Nadia Eghbal

Open source communities

I spent five years researching and writing about open source developers. My early work argued that open source code is a form of public infrastructure that requires maintenance (see Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure). My later work focused on documenting modern open source (2010s-today) as distinct from early open source (1990s-early 2000s) and drawing parallels to the creator economy (see Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software).

The experience of pursuing this topic across a few different gigs also gave me a blueprint for understanding myself as an independent researcher, a process that I’ve also tried to document in public to hopefully encourage others to do the same.

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I’ve had a longtime interest in modern (post-Industrial Revolution) philanthropy. I wanted to experiment with faster grantmaking processes, as well as funding individuals rather than organizations, so I decided to make my own microgrants program.

Helium Grants were “no-strings-attached” microgrants ranging from $1K to $5K, awarded to individuals. I ran this experiment for two years, and I documented my process and learnings along the way. I also put together a few resources to encourage more people to spin up their own microgrant programs.

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