecting your interests is really detrimental. This year, I'm selling my house and will live in a tiny house 1/10th of the price (and infinitely better living standard). Everything you need, cheaper to buy, own, maintain, heat up and clean. I'm doing that because I want a life where I have the freedom to actually do the things that are meaningful to me. Because working years and years with stuff I (admittedly) hated because "that's what I "should" do" was the worst mistake of my life.

                    Sure, I overdid it, but the point was that I was neglecting my interests in all aspects of my life. On my free-time, I did what I felt I "should" do. I may have believed in burnout, but that it didn't apply to me. I felt like I could force through it, chug energy drinks, keep going, because energy is "a physical process, right?". Because "surely, muscles are just motors and you just need to provide them with fuel. And you can control how you feel and think with cognition, anything else would be laziness". ADHD didn't help, as that (can) make you blind to exhaustion. So you can work 22-26 hours with no break and food in a stressful and noisy environment. It's not uncommon for people with undiagnosed ADHD to manage symptoms by exhausting yourself. It was how my mind wasn't going a thousand kilometers per hour with no brakes.


                    Anyway, I've realized a lot and I wish I did much earlier (also got an ADHD diagnosis much earlier). The following might sound wrong to people, but I am an advocate for open source as a philosophy. Not just in software, but in life. And for monetary gain not to be an expectation. Remember, people often don't realize that money is not our only currency. And once you start using open source you understand that currency can also be you making something on your own. You offering something for free without strings or expectations. Imagine the analogy of before modern technology, how people in a village each contributed to certain aspects. Some had crops, some made clothes, people having different skills and knowledge.

                    In all aspects of life, the way humans benefit from each other is to share knowledge and ideas. Even proprietary technology and patented designs take inspiration from somewhere.

                    It has become so ingrained in society that you fend for yourself and keep your ideas from others so that you can profit of off them. While I'm not necessarily saying we shouldn't have capitalism, I think it's not at all controversial to say that capitalism brings out a lot of "toxic" flaws in humans. Things like greed, quantity over quality, unsustainable expectation of profit growth, conflict of interests, lower product quality, lower product longevity, designed failure, working conditions, climate-related neglect, gate-keeping technology and bullying customers into ecosystems, unethical monetization of personal information with no respect of it (the masses don't matter, nobody cares about their data, right?). Ask yourself whether the motivators really are that beneficial. Ask yourself why we have all these problems with big tech and tech products. Well, products in general.

                    A spoiler alert, what I'm getting at with all of this (for the impatient ones) is, build your life around what is meaningful. The vast majority do the opposite.

                    In society, we are not bound to capitalism or any other "system". In fact, with a little work, you can detach yourself, in part, from the system. Yes, you need to pay taxes and have money for living (I mean, it's entirely possible for a group of people to grow their own food). But living doesn't have to be that expensive and you don't need to engage in this silly modern world that it hugely unsustainable. Houses, even tiny houses, are space-inefficient. Capitalism should've innovated here, yet we build houses like we did 100 years ago.


                    A few example to make my point (of which there are many, give me 12 hours and I'll go through it all). The get ceiling lights, they put up 2300 W AC circuits. For that, by law, you are obligated to pay certified electricians (because safety). So a few LED bulbs on 2300 W with $150 an hour for electricians. Hugely wasteful, hugely outdated. Instead, why aren't we using DC 12, 24 or 48 V circuits that are safe to work on? With USB Power Delivery-like configuration, where you can taste-test the wires if you want and you'd get no voltage. You hook it up and the light does handshaking and current flows. Cheaper parts, safe for "peasants" to install and much cheaper.

                    Why do you need to destroy the structure to make improvements? Why don't we have wall-panels with hidden screws? Why is everthing nailed, glued and literally melded together with concrete? That's like destroying your computer case to install a RAM module...

                    Why do houses have so much overhead? Corridors and space with the only purpose of connecting other rooms in the most inefficient manner? So much unused space, everything is on the floor so you need to move it to vacuum and use the space.

                    Why are kitchen cabinet (unsure of the English term) so inefficient that you have a full column (60 cm) of overhead? Two walls for each cabinet, with rails building out, then a thick wooden wall for the drawer, then an insert which is often also wood with additional spacers. People throw items into the drawers with 80 % space above it unutilized. Boxes don't stack, casseroles don't stack etc.

                    By having half of the square area being overhead, you need to pay for heating. Which is about 70 % of the cost, at least where I live. Some people need to cool the air. You need to maintain this overhead, pay tax on it, clean it.

                    When it's so inefficient, you organize your stuff so much less efficient, so you need more space. If the living space is smart and modern, less area means more area. Because much less of it is just occupied by nothingness and really bad design.

                    While we're at it, why do homes still have AC for which you need a rectifier in all devices instead of doing this once and be done with it? Why do we need dangerous high-amp AC that requires tens of thousands of dollars just in law-required hired work?

                    When painting the house, why aren't there metal H-beams in the structure in which you can attach outer railing, so you need to rent scaffolding for hundreds of dollars at minimum?

                    Why can't we stow away the bed or tables or such when it's not in use?

                    This is just the tip of the iceberg. A few examples or what I could rant about for hours and why I will never live in a traditional house again.


