The abuse many maintainers of popular and or critical open source software experience can be soul-crushing. I have known about it for years. I've seen it occasionally but never investigated it, partly because I don't want to get angry/triggered.
"Did You Miss My Comment or What?" is a paper written by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon & Wesleyan University in May 2022, which conducted a study of online toxicity to understand how it manifests in open source communities. Thomas Claburn of The Register wrote a great recap. ⤵️
• Toxic discussions on GitHub tend to involve entitlement, subtle insults, and arrogance.
• This contrasts with the bad language and harassment found in other parts of the web.
• Technical and non-technical methods to detect and curb toxic behavior may not work well for GitHub.
• The study looked at toxicity in open source communities and found it manifests differently than in other online communities.
"While it was reassuring to see that some of the more extreme toxic behaviors of online communities are less common on GitHub, the issues raised around people feeling entitled to put demands on the volunteer community leaders who run most open source projects is definitely something we recognize from our conversations with maintainers. − Martin Woodward, VP of DevRel at GitHub
I decided to do a multi-part series on this because exploring this topic is important. One of the paper's authors, Courtney Miller, said finding the harms of toxicity was outside the scope. Part 2 (and maybe 3?) will dig into that. The harm.
Know any maintainers that have a story they would like to share? Please introduce them to me.