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Sometimes all a maintainer needs is a “thank you” (github.com)
527 points by amingilani on Nov 4, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 64 comments

Yup, agreed. 100%

Whenever I find a blog post/video that has information particularly useful to me, or a side project that has come real handy - the first thing I do is whip up my mail client and thank the authors. I never realised how much of a positive impact this has on creators until people started mailing me thanking me for my work. Brightens up your day really :)

Irv Grousbeck, one of the legendary professors of entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB, says it over and over: thanks and praise cost you nothing but mean the world to colleagues.

And whenever possible, praise in public and critique in private.

That last line is key, and it's amazing how many 'managers' don't understand it either!

"Praise in public, critic in private"

I love it.

Did you know Debian's reportbug has a feature in it that lets you send kudos instead of reporting an issue?

`reportbug -k` or `reportbug --kudos`!

There should be a symlink for this to `send-kudos`. That way it's not like clicking Start to shut down - the way things are now, sending kudos is currently hidden in the "this is broken" reporter.

It was more than a thank you. It also gave some details about how much time it saved them, etc. That's gold.

Makers sometimes exist in a void. They create and wonder if it is accomplishing anything. They wonder what it gets used for.

A few words can speak volumes. It creates a dialogue. The maker is no longer howling into the void, no longer wondering if their felled tree makes any sound.

That hi 5 is a thunderous clap that takes their one hand silently clapping to a warm and enthusiastic embrace of connection with another living, breathing being.

Couldn't say it better myself. I'm the maintainer of a fairly popular open source utility and the motivation that people provide by actually telling you the work you're doing is useful to them is invaluable. By contrast, it's worth saying that abuse or "your things crap, I'll use something else" has exactly the reverse effect and actually hurts.

Consequently I try hard to encourage people as they work on open source. Remember, we're doing this for love and we should remember that when we interact with maintainers who have given us a free gift at no cost to ourselves. Much love to all OSS contributors!

This is a great reminder that simple manners and gratitude can go a long way.

What I hope is also apparent is that thank you notes will not be enough on their own to fix the unfortunate trend of entitlement, underfunding, and burnout that is attacking open source maintainers. Any step is progress, though, so long as we don't fool ourselves into thinking it's literally all we need to do.

This, a thousand times this.

As an ex-contributor to some old school Apache projects, I know too well the over-whelming feeling that the marathon of maintenance can elicit. Open source becomes open-ended.

For sure, start with a thank you. People appreciate thanks for their efforts, no matter the result. It can make all the difference for some people.

Want to go beyond and be a little helpful? It's easy -- just take a look around a project and add a contribution. It doesn't have to be an earth-shattering feature; in fact, it's the mundane that can really make a project so much better. Add a unit test, fix a bug, update some documentation. There is always something that can be improved.

I maintain a moderately successful JavaScript library and there are a few things that absolutely make my day: people sending me an email telling me how they're using it (I see dependent projects on NPM but I love hearing about cool things!), people saying thanks, and people sending me any donation. I've had a handful of people send me a few bucks over the years and I was absolutely floored each time. In total I might be able to buy myself a beer with the donations but it means a surprisingly large amount knowing someone is willing to go through the hassle to send you money.

In case you haven't heard it enough already, thank you for your open source contributions.

More than helping fellow developers with your library, you help keep alive the spirit and philosophy of free sharing of knowledge and information. And in a world increasingly hostile to these ideas, your impact cannot be understated.

Wouldn't it be great if GitHub and GitLab, etc. had donations baked in?

Say you add a few bucks to your account and you can dole it out as you go. Receivers can keep it or pledge all or some % to some short list of non-profits.

Something KISS can't be that difficult to do.

I don't remember how I stumbled onto it but I ended up using Pledgie who then uses PayPal under the hood... it sucks. Pledgie takes some reasonable cut but then PayPal considers it a business transaction and takes like a flat $0.30. Remember when I said a few low dollar amount donations? I end up losing 20-30% due to PayPay/Pledgie overhead.

I then tried adding a Bitcoin donation link in markdown in my README (before the transaction fees got silly) but the GitHub and NPM don't know what to do with it.

Yeah. Too many steps and too much financial overhead. On the other hand, if you could "deposit" say $25 to your account then the transaction fees only occur once.

Moi? I'd be willing to pay that (as opposed to sticking GH or GL with it). A dollar here. Two bucks there. Couldn't hurt.

Plus, the number of donations could be a public signal. Stars? They're like Likes (easy and free). Helpful but not as good as how many put their money where there mouse is.

The ted talk "What makes us feel good about our work?" illustrates this perfectly. https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_what_makes_us_feel_good...

> Now there's good news and bad news here. The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes. Ignoring gets you a whole way out there. The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done, scanning it and saying "Uh huh," that seems to be quite sufficient to dramatically improve people's motivations. So the good news is that adding motivation doesn't seem to be so difficult. The bad news is that eliminating motivations seems to be incredibly easy, and if we don't think about it carefully, we might overdo it. So this is all in terms of negative motivation, or eliminating negative motivation.