                    So why am I going in length about all of this, you may wonder? Well, it's to demonstrate that the very idea of having to rent or buy a traditional house or appartment is not the only way to live. Also, if everyone invested their money, they could easily become millionairs. People don't think long-term.

                    You CAN live so efficiently and even more comfortable with less expenses.

                    My point of all of this is to demonstrate that when people say open source is not sustainable, they say that on the premise of it fitting into the capitalistic philosophy of life. It's by certain criteria. But in the same way, there are many ways in which capitalism is not sustainable.

                    I'm still in the favor of being able to persue capitalistic careers and philosophies, however, patents are hugely outdated and we need to regulate quality. Products should have to last, at minimum, 10 years. In the old days, products would easily last a lifetime. So 10 years is quite weak. There should be open standards and we should have the choice of adopting open and free standards. Companies gain from it, it's why we have so many open standards (not because they are generous).

                    Incorporating more collaboration means massive economical savings. And remember that professions are here because we have created the need for them.

                    I used to think universal income was a "no go" as people would just be lazy and do nothing and the world would stop moving. But, I've realized that all humans wanna do is create and learn. And if we need something, we're gonna create it. I'm learning to build and design my own house. Turns out, it's not rocket science. And if that design is made open-source, others can use that work and resource and improve it. Then others will continue to improve it. That's how we get innovation.

                    Not by gate-keeping technology in patents for 14 years and submit patents just to make sure nobody else can use those patents in competing products. And also create lawsuits where the company with the most money will always win, because the small companies know they'll become bankrupt in the process no matter if they have a winning case or not.


                    So again, this to me is a huge part of the "why" in open source. It's not about making a living. If you are just moderately smart about how you live, and no offence, but the majority of people are extremely wasteful about how they live and spend money, then you can live on a fraction of the cost with even a better housing standard. Regulations are not really doing anyone a favor, but there are many legal ways of doing this that people don't realize. A tiny house can be a caravan if you so desire, and so it will follow the regulation of caravans because it's legally a caravan. I people collaborated on the purchase of property, it could become super cheap. Even if the law requires a house to be at the premise.

                    All the things that cost money in society is in many ways just a construct. If people had a small sum for buying food and some basic things you need, or at least some of it. Then you wouldn't have to work much and believe me, people would still work and create. Just look at all the independent YouTubers creating stuff and posting the blueprint. People living off-grid and collaborating on design. This disproves the requirement for the traditional old-fashioned corporate controlled system.

                    Even when I worked (as if I was trying to destroy myself), I would spend the free time I had reading, writing and creating. When I sell my house and change how I live, I will devote time to things I care about. Open source, community-driven projects, ideas and knowledge. And I will become a less environmental burden and a less financial burden to myself. My waste accumulation will go down, energy consumption, resource use etc. All this "cost a lot of money" in society. But all of that is a construct because society is inefficient, outdated and detrimental in many ways. Backwards in terms of how humans are supposed to live.

                    So, in conclusion, I believe that burnout in open source in large parts is because people buy into this construct of inefficient living and therefore are bound by the need to make money to survive and not be put out on the streets. Maybe you even provide for a family, in which the problem grows even bigger.

                    With the technology we have, you don't need to live in the city to have a social or professsional network. How many people are stressed out and miserable because of worries related to financials and time? We live an unsustainable, unfulfilling and non-sensical hamster wheel-existence, mostly for the benefit of the unsustainable and unhealthy "system" and large corporations. This status quo of "wake up, this is how it is, now go be miserable and stress about money in this hunger games of life where depression and mental health is at its worst even though we're supposed to have it all and be happy".

                    Humans don't wake up and change their ways before everything is burning around them. I even was an example of that. You get to a point where the body and your health shuts down and you have no longer any control. The body stops working like it's supposed to because it's been trying to signal for years that what you are doing is harmful. You deny the reality of burnout before you hit the wall so hard it takes years to recover. An it hits so hard that you are forced to re-evaluate your perspective on how the body and the mind works, and what's important in life.

                    So while I know not everyone can instantly just change up the way they live and be free of the worries and obstacles that create open source burnout in the first place, it doesn't have to be. Even if all were to do it, society and regulation would be forced to change. And the more people who follow passion and interests, the more people can potentially help out. It's the philosophy that's wrong, most people fend for themselves and take whatever they can without considering the idea of giving back or collaborating. Many open source users become developers and contributors themselves. A large reason why this is not the majority is related to many of the things I talked about.

                    It's how we live, how that creates an artificially inflated financial dependency, how we as a society think and operate as a whole. The society is constructed against the open source philosophy, yet the movement is so large that the world would literally collapse if you snapped it out of existence. As a thought-experiment, consider how much of the world's products, software and technology use open source software. Consider how much of our life is built on learning from others, looking up information etc. Corporations act as if you're a thief if you build on other's ideas, then corporations go ahead and steal more than anyone else and take inspiration from people before them.

                    The educations system, which has a more open source philosophy in many ways, is what corporations benefit from. Self-learned people, nerds who start out watching tutorials and read to learn. The world is built on this philosophy, yet we are convinced that somehow it's the enemy. The system is constructed against this philosophy once you move out from your parents place, yet open source runs the world. People do it even though the system makes it really hard and painful to do.

                    Ask yourself why. The way to get the right answers is by asking the right questions.