Episode 101

Nicholas Zakas and ESLint


December 10th, 2021

42 mins 36 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Nicholas C. Zakas


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. You may know my guest today, Nicholas Zakas, because he is the creator of a very popular JavaScript project called ESLint, which has been downloaded 13 million times each week. Nicholas is an independent software engineer, consultant, and coach, and has written numerous books including, Understanding ECMAScript 6, The Principles of Object-Oriented JavaScript, and Maintainable JavaScript. With over sixteen years of web application development experience and speaking at conferences around the world, he’s putting his focus now on mentoring and coaching the next generation of JavaScript engineers. Nicholas brings us on his journey sharing his story of becoming a developer, starting ESLint, and what he’s doing to make sure everybody in the ESLint community is able to benefit from the money they are bringing in. We also learn more about an interesting blog post he wrote, how contributors get paid, and other open source projects ESLint donates to. Why should you use ESLint? Go ahead and download this episode now to find out!

[00:01:39] Nicholas shares his story with us starting out as a developer and how it led him to starting ESLint.

[00:03:01] What did Nicholas mean when he said he fell in love with JavaScript?

[00:03:47] We find out how long ESLint has been around, how many people are working full-time, and how he keeps himself in funds.

[00:05:04] Nicholas talks about the Open Collective and GitHub sponsors they set up for donations.

[00:07:42] Richard brings up a blog post Nicholas wrote on, “How to talk to your company about sponsoring an open source project” and he tells us what iterations he’s gone through with ESLint.

[00:10:59] Nicholas talks about the difficulties in multi-tasking, and he tells us the next thing they tried with paying a straight per hour rate for team members.

[00:17:15] Richard wonders where Nicholas came up with the less than standard rate for hourly work which is not really a Silicon Valley salary, and he also tells us how many hours per month he is paying out and for the people that have been paid, how they feel about it, and having no caps on what people can make.

[00:20:43] Nicholas mentions using Tidelift, how much money it brings in, and the money going to TSC members.

[00:22:04] Find out what else Nicholas is doing with the money besides paying contributors. He mentions several other open source projects they are donating to, and one person in particular he mentions is Sindre Sorhus.

[00:27:58] Richard wonders more about the governance process and how Nicholas feels about it.

[00:31:52] Nicholas dives deep as he explains three things that would convince him that ESLint would be a project that he would want to use.

[00:34:20] We learn some future plans for what Nicholas would do with funds to make the project more sustainable.

[00:38:09] Find out where you follow Nicholas online.


[00:03:26] “And I see ESLint as really, this will sound cheesy, as an act of love on your code that we aren’t trying to change what it does.”

[00:04:24] “We found that people who have kids are looking for something to do after the kids go to bed.”

[00:05:52] “And so, if that is your starting point where even folks who are just coming right out of college are getting 120k each year, that means that’s the minimum that you need to raise in order to hire someone full-time if they’re in a major metropolitan area in the United States.”

[00:22:17] “The first thing is we have what’s called a contributor pool, which is money that we set aside every month to pay non-team members for contributions to ESLint.”

[00:22:46] “Generally, anything that is of benefit to the project we will potentially pay you for.”

[00:24:43] “So, one of the things that we were looking at in terms of sustainability is we’re bringing in a certain amount of money each month.”

[00:24:53] “We are building on top of the work of others. And so, why shouldn’t we be spreading that money to those others, because without them ESLint either wouldn’t exist or be a lot harder to maintain.”

[00:28:17] “Well, what’s interesting is that when I started ESLint, in my mind this was like a one-year project.”

[00:29:16] “And I just kept coming back to, what’s in it for them?”

[00:30:44] “And so, how can I ensure the future survival of the project outside of me working on it?”


  • [00:38:52] Richard’s spotlight is StandardJS.
  • [00:39:27] Nicholas’s spotlight is a project called Release Please.



Support Sustain