Open Source

Interview with Olivier Tassinari

Today's interview is with @olivtassinari. Olivier is a developer and the co-creator of the UI component library for React: Material-UI.

3 min read


By Henrik Walker Moe


December 5, 2019

The questions below came from a simple question we asked ourselves:

"if you had the chance, what would you ask an Open source maintainer/person/community member."

Here we go!

What are your biggest challenges in working with Open source today and how do you handle them?

The biggest challenge in developing open-source code is how you subsidize it, at scale. There aren’t that many options. The first one is to rely on the spare time of individuals. This requires to break down problems into chunks small enough individuals can solve independently.

The second one is to be a company that can leverage the project into an acquisition channel/common language for a paid product. The third one is to reach the critical size required for crowdfunding to work. We try to leverage these 3 approaches as the best possible in Material-UI. The paid product segment is what has been working the best for us so far.

Are there any useful tools you use to make your GitHub-life easier to manage, and if so, could you share a few of them with us?

I manage all the notifications with Gmail, the snooze feature is extremely useful.

"You can save time by delaying things"

I use Trello to study potential problems we will fix in the future. We aggressively move all support questions to StackOverflow.

How can repository-owners facilitate contributions from newcomers in Open source?

You have to make it as easy and valuable as possible, making it worth the time of somebody contribution, more valuable than the other ways people can invest their time.

We go very far on this end, as we are speaking, you can find about +10% of our open issues in the repository (+30) that have the “good first issue” flag and git diff of what the solution of the problem can look like and that we would likely accept.

If you could time-travel to when you first started, what advice would you give yourself as an Open source rookie?

I would tell myself to be much more aggressively in the way I invest my time, it’s so easy to get distracted by non important problems, to have more emotional courage and trust in myself.

Can you describe how you see the future of Open source, what new directions or paths do you think it will take?

10 years ago, paid UI libraries were leading the market, it had a market size above $1b/year. Today, it’s the opposite, open source UI libraries lead the market. We see open source UI libraries of better quality than paid UI libraries but that are far behind from a comprehensiveness perspective. Material-UI is working on this problem 🙂.

We are exploring the feasibility of an open core model. It’s the best approach we can think of to solve the comprehensiveness problem. We might see more projects try this direction.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Olivier! 💪