Episode 200

FOSSY 2023 with Stuart Geiger


September 22nd, 2023

18 mins 19 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Stuart Geiger


Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! Richard is in Portland at FOSSY, the Free and Open Source Software Yearly conference that is held by the Software Freedom Conservancy. In today’s episode, we’re joined by Stuart Geiger, and Assistant Professor at University of California, San Diego. Stuart shares his unique expertise on “invisible work” in the open source communities, discussing his research funded by the Digital Infrastructure Fund and emphasizing the importance of documenting and valuing such efforts. The conversation delves into the gendered aspects of invisible work, the intersection between capitalism and open source work, and the emotional impact of burnout in emotionally demanding and undervalued roles. Richard and Stuart also explore the motivations of open source practitioners, potential links between religious backgrounds and open source evangelism, and the intriguing implications of large language model AI in the open source world. Hit download now to hear more!

[00:00:32] Stuart tells us his focus area and explains that he also studies a range of decentralized, volunteer-based, peer production communities.

[00:00:57] Stuart was one of the first recipients of funding from the Digital Infrastructure Fund, aimed at researching the unseen aspects of open source software.

[00:01:31] What does Stuart mean by “invisible work?” In open source projects they are things that aren’t tracked on public code repositories. He shares that they have conducted over 50 interviews to learn more about the “invisible work”, and discusses the importance of documenting “invisible work.”

[00:04:56] Richard and Stuart discuss the need for environmentally friendly alternatives to in-person meetings or conferences. Stuart suggests using tools like Open Collective to and the All Contributors project.

[00:05:57] Richard asks if there are parallels between invisible work in open source and societal invisible work, particularly regarding women. Stuart affirms this and mentions that some of this labor can be gendered, especially work marked as more social. Richard and Stuart brainstorm a slogan to describe the transition from non-contributors to contributors in open source projects, so if you have any suggestions send an email.

[00:08:48] The topic about the intersection between capitalism and open source work is brought up, and Stuart discusses burnout, explaining that if often occurs in professions that are emotionally demanding and undervalued.

[00:11:29] Richard asks Stuart if open source practitioners see it as a calling. Stuart explains that some do while others are motivated by business necessity.

[00:12:57] A question arises around the potential religious backgrounds of open source evangelists, and Stuart shares he has not specifically investigated this connection, though he has observed comparisons with political activism.

[00:14:22] What is Stuart working on right now? He mentions exploring the implications of large language model AI in the open source world.

[00:16:32] Find out where you can follow Stuart and his work online.



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