After some time working with open source communities you start to recognize names and people with different roles. From my experience there are typical types of open source maintainers. I tried to come up with some personas and made up some names for them. If you have more ideas let me know.
Of course a person can be more than one type of maintainer and people shouldn’t be put in boxes, but I think it’s kind of interesting to see the types of people required to run a project successfully.
The first type we want to have a look at is very important in the projects I’m active in. Let’s call it Silent hero. It’s a person that prefers to stay in the background and does not need attention or fame. They do lots of work and often take care of the thankless tasks like big refactorings, dependency updates, releases or documentation updates.
They just want to work effectively and drive progress. That’s why they usually do a lot of coding work and prefer not to engage in big dicussions if they think they won’t help to move the project forward.
From my experience this is the most important type of maintainer to keep a project alive.
Some projects have maintainers that are very active in engaging with people asking questions, submitting bug reports or PRs. A helping hand is the most important person for the outward perception and new users and contributors of the project. They are the first contact person for the community. By providing answers to questions and triaging issues and PRs they help the project gaining new users and contributors.
It’s very valuable to have people on board that have good communication skills and like to help others.
Some projects may have a kind of marketing person. They help to spread the word about the project by doing talks, writing blog or social media posts. They also care about branding or the website to make the project attractive for new users and want to see it grow.
Sometimes projects are lucky to still have the founders as active maintainers. They have deep knowledge about the internals and know the history behind design decisions. The Legend started the project or is part of community since “the early days”. They may not be the most active contributors, but they are still around for helping other maintainers with their rich experience. They might be a little hard to reach because the moved on to other things after years of working with this project. All maintainers should respect their experience and try to keep them around.