Episode 145

Ashley Williams on Open Source Software Sustainability


November 4th, 2022

44 mins 47 secs

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About this Episode


Ashley Williams


Richard Littauer | Justin Dorfman

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. We are super excited to have Ashley Williams joining us. Ashley is the Founder and CEO of Axo. She is also a former member of the Rust Core Team, founder of the Rust Foundation, and served as its first Executive Director. She was the leader of the Node.js Community Committee and founded the NodeTogether educational initiative. Today, Ashley shares her background with us from working at NPM, joining Mozilla, building the Rust Foundation, and she fills us in on Axo, which she explains is the tool company for tool companies. She also has some suggestions on how open source projects can get money to become successful in the long term. Go ahead and download this episode now to learn more!

[00:01:41] Ashley explains what Axo does.

[00:04:07] When Ashley moved from Node to Rust, she tells us what she took to the community there from the lessons she learned from Node, and how she wanted to build great communities in Rust.

[00:09:35] We learn more about the process of building the Rust Foundation and why building it was necessary.

[00:15:02] Justin wonders what it was that made the organizations calm again and why did they stick with Rust.

[00:17:07] Ashley explains what the difference is for her and why one is better for open source software sustainability.

[00:21:24] How do open source projects position themselves in the future to continue to have stake in their own governance and their own sustainability and where does Ashley think they should be investing their time?

[00:23:28] We hear some tips from Ashley about the best way for a project to have a conversation with each other about setting goals and intentions for their project in a way that isn’t alienating.

[00:30:02] Ashley shares a little of her background with us after leaving NPM, joining Mozilla, and she tells us about a tool she built called, wasm-pack.

[00:33:35] We find out where can you learn about Axo, get involved, and if it’s open source.

[00:35:15] Ashley shares some tips on what open source projects can do to get money to help themselves go forward and become financially viable in the long term.

[00:40:11] Find out where you can follow Ashley on the web.


[00:05:57] “I got super burned out of community work and Node and everyone kept throwing it in my face that I wasn’t technical. If I wasn’t so busy doing all this other stuff maybe I would commit some code.”

[00:06:59] “When you build a community in reaction to something, when you stop reacting to that thing it’s hard to figure out what you do next and how you grow it.”

[00:10:18] “It’s way worse to have a foundation too early than having a foundation too late.”

[00:17:49] “I love to say ergonomics is eighty percent familiarity, and it appears to be true for organizations that are doing fundraising,”

[00:18:31] “The goal of that Linux Foundation generation was to get corporations to use open source, which in a way is the opposite of making it sustainable because it adds an incredible burden.”

[00:20:20] “I don’t think charity is the same as sustainability.”

[00:24:23] “Try and get people to itch the same way.”

[00:24:42] “Having really strong communication brand and marketing helps drive that shared collective vision.”

[00:24:50] “I think Rust had really fantastic marketing for a really long time and that helped drive the community to have as much of a shared vision as is possible in a group of software engineers.”

[00:29:00] “I don’t know if open source wants to be sustained.”

[00:32:42] “Pay attention to the types of open source maintainers that are getting hired versus the ones that aren’t, because there are some patterns that no one should be proud of.”

[00:35:57] “Get a company that loves your project and then get them to hire you to work on it.”

[00:39:49] “The era of open source we’re in, there’s need for more safeguards.”


  • [00:41:01] Justin’s spotlight is axii.axo.dev.
  • [00:41:34] Richard’s spotlight is an animated Chobani yogurt commercial.
  • [00:42:25] Ashley’s spotlight is the Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide.



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