Book Recommendation — Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software

Ismail Ali Manik
2 min readFeb 10, 2021

By studying open source’s transition from “small internet” to “big internet,” we can better understand what’s happening to online creators more broadly. We’re still trying to reconcile the rise of individual creators with the crumbling of newspapers, book publishers, and talent agencies: the decline of the firm as a principal agent of change. As a case study, open source helps us understand why our online world didn’t evolve the way that early scholars predicted, as well as how our economy might reorient itself around individual creators and the platforms upon which they build.

If creators, rather than communities, are poised to become the epicenters of our online social systems, we need a much better understanding of how they work. In a world where 4.5 billion people are now online, what is the role of one? How do these creators shape our tastes, and how do we protect, encourage, and reward that sort of work, long after the glow has faded? How do platforms help or hinder that work?

Maintenance makes up a significant aspect of software’s hidden costs. A 2018 Stripe study of software developers suggested that developers spend 42% of their time maintaining code.220 Nathan Ensmenger, the informatics professor, notes that, since the early 1960s, maintenance costs account for 50% to 70% of total expenditures on software development.

Eghbal, Nadia. Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software

For Discussion: Is Nadia’s diagnosis of Open Source Software development realistic? Share your thoughts. What other books do you recommended on the topic?

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Ismail Ali Manik

Uni. of Adelaide & Columbia Uni NY alum; World Bank, PFM, Global Development, Public Policy, Education, Economics, book-reviews, MindMaps, @iamaniku