Which brings us to the totally free, and very low friction way to say thanks: http://saythanks.io

> SayThanks.io provides a handy URL for you to share with your open source projects— it encourages users to send a simple thank you note to you, the creator of that project.

> This simple link can be added to READMEs and project documentation.

> Then, you can enjoy a nice inbox of very small but thoughtful messages from the happy users of the software that you've toiled over. :)

I maintain an open source app that gets about 180,000 MAU, and can confirm that I see probably a 10:1 or worse ratio of ‘your thing is broken’ emails to ‘thank you’s.

The grumpy emails take a meaningful toll on me. I don’t get paid for my work, so why would I continue given that the primary output (user feedback) I get to my input (time and energy/nights and weekends) is negative?

Long story short: send a thank you message, apropos of nothing, to your favorite OSS project. They’ll greatly appreciate hearing it.

Postscript: as luck would have it, the app I work on is consumer-focused, and my partner is a daily user of it. I probably would be less likely to continue working on it if she didn’t rely on it on a day to day basis.

10:1 is an amazing ratio. Either your work is of exceptional quality or your userbase / following is very positive and supportive (or both!). Either case takes skill and hard work, so my hat is off to you :)

I'm running free Linux terminal site for 7 years now. Before that written few open-source tools.

Receiving a mail from user with simple message like "Thanks for the your effort" will give great source of energy and motivation to carry on.

Because from time to time, like everything some doubts arise like "is this project still useful to others?". Thank you notes will help to clear those doubts :D

Good idea to do for projects with a small number of users and a more "personal atmosphere", but like many things, does not scale --- I'm pretty sure Linus Torvalds would rather not have an additional million "thank you for Linux" emails on top of the volume of communication he normally receives, for example.

And on the other end of the scale, here's what not to say :) https://github.com/remy/nodemon/issues/824#issuecomment-2178...

Not sure if that can be said in general.

The maintainer is cited complaining about people using a +1 - which is there to notify that a bug bites me too or i agree with something someone else wrote. If the problem (which i looked not into now in detail, i just state this as general rule) is already described in excess, why should someone add more text?

If even someone already sent a PR and it’s not merged because the maintainer has other priorities?

Then i agree with the content(maybe not exactly the form) of the message: if you have no sufficient capacity anymore or will to continuously and properly maintain a widely used open source tool, hand over responsibility and power over publication and source control to someone or better a team that has.

Great power comes with great responsibility.

What is actually true is that comments that really say „go and fix that asap (i need that for my work which earns me money)“ are pretty egoistic.

Especially without offering any kind of help - be it detailed report and analysis, a patch or even less a readily prepared Pull Request including tests and adhering to the projects Coding and Contribution standards - that is really gross and against the spirit that we create Open Source together, there’s no producer/consumer relation. And sure it’s said too many people behave as it was.

I think the maintainer was referring to +1 comments, which are so annoying that they must have been one of the main reasons GitHub introduced reactions.

You’re right and given the context and previously written stuff the maintainer also invited people to contribute instead of just requiring him to work for them for free...

I just started one of my first open source projects in the last few months and I've fixed ~3 issues so far. A thank you would be amazing. I'm not going to STOP fixing issues, but a thank you would really motivate me to keep it up. Kudos to this guy.

What is the project?

I think it's the same for startups. Sometimes you aren't making enough money yet. Maybe your spouse is telling you you should work on something else. But if users keep taking the time to write in and say thank you, you need to persevere. That's my situation at least [1].

[1]: https://fman.io/blog/motivation/

Wrong comparison. In this case making money is enough of a motivation. But in case of open source contributions its more of a sacrifice.

And sometimes a maintainer really needs to get paid. I think it would be wonderful if we could come up with better and more popular ways of "paying what you want / can". Or, even "paying if you are using this commercially".

Or in other words: saying "thank you" in a language called cash.

This. Every year, I donate to Karabiner-Elements. It's the best open source keyboard remapping software for Mac, and its primary developer Takayama Fumihiko has tirelessly maintained it for many years before open sourcing it.


pipenv[1] and other GitHub repos have a little badge in the REAMDE.md entitled "say thanks", which takes you to a simple form [2] where you can say thanks. I thought it was a cool idea.

[1] - https://github.com/kennethreitz/pipenv [2] - https://saythanks.io

It's not the first time I think Github should have something other than stars or issues. When I want to thank someone I don't want to open an "Issue" and a github star isn't at all what I want to accomplish here.

Idea: Let's create a Thank you day for all creators and maintainers by opening one issue for whatever we use. Let's star them and like them.

Or is it a bad idea for some reason?

I have to disagree. However well intended, It sets up an unnecessary expectation, similar to your birthday.

If you’ve ever gone through a birthday where nobody wished you, I don’t think you would want a maintainer to ever feel that.

I was thinking the same thing actually!

I know a few open source developers that are overjoyed when their github repo gets a few stars. If you see a repo you like, star it. it'll make someone happy.

Aye, it means that at least someone is using it. Even if it’s pretty niche, and just a helpful tiny application.

Was pretty happy that someone else found https://github.com/momer/solr-index-fetch useful for example :)

Damn. Thank you for posting this. I can't believe what a clueless dipshit I've been all these years. The only times I recall thanking someone is when I've sent a donation and they wrote back thanking me.

