This is a frequently asked question: how will I handle the situation if/when I step away from the curl project? What happens if I
get run over by a bus go on a permanent holiday tomorrow? What’s the contingency plan?
You would perhaps think that it could affect a few more things that I work on than just curl, but I rarely get questions about any other things or projects. But okay, I have since long accepted that curl is the single thing people are most likely to associate with me.
I’m not leaving
Let me start by saying that I have no plans to leave the curl project any time soon. curl is such a huge part of my life I would not know what to do if I did not spend a large chunk of it thinking about, talking about, blogging about and working on curl development. I am not ruling out that I might step back as a leader of the project in a distant future, but it sure does not feel like it will happen within the nearest decade.
I am far from done yet. curl is not done yet. The Internet has not stopped evolving yet.
Also: the most likely way I will leave the project in a distant future is slowly and in a controlled manner where I can make sure that everyone gets everything they need before I would completely disappear into the shadows.
This is not a solo show
I also want to stress that curl is not a solo mission. We have surpassed 1200 commit authors in total and we average in 25 commit authors every month, with about 10 new committers arriving every month. My share of all commits has been continuously shrinking for many years.
A healthy and striving open source project should stand on its own legs and not rely on the presence or responses of single contributors. Everything should be documented and explained. How things work in the code, but also how processes work and how decisions are made etc. Someone who arrives at the project, alone in the middle of the night without network access, should be able to figure out everything without having to ask anyone.
I work hard at documenting everything curl as much and as well as possible. My ambition is to have curl stand out as one of the best documented projects/products – no matter what you compare it against.
If a single maintainer vanishes tomorrow, the project should survive it fine. Redundancy is key and we must make sure that we have a whole team of people with the necessary rights and knowledge to “carry the torch forward”. We invite new maintainers to the team every once in a while so that we are at least a dozen or so that can do things like merging code into the repository or updating the website. Many of those rarely exercise that right, but they have it and they can.
A single maintainer’s sudden absence can certainly be a blow to the project, but it should not be lethal.
My “BDFL role” in curl is not enforced by locking others out. There is a whole team that can do just about everything in the project that I do. When and if they want to.
I have logins and credentials to some services that the whole team does not. I use them to upload curl releases, manage the website and similar. My accounts. If I am gone tomorrow, getting into my accounts will offer challenges to those who want to shoulder those responsibilities. I have a few trusted dedicated individuals appointed to hopefully manage that in the unlikely event that ever becomes necessary.
(Benevolent Dictator For Life)
I may be a sort of dictator in the project, but I prefer to see myself as a “lead developer” as I hardly ever veto anything and I always encourage discussions and feedback rather than decreeing my opinions or ways of working onto others. I strive to be benevolent. I do not claim to always know the correct or proper way to do things.
When I leave, there is no dedicated prince or appointed heir that will take over after me, royal family style. Sure, someone else in the ranks of existing maintainers might step up and become a new project leader but it could also very well just become a group sharing the load or something else. It is not up to me to decide or control that. It is not decided ahead of time and it will not.
Similarly, I don’t try to carve my vision of curl into some stone tablets to pass on to the next generation. When I am gone, the people who remain will need to drive the ship and have their own visions and ideas. The kids got to do their own choices.
I don’t care about how or if people remember me or not. I try my best to do good now and I hope my efforts and work make a net positive to the world. If so, that is good enough for me.