Navigating the gold rush: Of influencer economies and FOSS
03-05, 11:35–12:05 (Europe/Berlin), Monday: Workshop Room / Tuesday: Remote Stage

With FOSS outreach increasingly being dependent on tech influencers, mass adoption and contribution is no longer a pipe dream! But are these fantastic numbers actually a cry for help? Buckle up as we look at some cold hard facts about the FOSS ecosystem in times of the influencer economy.

Raise your hands if you, as a maintainer, have been traumatised by the influx of spam PRs during Hacktoberfest every year. With trends like "Learning in public", "What prevents you from contributing like this?", and "Every typo edit matters", the last few years have witnessed open source contributions soar in popularity like never before. While this messaging was initially helpful to attract more contributors by promising them better visibility & career opportunities, its eventual virality across platforms on account of promotions by tech influencers and contributors alike has resulted in a slow spiral toward unsustainability. Not only has the ecosystem become a hot bed for such clickbait messaging, various organizations and projects continue to enable this shifting of balance with their outreach & messaging strategies.

This isn’t meant to be a critique of the influencer economy or its adoption by the open source ecosystem. However, with issues like maintainer burnout, lesser promotions across the contributor ladder, deteriorating project health, and terrible work-life balance staring back at us, it is essential that we talk about the elephant in the room - how do we navigate past this wreck to sustainably scaling open source communities? How do we fix forward so as to handover a healthy contributor ecosystem to the next generation of maintainers? Can the ecosystem and the influencer economy co-exist sustainably?

This talk aims to cover the above topics broadly with suggestions and anecdotes drawn from the speaker's experience as a documentation maintainer, open source DevRel, and contributor to several open source projects.

While it is impossible to solve this problem with one talk alone, the speaker hopes to set the ball rolling on this discussion with this session.

Divya is a Senior Technical Evangelist at SUSE, where she contributes to Rancher’s cloud native open source projects. She co-chairs the documentation for the Kubernetes project & has previously worked extensively in the systems engineering space during her tenure with HSBC & IGate Global Solutions Pvt Ltd. A co-creator of the KCNA exam & a CNCF ambassador, she is invested in making technical communities & technologies more accessible & inclusive.