Plan for what happens after your project is done

A do not enter sign on metal posts at the edge of a cliff overlooking an evergreen forest.

Your open source project will end one day. That’s okay. In fact, it’s inevitable on a long enough timeline. But you should think about what will happen with your project after it’s done. Or at least after you’re done with it.

If you’re handing off your project to new owners, Greg Wilson has a great list of things to do. But what about if there’s no new owner?

If your project is entirely hosted on a code forge like GitHub or GitLab, you can just mark it as archived and walk away. Maybe disable issue creation and toss a note in the README if you’re feeling particularly accomplished.

But there’s probably more. Do you have social media accounts? If so, will you leave those up or will you deactivate them? If you leave them up, do you keep using them? Would you hand them over if someone revives a fork of the project?

Similarly, what about logos, trademarks, etc. And who even owns those? If your community started on a third-party platform (e.g. Reddit) and then became code, the platform may own the marks. Like with the social media accounts, are you willing to part with these?

Also think about any infrastructure you might have. If you have a website, whether self-hosted or on a paid service, will you keep footing the bill? DNS names, too. Ideally, it would be easy for someone to find your project a few years later to learn that it’s done, but that costs money. If you let your community host content on your servers, having a plan beyond “well I guess we’ll just see when it falls over” is even more important.

It’s helpful to start thinking about these questions before you even launch your project. You don’t have to put a comprehensive plan on paper, but at least consider your answers. Once your project is out in the world, you’ll hopefully attract users and contributors. A plan for what happens when the project ends does them a great service.

This post’s featured photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


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