Episode 181

John Robb of React Flow on how we ask for money in open source


June 2nd, 2023

36 mins 55 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


John Robb


Richard Littauer | Amanda Casari

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. We’re super excited to have guest, John Robb, joining us today. John is a Community Manager at React Flow, an open source library for building node-based UI. Today, John talks about how they’ve sustained the project without investors and valuing intentionally and autonomy over endless growth. Then, there’s a conversation around paying contributors, supporting diverse contributors, and establishing boundaries for a safe environment. Also, we’ll hear about the challenges of funding open source projects, understanding the purchase funnel, and the need for transparency and clarity around the financial aspects of open source projects. Download this episode now to hear more!

[00:01:53] John tells us about React Flow and how they’ve managed to sustain the project without investors.

[00:04:50] “Dear Open Source: let’s do a better job of asking for money,” is a blog post John wrote and he used the word “ramen profitable,” so he explains what it means.

[00:06:44] John talks about the company values intentionality and autonomy over growth and endless expansion.

[00:09:32 ] As a Community Manager, John’s interested in thinking critically about growth and what it means to have a community.

[00:11:13] The conversation revolves around the tension between personal greed and the desire for growth in open source projects.

[00:15:38] The group discusses the importance of paying contributors for their work and how to invite and support a diverse range of contributors.

[00:18:33 ] John tells us about an experience that’s been most relevant to him while doing community management work which was at a design camp called Stone Soup that he co-organized this year.

[00:21:13] They discuss the history of open source and how it began with large enterprises working together on project without violating antitrust laws.

[00:23:43 ] There’s a conversation about the importance of understanding the purchase funnel and how to make it easier for individuals and organizations to donate or support open source projects.

[00:25:44] The group highlights the need for more transparency and clarity around the financial aspect of open source projects.

[00:33:05 ] Find out where you can follow John on the web and get in touch with him.


[00:08:08] “We’ve all been raised in this business culture to seek for something bigger and greater, and to grow a company as large as one can. But the tradeoff is great.”

[00:09:37] “Do we want to scale our community?”

[00:09:45] “Having more contributors makes things more difficult for them.”

[00:14:48] “Just talking about the number of contributors isn’t going to help.”

[00:15:46] “Being able to pay people in open source is good. People being able to be paid for their work is good.”

[00:16:02] “Free time is a privileged resource.”

[00:19:20] “How do you invite people and how do you know who you want to bring to the event and who not?”


  • [00:33:49] Amanda’s spotlight is the csv,conf 2023.
  • [00:34:39] Richard’s spotlight is the ABA Podcast (American Birding).
  • [00:35:19] John’s spotlight is The Hippocratic License 3.0.



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