Elevating open source contributors to open source maintainers
Experts explain how to recruit and onboard co-maintainers.
We’re sharing interviews from several open source contributors about their projects, challenges, and what a GitHub sponsorship means to them. This week, hear from Fatih Arslan.
With the launch of GitHub Sponsors, open source maintainers and developers can apply to receive funding from the community that depends on their work. Through sponsorship, open source maintainers have the freedom, financial security, and autonomy to continue the work they’re passionate about to further build and strengthen the open source community.
Over the next few weeks, we’re sharing the stories of several open source contributors. Learn about their projects, challenges, and what sponsorship means to them.
My name is Fatih Arslan and I’m a Senior Software Engineer working for DigitalOcean. I live with my lovely wife and two kids in Ankara, Turkey. I’m a member of the Kubernetes team at DigitalOcean and I’m responsible for maintaining the Container Storage Interface (CSI), preparing new Kubernetes releases, and ensuring customer clusters are all operational.
I’m mainly interested in tooling and programming languages and I love to work on problems that improve the lives of developers, especially when it’s time spent on features promoting a productive work environment. That’s why I created several projects to help, and I spend most of my free time maintaining these projects for thousands of engineers all over the world to use.
I’ve created several projects over the years that I continue to work on—one of them is the famous vim-go. This project is a development plugin that adds support for the Go programming language in vim. And I authored several popular Go packages, such as color and structs.
Another one of my projects that had a big impact was HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), where I rewrote the parser in pure Go and added printer support. HCL is now used by projects such as Hashicorp Terraform and GitHub Actions. Besides these projects, I’ve recently created Fixmie.com, a code checker that provides smart and useful suggestions to help you fix your source code. It’s currently in beta and free for open source projects.
Support to write Go in vim didn’t exist when I started in 2012. I had to use another editor, but I kept returning to vim—it was frustrating to write Go with vim at the time. However, instead of complaining, I asked myself, “why don’t you fix it?”. That’s when I created a repository and started working on the first version of vim-go. It seemed like there were hundreds of others who had the same frustrations and vim-go quickly became popular. Today it has over 10,000 stars on GitHub and it’s the most used vim plugin to write Go.
For developers, our job also tends to be our hobby. That’s why it can be difficult to determine what the boundaries are, especially when to start or stop. We can easily create a project on GitHub that could be an overnight success, and it might even be so popular that companies start using it. This is when the problem starts—your hobby has now become your second job.
I think the biggest challenge in open source is figuring out how to avoid projects becoming a second full-time job. There are several solutions to this—such as finding more maintainers or preventing the project from becoming very popular—but it’s not easy to address.
I became a better developer and collaborator by working on my projects. It’s helped me understand how to work with people from all over the world, and it had a tremendous impact on my professional career. I was able to connect with hundreds of people from the community, even mentors, which helped me get to my position today.
I talked briefly about the challenges of contributing and working on open source projects, especially on larger and popular projects. Once you reach a peak point, it may not be sustainable to maintain and improve the project without additional help. I believe GitHub Sponsors will help overcome these challenges to allow people all over the world to work full time on their open source projects.
I’m working remotely from Ankara, Turkey, and open source has empowered me to grow and have an impact beyond the borders of this country. I’ve been able to build many projects because people who believed in open source and mentoring also helped me back when I was younger and inexperienced. Now it’s time for me to give back.
Most of my projects are built to make engineers and developers more efficient and productive. That’s why I created Fixmie, which I think is the next step of tooling to help developers all over the world improve their codebase. By being my sponsor, you’re enabling my projects to grow and mature, helping me to invest in bug fixes and new documentation, and improving current and future features.
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Check back soon—we’ll be adding new interviews every week. Contact us If you have ideas about how GitHub Sponsors can better serve the open source community.