Unless Explicitly Specified Otherwise, Open Source Software With Users Carries Moral Obligations

Oct 20, 2023


So, if you, as an open-source maintainer, publish your software and gain users, you should ask yourself: “do I actually want to have users?”. It is totally fine if the answer is “no”! It is a safe default answer and what governs most of the git repositories out there.

Never the less, if the answer to the users question is “no”, you should make it clear in your Readme that it is a hobby, non-production-ready project which isn’t intended to be used by anyone but you. Usually, it’s enough to just not have a readme at all, or have a very short readme which makes it obvious that the project isn’t supported.

However, if you do have a nice README with installation instructions and such, that constitutes a “yes” answer. And then you, as a maintainer, is responsible for a tiny bit of life of your explicitly invited users. It’s not expected that you do much (in fact, doing nothing is totally OK), but the amount of expectation is greater than zero.

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