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Forking a community?


I’m curious what this group feels about forking of an open source project and its community.

Background: I’m involved in an open source project and I feel like the current leadership has become entirely passive (which is fine, I expect nothing of their time, it is theirs to give as they can/wish). Unfortunately, I disagree with their decision that this is an acceptable way to lead a community and I have been thinking about forking.

The problems I see are that it means I have to fork the project (so renaming it at least) and then lobby against the current leadership in public, in an attempt to convince other community members to join the new fork. This feels like a strongly negative thing to be doing and troubles me very much.

I find myself reticent to contribute more to the existing community, which is harming it and making a fork feel more inevitable. This inherent bias also troubles me.

I’m curious how others have handled situations like this in the past, or general thoughts people have on the subject.



See Karl Fogel’s section on this at Producingoss.com - but in short you’re better off convincing the community to politely and gently help you turn the leadership around than it is to fork the project.

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The community will follow the code and momentum. What happens if you fork but only a flurry of patches go into git, and then nothing (a la GoneME)? Poeple will stay where new features are developed. If you create a fork where most of the new code is happening (à la Inkscape) then people move to the new project.

There is a tipping point, where more code with worse leadership is worse than less code with better leadership - I would say that it would need to be at least 33% of new code coming from the new leadership on a sustained basis to get to the tipping point. LibreOffice might be relevant here. The key in this situation is building the big Mo, convincing big users or consumers of the project to follow you.

As Martijn said, the other approach is to form an alliance of mutinists who firmly, but privately, request of the old leadership that they step aside, or diffuse their authority and power. If you can’t find co-conspirators, perhaps your opinion is not as dominant as you thought in the community. One example of that might be a project like glibc.


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