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Babel maintainer here (one of the two contributors going from $2k/month to $6k/month). It's the first time I write on HN. I saw different comments (here and on Twitter) about how Henry was getting $11k/month from our funds but wasn't doing much for the project, and so I want to share my view of the story.

Be careful when you try to evaluate how much someone is working: even if Babel is open source and almost everything we do is on GitHub, simply looking at https://github.com/babel/babel/commits/main and counting the number of commits for each contributor does *not* tell how much someone is working. One starting point would be to at least check all the activity in the Babel GH organization: for example, you can see that:

- I did about 700 contributions so far in 2021 (https://github.com/nicolo-ribaudo?tab=overview&from=2021-01-...).

- Jùnliàng did about 500 (https://github.com/nicolo-ribaudo?tab=overview&from=2021-01-...)

- Henry did about 160 (https://github.com/hzoo?tab=overview&from=2021-01-01&to=2021...)

The number of commits does not reflect the number of contributions, because the "writing code"/"reviewing PRs"/"issues triage"/etc tasks are not equally distributed across the team: for example, I prefer reviewing while others prefer coding. However, even according to these stats Henry is doing less than the other two paid maintainers: again, we cannot just use GH stats to measure how much we do. If you are considering sponsoring us and you want to know what we did or what we'll do, we have a "things we did" page (https://babeljs.io/docs/en/features-timeline) and a roadmap (https://babeljs.io/docs/en/roadmap), but feel free to directly reach out to us and ask what we are working on or what we plan to do.

Henry is the one who contacts companies trying to explain to them why they should support us, the one who gives most talks at their internal events: he's the one working on fundraising for the team. Even without him, many companies would probably donate, but I don't think we would have ever reached the current levels that enabled us to pay a small team.

That said, there was a big problem that no one in the team was talking about: whilst we all knew that Henry was not "doing nothing", I felt that I deserved more than just one fifth (or more than one fourth, since Henry decreased what he was taking) of Henry's salary. What I was doing wasn't _less valuable_ than what Henry was doing. When some people reached out to me about it, I realized that this feeling was shared by other people in the OSS community.

I thus decided to talk with the team about it: it was hard for me to do so, because I consider everyone in the team a friend and it's hard to tell a friend "you should earn less because I want to earn more". However, everyone in the team was receptive to my arguments and everyone agreed that we should have re-assessed our salaries. The main reason that Henry was earning more was that initially he was the only paid contributor, and when the remainder of us wanted to be paid, we just divided the remaining incoming money.

We have now rebalanced how funds are distributed, and we will keep communicating between us how we divide the funds, so that no one in the team will feel like there is some kind of injustice in future.

When we settled on $6k/month I was asked by a team member: "Do you think this is the right amount of money for you, or you might still not be happy about it in the future?". I can't speak for the future me, but for now I don't think I "need", "deserve" or "want" to earn more than the other paid team members. If we get enough money to pay the three of us $6k/month, my next goal would be to expand the number of paid people rather than paying ourselves more (but that's a discussion we'll have as a team when we'll have more money).


Also, to address the comments about "earning X is too much" and "earning X is too low". I don't have a universal answer for "what is the right salary for working on OSS?", and I see that there are people arguing for both sides.

If it helps to put things in perspective: this isn't a "side project" for any of the paid maintainers. We don't work 40 hours/week, but we still dedicate a big amount of time to the project. I can only speak for me, but:

- I'm a student, and I'll graduate this summer. I currently have 12 hours of classes per week, + some time to study and to work on my final project.

- I dedicate about 20-30 hours per week to Babel. It's not always the same: sometimes it's less, sometimes it's more. It depends on what I'm working on for Babel, and on how much I have to do for university each week.

- I don't know if it's the same all over the world, but (at least in the few countries in which I know how it works) if a company hires you for $6k/month gross, the actual cost for the company is more. Since from a legal perspective we are self-employed, $6k/month is the actual cost taken from our balance.

This is very helpful transparency, thank you. I appreciate that it's not just spin, but you are willing to reveal some past challenges too (all projects will have challenges around relationships and decision-making and equity! When we talk about the publicly, we can help each other get better at managing them.).

I think the history about previously some people got more and some less and now it's equalized is helpful to be part of the information, and would have been helpful as part of the original post. I am also curious in general about how you are dealing with "decision-making"... who gets to decide how much who gets paid (or who gets hired or let go), how?

Your story makes sense to me, that someone's contribution isn't measured solely by github stats. But the fact that there is not currently a good relationship between the collective who maintains babel and the original babel author is... unfortunate I guess is a word. And makes me curious what happened there.

Soliciting donations is an entire profession unto itself in the non-profit world. Ironically the practice is also called "Development". So, Henry could have the joint titles of Lead Developer and Lead Developer.

> Soliciting donations is an entire profession unto itself in the non-profit world. Ironically the practice is also called "Development".

