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I am finding it very hard to decide if I should offer commit access to the main repository to contributors (make them collaborators) for a project or if I should restrict the access to myself. Given that i trust the contributors, is it beneficial to offer them commit privilege for the main repository ?

I was hoping that by giving commit privilage the contributors may be motivated to devote more time for the project. But, I am also worried that at some point this policy might back fire in terms of loosing direction for the project and maybe other potential problems.

Is there a good way to decide when I should start offering commit privilege for the contributors and more importantly when I should stop offering it.

  • What is, in your opinion, the difference between a contributor and a collaborator? – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jan 10 '18 at 15:47
  • I am sorry i was not clear. By collaborator, i meant a contributor who has commit access to the main repository along with certain other privileges like creating releases, and managing issues . – Poonacha Jan 10 '18 at 16:20
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In my experience, the best you can do is write down the direction and culture you want to develop/preserve in the project's community (values, goals, modes of operation, criteria for granting collaborator status, etc.) and spread out the responsibility to maintain this culture to as many people as possible — which implies being generally liberal with the attribution of commit rights.

Decentralizing the project governance this way has several advantages: you reduce the chances of any individual or group taking control of the project's direction; you make the project more resilient against the natural variations in availability of the maintainers (including you); you boost the sense of ownership and collaboration; and you reduce the risk of burnout.

I find it useful to think of granting collaborator status not as a reward for work done, but as a practical measure to reduce barriers of contribution. After all, lack of manpower is a much more common (and serious) problem for open source projects, than governance disputes — especially since the latter can always be mitigated with good policies.

  • Thank you for the insightful response. If you don't mind me asking, - how do you decide the criteria for granting collaborator status ? This is something I am finding hard to do, especially at the beginning of a project. – Poonacha Jan 10 '18 at 20:50
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    Again, the best way IMO is to make this decision collectively. Make a proposal and ask the existing community members what they think. As a concrete example, here is the discussion we recently had in the tldr-pages regarding precisely such a governance document: github.com/tldr-pages/tldr/pull/1839 – waldyrious Jan 11 '18 at 0:41

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