Toxic Elephant

Don't bury it in your back yard!

Repo size

Posted by matijs 25/09/2015 at 08h11

I just realized one important factor for attracting casual open source contributions is code/repo size. A huge repo is a barrier. So, it’s hugely important to either use off-the-shelf libraries, or split off parts of your code into their own components. These components need to live in their own repository, so no monorepo’s.

Of course, a high-status, high-visibility project can get away with more. Rails, for example, has all its components in one repository and does not seem to be lacking in contributions. On the other hand, for a long time Gnome required the full source for everything to be checked out and built together. This requires a serious commitment for even the most trivial bug fixes.

Why the sudden insight? A project I’m involved in has problems with wkhtmltopdf: The version that used to work crashes after a server upgrade, and the version that works has problems with fonts and images. A simple solution could be to just recompile the old version on the new server. However, because it essentially forks all of Qt, checking out the source will require 1GB of disk space, while building will require another 2.5GB (and a commensurate amount of time). This is not undertaken lightly.

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