Episode 128

Sustain Hosts: What Does Sustain Mean?


July 8th, 2022

39 mins 59 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode


Richard Littauer | Justin Dorfman | Ben Nickolls | Amanda Casari

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. Today’s episode is all panelists, no guests, and our conversations are focusing on the question, “What does sustaining open source actually mean?” Each of the panelists share their opinions, give feedback, and tell stories around sustaining open source. We’ll also learn the origins of SustainOSS, the definition of a “sustainer,” and we hear about the OSCA Sustain Community Report 2022 that recently came out and gave Justin chills just reading it. Go ahead and download this episode now, and if you have any thoughts you would like to share, please email us!

[00:01:30] Justin gives us the backstory of how Sustain started.

[00:06:14] Since Ben came up with the definition of a “Sustainer” he goes in depth what it means.

[00:10:05] Amanda poses a question when we think about sustaining, how do we think about helping with graceful endings and exits?

[00:17:42] Richard tells us sustaining is figuring out and having an ecosystem level approach of what open source is, and what’s needed now. Justin shares a story about Chad Whitacre changing the game when it came to donating to open source.

[00:20:53] Ben takes the conversation away from money and talks about Open Collective and finding a way to sustain the work without money.

[00:22:47] Richard brings up the environmental sustainability of open source as an entire thing and how the environmental cost of training AI is massive.

[00:26:04] Richard mentions he finds interesting what sort of conversations happened on an ecosystem level between all the participants and all the stakeholders, and Amanda expresses a concern she has. Richard and Amanda talk about giving honor to people who do honorable things.

[00:29:45] We hear some open questions from Richard about what he thinks is what sustaining means now, and Amanda talks about the concept around open source sustainability that a lot of people are focusing on.


[00:09:51] “Forking is not a threat, it’s a promise.”

[00:11:36] “The whole sustainability thing is about a combination of incentives and market failures.”

[00:13:24] “Two researchers from South Africa have been looking at contributions to internet standards over the past twenty years from across the world, largely from within Africa, and they’ve seen a massive peak in 2005, and then it’ll die off.”

[00:16:24] “Open source is a jellyfish and jellyfish of course have many eyes.”

[00:29:34] “Honoring people for their work and giving them visibility, making sure that they’re seen is a great step forward that we can all be working on because that’s definitely a gap that still exists.”

[00:31:06] “The xkcd comic showing digital infrastructure as one small person in Kansas is great, but it ignores every other block in that comic. Who is funding the blocks in those comics, who has governance to it, who was maintaining it, what are their intentions, and what is their final destinations that they want to be going to?”


  • [00:36:48] Justin’s spotlight is recognizing a Non-Code Contributor, Erin McKean and his newsletter that comes out a couple times a month.
  • [00:37:11] Ben’s spotlight is Play Monikers.
  • [00:37:59] Amanda’s spotlight is the Elevator Saga game.
  • [00:38:40] Richard’s spotlight is Nicole Kelner, who’s a climate artist.



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