I've always just known it as "fundraising".

Maybe there's a joke somewhere that flew over my head.

You can call it that but every professional non-profit calls it development.


I don't think that part was a joke. It's business development, as opposed to software development.

To me $72k for a non-full-time project per year is still insane.

The median senior engineer pay in Italy is around EUR 38k - up to EUR 78k if you have around a decade of experience.

Those $72k is equivalent to EUR 45k in Italy (at least, in my region).

You can check it using a "taxes calculator" website: https://it.talent.com/tax-calculator?salary=45000&from=year&... (it's in Italian, sorry). On top of those 45k EUR gross the employer pays 13.5k, so it's 58.5k EUR.

As of now, $72k USD is 59k EUR.

I don't have many data points, but so far I have been offered only one 20 hours/week job (at a salary that was way lower than 45k) and a full-time job which paid for more than 45k (but since I was studying, I didn't accept it).

Still if you multiply that by 1.5-2 to get to a full fte, it is a high salary.

I wonder how these salaries where determined, if it is like you said that it was just devided by 4, or if there was some outside governance/input for it.

I still feel like if you would place a job ad for a babel engineer for an amount like that it would be filled instantly.

What your comment and all the others here saying that on country X this is a very good salary for a "median" senior engineer is missing, is that the average senior engineer has no clue on how to maintain Babel.

Most people in the software industry (including senior engineers) are doing CRUD work, you got a web dashboard that calls an API that then insert or retrieve content from the database, you got a simple `if` condition or a `for` loop here and there, and that's it. Compare this to creating a compiler, the difficulty is on another level of magnitude.

How many of those engineers rely on Babel every day? ;-P

Median pay for a software engineer in the US in 2020 was over $110k per the Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/...

software engineers in Italy are vastly underpaid, but USD 72k are EUR 60k, and as an employee the company is spending much more in taxes, healthcare, retirement etc.

You should compare this with a self-employed consultant-style job, not with a normal employee.

> The median senior engineer pay in Italy is around EUR 38k - up to EUR 78k if you have around a decade of experience

I see these salaries in places like Spain, Italy, and even Germany outside of Frankfurt / Berlin, and I'm flabbergasted. I've lived in the EU and travelled quite a bit, too. If anything, the prices for food, electronics, sundries, etc. are MORE expensive than the US because of VAT.

Housing, I'm sure, varies just like in the US, but I wouldn't imagine it's all that different. A small 2BR "condo" (i.e. not a single house with yard) in a mid-tier city in the US can now easily be $300K and probably similar in Italy, Spain, or Germany, at least in urban areas where all the jobs are located.

How do you guys live?

€38-78k is a high salary in Europe. Net median income in Spain is $27k.

Regardless, in the US net median income is $37k. I think maybe you're living in a bubble if you don't understand how people live on that kind of money. Also, don't be surprised by how big of a factor lifestyle inflation is. Your average Joe in Spain is not dropping $60k on a new truck.

There’s an insane wage gap between tech in US and the rest of the world.

Keep in mind that many other countries have socialized medicine and a better nationalized retirement program. We pay for those and, because of our system, they are very expensive.

employees here have employer sponsored healthcare. The gap is huge even if you take out of pocket expenses into account.

Don't just look at salary, compare against cost-of-living. There are gaps, I'm not denying that. It's just not as large as is looks on paper.

Yes its not that large if you work for some enterprise in midwest. I have mid career friends in bay area pulling in 500k tc in the bay area. This is next to impossible in europe and certainly not a possibility for average engineer.

The bay area is all kinds of insane in many ways. :-)

Not always, and that oftentimes doesn't account for partners/children. Childcare in the US is insane. Thousands and thousands of dollars.

In the US, all kinds of expenses are pushed off of the government/employer and onto the employee. Salaries have to be way higher.

Yup, same in South-West Europe and most places I've worked as a developer and manager. These quoted salaries are extreme for private companies and I don't understand them at all for open source work, even less when they don't even seem to work full-time.

But then I don't live in Silicon Valley either, where these salaries seems to be judged from.

Seems extreme weird to hire people who live in Silicon Valley though for a supposedly global project. Hire people so you can make it sustainable without having to pay extreme salaries. The rest of the open source ecosystem already figured out that you need a nimble operation, wonder why it's hard for team Babel to understand?

How much does your healthcare cost you? Retirement? Self-employment taxes? Housing?

Looking at tech salaries globally is always going to be weird. Technically, they're mostly similar across 1st world countries, except in the US because of the bubble on the west and east coast, where they're absolutely completely wack.

There's a lot of complicated, nuanced reasons for this, but it is what it is for now.

That's the pay the employee gets? Before their taxes, but after the employer has paid a fare share of expenses on it?

It’s pretty common in Europe to be self-employed tech positions, so this might as well be pre-tax.

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