Episode 179

Maintainer Month with GitHub's Martin Woodward


May 26th, 2023

41 mins 50 secs

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About this Episode


Martin Woodward


Richard Littauer | Ben Nickolls

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. This is a special podcast and one of several in this series for GitHub’s Maintainer Month. We’re interviewing maintainers to ask them about their experience of open source and their experience of living as maintainers. We are super excited to talk to our guest, Martin Woodward, who’s the VP of Developer Relations at GitHub. Today, Martin explains the origins of Maintainer Month and discusses his role in supporting open source maintainers and helping them succeed with GitHub. The conversation also covers topics such as the distinction between open source authors and maintainers, the GitHub Accelerator program and the M12 fund, the future of maintainership and funding challenges, and strategies for setting expectations for senior management and funders. There’s much more, so hit download now!

[00:01:30] Martin explains that his role involves supporting open source maintainers and helping them succeed with GitHub.

[00:02:46] How does Martin distinguish between DevRel and GitHub and make sure the work he does helps people who are maintainers.

[00:04:54] Martin discusses the origins of Maintainer Month, starting with a virtual maintainer summit during the pandemic, which later expanded to involve the entire community.

[00:07:38] Ben brings up how Maintainer’s month seems to be evolving, and Martin tells us the event aims to provide a safe space for maintainers to connect, share best practices, and raise awareness among developers about the challenges and importance of maintaining open source projects.

[00:10:17] Martin explains the different segments within the maintainer community, ranging from contributors to maintainers who set the direction and run the projects, and emphasizes the need for respect and understanding of the diverse governance structures.

[00:12:32] Ben discusses the distinction between open source authors and maintainers, highlighting the challenge of maintaining projects and the need for support and resources in that role, and he brings up a resource library.

[00:15:34] The conversation shifts to the future of maintainership, focusing on the funding challenges faced by maintainers and the various motivations and expectations within the open source community.

[00:17:12] The discussion touches on the involvement of venture capital firms asking for open source strategies from start-ups.

[00:18:54] We hear about the involvement in the GitHub Accelerator program and M12 fund, with members of their team driving the first cohort and providing funding and training to open source start-ups.

[00:22:44] Martin acknowledges the importance of maintaining boundaries and saying no as a maintainer, and shares how GitHub is incorporating feedback from maintainers into product features, such as interaction limits and status settings. He also mentions personal strategies for avoiding burnout as a maintainer.

[00:27:26] Richard asks Martin for his thoughts on setting expectations for people above him such as senior management and funders, regarding keeping open source sustainable.

[00:32:21] Why did Martin get into open source?

[00:34:56] The conversation turns to the relationship between Microsoft and GitHub, with Martin stating that GitHub remains an independent entity while benefitting from the scale and resources of the parent company.

[00:37:22] Find out where you follow Martin on the web.


[00:08:37] “Other people start using it and all of a sudden you find you’re the maintainer of an open source project.”

[00:21:34] “Maintainers are the givers.”

[00:21:55] “Maintainers build communities.”

[00:25:26] “You don’t have to take everybody’s PR’s.”

[00:29:17] “Open source communities value co-contribution over everything else.”


  • [00:38:42] Ben’s spotlight is the Merlin App.
  • [00:39:32] Richard’s *spotlight is getting your ears cleaned.
  • [00:40:04] Martin’s spotlight is the WLED Project.



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