• Working in Public

  • The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software
  • By: Nadia Eghbal
  • Narrated by: Tara Oakes
  • Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (56 ratings)

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Working in Public

By: Nadia Eghbal
Narrated by: Tara Oakes
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Publisher's Summary

An inside look at modern open-source software developers - and their influence on our online social world.

Open-source software in which developers publish code that anyone can use has long served as a bellwether for other online behavior. In the late 1990s, it provided an optimistic model for public collaboration, but in the last 20 years it shifted to solo operators who write and publish code that's consumed by millions.

In Working in Public, Nadia Eghbal takes an inside look at modern open-source software development, its evolution over the last two decades, and its ramifications for an internet reorienting itself around individual creators. Eghbal, who interviewed hundreds of developers while working to improve their experience at GitHub, argues that modern open source offers us a model through which to understand the challenges faced by online creators. She examines the trajectory of open-source projects, including:

  • The platform of GitHub, for hosting and development
  • The structures, roles, incentives, and relationships involved
  • The often-overlooked maintenance required of its creators
  • And the costs of production that endure through an application's lifetime

Eghbal also scrutinizes the role of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram that reduce infrastructure and distribution costs for creators but massively increase the scope of interactions with their audience.

Open-source communities are increasingly centered around the work of individual developers rather than teams. Similarly, if creators, rather than discrete communities, are going to become the epicenter of our online social systems, we need to better understand how they work and we can do so by studying what happened to open source.

©2020 Nadia Eghbal (P)2020 ListenUp Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Nadia is one of today's most nuanced thinkers about the depth and potential of online communities, and this book could not have come at a better time." (Devon Zuegel, director of product, communities at GitHub)

What listeners say about Working in Public

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Great insight into a complex topic

Maintaining open source software is much more complex than people think. I was ONE of those people. I’m glad Nadia did this research for us to benefit from.

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This is a very valuable book

I have been reading and thinking about the topic peer production, open source and working in public for years. The trail of books written about the subject had run dry until Nadia Eghbal wrote this book. It is a must read or listen.

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  • Dan Buckland
  • 02-03-23

So much more than the title suggests

Nadia gives a fascinating history of the Open Source movement from its early days all the way to the present. The book is incredibly detailed and well researched, full of quotes and citations, without ever becoming dry or boring. This book does two things incredibly well that make it, in my view, groundbreaking:

1. It provides a whole new taxonomy and terminology to describe projects, their maintainers and their contributors.
2. It helps bring Open Source, and software creators and developers more generally, into a conversation about society, the internet and social media more generally.

This book is part geek tribute, part anthropological study, and I didn't know that that's exactly what I needed!

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  • Robin Cafolla
  • 11-14-21

GitHub propaganda

The bias drips out of this book right from the off. FOSS contributers are basically written off as flawed religious fanatics while permissive licenced projects and developers who don't care about their code after it's written are held up on a pedestal.

I couldn't make it past the second section, but I very much doubt that book contains any analysis of how GitHub and permissive licences have effectively enslaved open source developers; forcing them to maintain projects essential to companies but who don't contribute financially to the maintainers.

So infuriating that I want to go close my GitHub account. Avoid at all costs.

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  • David
  • 01-29-21

Lacks tangible content, more a discussion piece

The book lacks any useful content. It seems to be a biased view of open source from the perspective of someone who worked for GitHub. There was almost nothing useful or insightful that I took away after listening to the entire book. I had higher hopes for this book and hoped it might have some useful insights into open source that I could take away. Alas I came away with nothing. Maybe I am not the target audience for this book.
The performance lacked engagement.