Episode 58

Joel Wasserman on Flossbank and Sustainably Giving Back to Dependencies


October 16th, 2020

33 mins 20 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


Eric Berry | Justin Dorfman | Richard Littauer


Joel Wasserman

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! Our special guest today is Joel Wasserman, an Engineer at Google and Founder of Flossbank. If you’ve never heard of Flossbank, this is the episode you want to listen to. We learn all about what it is, how the method works, what makes it different from other donation models out there, and how signing up and donating works. We also find out if Joel has advertisers lined up and what the current state of Flossbank is since they are still working on the system. Download this episode now to find out more!

[00:00:52] We start off by learning what Flossbank is, what sets it apart, and how the method works.

[00:04:03] Joel tells us how he got involved in Flossbank, how it started, and the process of how Flossbank works with signing up and donating.

[00:08:00] Eric wonders how the money gets distributed all the way down to every package and is it through open collective or does he have to reach out to everyone. Joel lets us know they are in the process of building their maintainer portal and he explains.

[00:10:36] Joel tells us how the funds get distributed. Justin wonders if this is a twenty percent time project and how Google and Amazon feel about this project that has to deal with money and his time. Eric also wonders what Joel’s long-term goal is and does he see this as his primary business eventually.

[00:13:11] Eric talks about creating a business and the kickbacks and negative feelings. He asks Joel to talk about what percentage he’s planning on taking and how he plans on using that money as it comes in.

[00:16:25] Richard wonders how Joel justifies Flossbank versus everything else and what’s his vision for making it stand out.

[00:18:29] Digging into the advertising side of things now, Joel shares how he’s finding advertisers and if he has any lined up.

[00:21:00] Richard wants to know what Joel is doing to support people who are not maintainers but who are major contributors to packages. We also find out the current state of Flossbank, even though they haven’t built the entire system yet.

[00:24:53] Joel mentioned earlier there is an enterprise version of Flossbank Enterprise and he explains what that is, how it works, and what the goal is. Joel shares a great story about a discussion he had with a company.

[00:27:58] Find out where you can get involved with Flossbank or reach out to Joel.


  • [00:30:09] Eric’s spotlight is iPad game called EVE Echoes.
  • [00:31:11] Justin’s spotlight is Handshake.
  • [00:31:26] Richard’s spotlights are Ethical Ads and The Long Trail.
  • [00:31:58] Joel’s spotlight is Coil.


[00:06:10] “We found in the developer community that nobody likes anything pushed on them, and just in general, we think things should of course be opt in.”

[00:06:24] “We also build this on the belief that there are enough people in the ecosystem that actually want to give back. There’s just maybe not very easy ways to do it.”

[00:08:50] “We have realized that we are really solving the how to bring more money into the system part of the equation.”

[00:13:48] “André Staltz, who you recently had on the podcast, he stated in one of his blog posts, I don’t remember how long ago, talking about how open source is broken or something, said that if GitHub gave back even a fraction of what they were bought by Microsoft for then that would be 10X or a 100X fold what the open source ecosystem actually received in donations that year.”

[00:27:05] “Some of these people don’t see the return on investment on donating when their whole company is the return on investment. Your whole company is actually only possible because of open source. The fact that you have these employees is your return on investment, that is what open source produces.”



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