I'm using ouicards[0] in my project (example: [1]). First thing i did was writing a 'thank you' email to the author. They saved me many hours and gave me a jump start with design, which is always the most difficult thing for me personally. I did change many parts, but it was a breeze.

Based on this work i maintain a basic gun knowledge course, which sees more than 5k trainees a year. Now in Poland a lot more people can pass the official exam (it has two parts: theory, taken care of by my course, and shooting, which requires additional classes at a gun range), since learning is faster, simpler and more thorough.

[0] https://github.com/carlsednaoui/ouicards

[1] https://patentstrzelecki.eu/testy/uobia-pozwolenie

Thank yous do help a lot. And they help outweigh the nasty stuff many maintainers get (harassment, death threats, rape threats, doxing, etc).

why would anyone do this to dev? I mean I can bitch about aspects of some app, but can't imagine why would anyone do any of those

real question for me would be if devs prefer donation/buying the app or thank you, which one is more helpful

I've gotten all of the above. The doxing and subtle suggestion that people call me and wait for me outside my office was due to a warez project violating the license of my software to illegally package commercial software and me DMCAing their files on anonymous file hosting services (some of which properly responded). The death threats were due to my calling out a smaller closed source project stealing some of our work but stripping off the GPL text, copyright, source code, and branding. I can't recall offhand what the two rape threats were over but it was likely one of those two. The harassment is just in general and relatively constant.

Fun fact: I even get hate comments/email when I make a post on our site encouraging people to donate their organs on the anniversary of donating a kidney to my dad. Something about my dad buying me off to give him the kidney and me making tons of money from the project and stashing it overseas or something. You know, good times.

Most helpful for me is some detailed info on how my open source "thing" helped them.

Like, hey...we use your library to do X with clients like Y, and we pump Z transactions a day through it...really appreciate the leg up.


I honestly think it comes down to this.

Thanks to any maintainers who read this. You do important work.

See also `perldoc perlthanks`[1]:

    Can you use perlbug to submit a thank-you note?

    Yes, you can do this by either using the -T
    option, or by invoking the program as perlthanks.
    Thank-you notes are good. It makes people smile.

Just emailed the maintainers of one of my favorite little python projects (injector) to thank them. Appreciate this reminder.

I did this once to one of the driver forces for an internal product i have been using daily. I learned from someone else that it made their day.

Appreciation, when it is well deserved, increases overall well-being of a person. We should not forget to do it.

Oh. Wow. This is something I haven't done near enough. Time to write a free emails!

I get the occasional thank you email for a site I run and it always makes my day and I always try to make that clear.

I've only sent two such emails and got a nice response on one and like a single word "thanks" or something on another.

LOL I though I was the only weirdo that was opening issues to say thank you! :D

In my recent job search, google's email response suggestions have been eerily positive, upbeat and on target while dealing with recruiters and interview scheduling. I don't know how fine tuned these things are, but it could probably help shift the average tone & sentiment of interactions on Github to preseed comments with suggested response options.

One concern would probably be training suggestions a toxic data set might only come up with equally toxic options, so some sort of sentiment estimator or pre-seeding might be in order.

Reminds me I have a ton of open patch contributions I need to review.

Gratitude has its place. Still, doesn't pay the bills. Perhaps Patreon and GitTip like solutions will prove more sustainable.

tl;dr: good idea, but not applicable to many FOSS developers due to local laws.

Please keep in mind that the legal complexity of accepting donations prevents many of us from doing so. This is largely a result of local laws and how the IRS equivalent is set up. Take Germany for instance. The tax code in Germany discourages freelancing in favor of running a >10 person company or finding steady employment. The main reason is what taxes one pays for "real employees" and how that lands in the national support system accounts. This is a valid justification on the state's part, but a FOSS developer living in Germany who isn't already doing freelancing and has all the tax complexity and insecurity taken care of is hard pressed to start accepting random donations. The first problem you'll encounter is them declaring you a false freelancer if you have a "single customer receiving bills" or forcing you to deal with freelancing tax paperwork for accepting a couple hundred bucks a month.

Still it's a good idea and I'd suggest to take out the middleman for those micropayments. I don't understand what GitTip or Patreon add in value besides acting as the payment service. I mean, you won't be able to ask for money back, will you?

Hey, if I could accept donations without concern, I might buy hardware or expensive hosting services that would benefit the project, but most FOSS developers do it as a hobby paid out of their regular paycheck.

Oh my god, right. Having someone recognize you for your work is such an incredible feeling.

I put some creativity into my thank you note...


It was so touching to read the thank you note and the response to it.

Feel free to write a thank you letter on https://www.thankyouopensource.com/

Good care and feeding for vendors as well.

@amingilani Thank you for posting this. There are tons of valuable comments here.

Like in rails github the most commented issue is thankyou

I’d prefer a usage description in the form of “we’re using this software in X to do Y and it handles Z payload every day”. A simple thanks is just a distraction that you need to click through and acknowledge, zero useful.

Although clearly in this use case it was useful.

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