Presented by

  • Richard Littauer

    Richard Littauer

    Richard Littauer is the Community Development Manager at Open Source Collective, a community facilitator for the Digital Infrastructure Fund, and an organizer of SustainOSS and the host of the Sustain Podcast. As a full-stack developer and open source community consultant, he has interfaced with hundreds of different projects in dozens of communities. He likes birds.


Open source sustainability is a frequently mentioned topic. We need to "keep it going for the long haul", develop a "sustainable business model", and occasionally even "sustain sustainability conversations". There's even a conference about it. It happened on Wednesday. But the entire discussion falls down upon close scrutiny. What does sustainability mean for open source? Does it apply to the licenses, to particular projects, to users, to the ecosystem? How do we understand the community health of open source on a temporal spectrum? Why "sustain" in the first place, and for what, and for whom? And what's at risk if we're not sustainable? Proprietary code eating the world? Burn-out? AI? All of us moving to San Francisco and working for ad tech, even though the rent is too darn high? I've held hundreds of conversations about sustaining open source over the past few years. I want to share the limits of the term, where it doesn't fit our abstractions, and how some of the models we use to understand open source sustainability could be updated or improved. This is a talk for skeptics. It's also a talk for dreamers - because without understanding where the gaps are, it's near impossible to bridge them. My hope is that this talk can show how we can start doing that, together.