Episode 40

How Open Source Maintainers Don't Get Rich with Bogdan Vasilescu


June 12th, 2020

45 mins 2 secs

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About this Episode

Sponsored By:


Justin Dorfman | Eric Berry | Richard Littauer


Bogdan Vasilescu

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! Today, we have Bogdan Vasilescu, who is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, School of Computer Science. We start out by learning what Bogdan builds at the STRUDEL Lab. Then we discuss, “The GHTorrent project.” We also learn about the research that he and his group at CMU have been doing on open source sustainability. There are a few papers on topics related to sustainability that we will also discuss. One of his papers really inspired Justin, and after listening to this podcast you will probably agree that this is one of our best guests!

[00:02:18] Bogdan tells us more about what he builds at the STRUDEL Lab. He gives a shout-out to his students and collaborators who are doing all the work.

[00:03:50] Bogdan talks about one of his papers titled, “How To Not Get Rich.” He also explains The GHTorrent project which is like a mirror of GitHub.

[00:08:43] Justin asks Bogdan about a website he built and how 46% of packages show a badge. He asks how long did it take to get to that number? He describes the process and how they compute that number.

[00:11:31] Eric goes back to the scraping of GitHub’s readme’s and these npm module badges, and asks Bogdan what is he looking for with those and how does that translate to the topic of how not to get rich with open source?

[00:15:27] Eric asks Bogdan since he says that badges add almost validity and gives developers a sense of trust that this project appears to have an ecosystem around it, but how does that tie in with donations and how does it tie in with your report?

[00:18:14] Eric explains why he’s so interested in the donation side. He talks about corporations donating money out of their charity budget and unless they can donate with the 501C3 which allows it to be tax deductible, it’s a financial loss for them. He asks Bogdan’s takeaway on this and why are donations a terrible way to fund open source?

[00:22:38] Bogdan lets us know when the follow-up study of “How To Get Rich with Open Source” is coming out and what it contains.

[00:26:52] Eric wonders if Bogdan talked to GitHub about getting funds and he lets us know.

[00:28:50] Justin tells Bogdan how he was really inspired by his paper and how he is the best guest. Eric gives credit to his phenomenal students and thanks them for all this important work they are doing.

[00:30:00] Richard has a question about donations for Bogdan. He wants to know is there a light saying you should even bother with donation models and where is the good news? Bogdan answers.

[00:33:53] Eric wants to know who is doing donations the right way, what is the ideal scenario, and is there a right way to go about doing it?

[00:35:16] Richard mentions a couple of Bogdan’s other papers that deal with sustainability from another angle: “Why do People Give Up FLOSSing? A Study of Contributor Disengagement in Open Source,” and “Going Farther Together: The Impact of Social Capital on Sustained Participation in Open Source.” He wants to know what makes people stay in open projects and what makes people disengage?


  • [00:41:16] Richard’s spotlight is Shields.io.
  • [00:41:35] Eric’s spotlight is our sponsor Linode. The reason why the Sustain Podcast exists is because of Tyler Van Fossen and the Linode Company.
  • [00:42:37] Justin’s spotlight is the Sustain Podcast newsletter he just launched. You can sign up at sustain.codefund.fm/newsletter.
  • [00:42:57] Bogdan’s spotlight is a shout-out to the “Jekyll-Scholar” project.


[00:14:02] “What we’re observing through this series of studies that we’ve done, and other people have done too, is that people’s behavior changes when you have this salience of information.”

[00:16:30] “On average, people submitting PR’s, they are more likely to add tests to their PR’s when the stuff is being displayed because then there’s some feedback loop that’s instant and very visible.”

[00:17:54] “That should be a part of the sustainability checklist. If you want to have a sustainable open source project, you probably need badges, you probably need a CI indicator. Those are core to making it so that project becomes adoptable with other developers.”

[00:24:08] “In the real world, organizations asking for charitable donations are very clear about what the goals of these campaigns are and we’re not seeing that in open source just yet.”

[00:29:51] “But really, thanks to Cassandra Overney and Jens Meinicke who were the students working on this paper, they’re the ones who deserve all the credit, not me, and my collaborator, Christian Kastner form CMU.”

[00:34:09] “I don’t think expecting donations to be the only way to sustain an open source project is the right approach.”


Bogdan Vasilescu Twitter

Bogdan Vasilescu

Strudel Research


The GHTorrent project

Strudel Publications

“Stress and Burnout in Open Source: Toward Finding, Understanding, and Mitigating Unhealthy Interactions.”

“Ecosystem-Level Determinants of Sustained Activity in Open-Source Projects: A Case Study of the PyPI Ecosystem.”

“How to Not Get Rich: An Empirical Study of Donations in Open Source.”


Sustain Podcast Newsletter




  • Produced by Justin Dorfman at CodeFund
  • Edited by Paul M. Bahr at Peachtree Sound
  • Show notes by DeAnn Bahr at Peachtree Sound
  • Ad Sales by Eric Berry at CodeFund
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