Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Volunteer Responsibility Amnesty Day

Volunteer Responsibility Amnesty Day

Tomorrow is Volunteer Responsibility Amnesty Day, a day to reflect on your responsibilities as a volunteer and, if any of them are too burdensome, set them down. My friend Sumana started this after observing that too many open source maintainers felt “trapped” and unable to step back from commitments they no longer were able to meet.

It’s a brilliant idea, and one I need this year. A few years ago, the former maintainer of dj-database-url needed to step down. He asked me if I’d pick the codebase up, and I said “yes”. I didn’t have a strong interest in being a maintainer, but it’s a very widely used package – almost a million downloads a month – and I felt it needed a good home. Unfortunately, after an initial flurry of inspiration, I found I didn’t have the time or energy. The repo has stagnated for the last couple of years.

It’s hard to admit you’ve failed. For me, it’s even harder to admit failure when it was a volunteer responsibility in the first place. Although I knew I needed to hand this off, I procrastinated doing so out of shame and guilt.

This is why having a set day (two per year - on each solstice) for stepping back feels so important to me. There’s a bit of a deadline – “do this by December 21st” – and a sense of strength in numbers.

If you’re volunteering in a way that’s no longer feeling good, why not take tomorrow to do an inventory and consider setting some things down? Or think about it, and set a reminder for next solstice (June 21, 2022)?

If anyone’s interested in the specifics of how I’m passing off maintainership – an interesting topic given the serious issues around software supply chain security – see this issue for how I’ve decided to implement the handoff.