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Nadia Eghbal

Working in Public

The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software

Stripe Press 2020

New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in Technology August 12, 2020 Matthew Jordan

Open source is the once-radical idea that code should be freely available to everyone. Open-source software was once an optimistic model for public collaboration,...

Open source is the once-radical idea that code should be freely available to everyone. Open-source software was once an optimistic model for public collaboration, but is now a near-universal standard. But most open-source code is not developed by big teams or equitable collaborations; it’s maintained by unseen individuals who work tirelessly to write and publish code that’s consumed by millions.

In Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software (Stripe Press), Nadia Eghbal takes an inside look at modern open source software development and its evolution over the last two decades. The book draws from hundreds of interviews with developers, and serves as a first-of-its-kind anthropological investigation of the open source community.

Eghbal examines the role of GitHub as a platform for hosting code, the way software developers are (and often aren’t) compensated for their work, and the complex dynamics between maintainers, contributors, and users of open-source software.

Nadia Eghbal is a writer and researcher who explores how the internet enables individual creators. From 2015 to 2019, she focused on the production of open source software, working independently and at GitHub to improve the open source developer experience.


Matthew Jordan is a professor at McMaster University, where he teaches courses on AI and the history of science. You can follow him on Twitter @mattyj612 or his website matthewleejordan.com.