This morning we had an interesting community round table session, and a key item that was raised was the worry of burnout for contributors. I myself have seen a few people burn out, and we discussed what we can do to (a) help prevent it and (b) help people through it.

When trying to improve different community structures it can often be tempting to produce systems, processes and procedures to fix problems and make things more efficient, but fundamentally some things require simple human interactions. I think this applies to burnout. The issue of burnout is something that can be caused by a range of different things such as stress, being over-worked, personal issues, work problems and more, and it can often be difficult to spot if you have never burned out before.

I think what is essential here is that if you are feeling stressed and over-worked and possibly feeling the symptoms of burnout, go and talk to someone about it – getting it off your chest and talking to someone can be hugely beneficial. My door is certainly always open.

  • troll

    What made me once almost burn out for real.. In hindsight I think it was not getting recognition for what I did. I was in a cio level position paid like the lowest engineer and I was denied all the proper strategic actions systematically in the environment – leading into poor results.

    Ah well, I selected the worst possible time (for the employer) to quit as it would have spiked (the CIO quit at the moment of major rationalization project and outsourcing, LOL) and perhaps made me insane.

    I am: happy. Very happy that I did leave.

  • http://matthewhelmke.net matthew

    I think a major contributor to burnout is unmet expectations, whether those are the expectations of others or ones own. We all come into new projects with wide eyed excitement, passion and lofty goals. It is extremely difficult at that stage to be realistic, and I’m not always sure that would be a good thing anyway–we all need to dream.

    When we become married to our dreams, specifically the wilder and more exotic of them, is when we start to have problems. The best of projects will have difficulties that require us to adjust our thinking, perhaps as a result of technical limitations, communication issues with colleagues, or just plain differences of opinion.

    How we deal with those issues will have a great impact on whether we experience burnout, stress, and our willingness to continue in a project.

    Good post, bro. Thanks for bringing up the topic!

  • Hugo Heden

    Agreed, the benefits of an “atmosphere” or “culture” that encourages human interaction like that can not be overlooked.

    One reservation though: improving processes and procedures with the aim of reducing burnout should not be disregarded.

    Because bad processes and procedures are likely to enforce burnout problems (for example via communication problems, misunderstandings and various other kinds of frustrations, that lead to various kinds of failures).

    So if an organization has such problems, it is sometimes not enough to start “being nice” to each other. Processes may have to be analyzed and improved.

    In large and rapidly growing open source development organizations, that may be a pretty huge challenge. It may then be tricky to develop the processes with the same rate that the organization they are there to support grows.

    Anyway, I still agree with what you’re saying.

  • http://www.christoph-langner.de Christoph Langner

    I know this problem pretty good. I posted about 20000 postings inside the german support forums over the last two years. Sometimes i helps to step down and distribute the jobs you’re doing. Perhaps take some time outside the communites. Enjoy the weather. Enjoy your workouts. Better a rested contributor as a worn out one :)

  • http://blog.zrmt.com andylockran

    I’d never really considered burnout before. Perhaps it should be added to the ubuntu code-of-conduct. Too few people are acutely aware of their own health situation. Adding it to the ubuntu code of conduct could be a good way of advising people not to put too much of their resources into ubuntu..

  • http://www.forwardyouth.com/ubuntu Joshua K

    I think it happened in the Dallas community with the lead members, and that’s why we saw such a mass disbandment. i wish we’d had a good article or brought up this subject before. just as a tip, rotational duties are great ways of sharing responsibilities and putting everything through learning experiences, as well as giving the opportunity to learn something new… just all kinds of benefits. peace.

  • http://www.softsaurus.com/2007/10/31/developer-summit-day-2-report/ Developer Summit Day 2 Report at SoftSaurus

    […] this sort of issue and that the door is, figuratively speaking, always open, something he later blogged about. The need to de-stress was also talked about, with discussion of some sort of gaming tournament and […]

  • http://www.imbrandon.com imbrandon

    Rock on, yea this can come to bite someone in the arse and they dont even know it untill its too late.

  • Bob

    “FOSS burnout” can efficiently be fought by spending your spare time on other stuff. Like going out. Like NOT talking to FOSS people for a while. Somethimes also by changing the project one contibutes to, but I’d recommend the other solutions.

  • http://www.qdh.org.uk Karl Lattimer

    Have you got a couch? Because seriously dude I’m feeling pretty damned burned out of late. Lost my mojo and it hurts like hell.

  • http://brianwill.net/blog/ Brian Will

    Hey Jono, when and where is the next dev summit? Late April / early May, I assume, but what general area? Does it go back and forth between North America and Europe?

  • http://www.chruz.com Chris Brown

    You have to know people well to notice when a burnout is coming. It usually hits without warning and someone might not understand what has happened. With the distributed nature of what we do, its even harder to notice the symptoms in someone else. Burnout is inevitably a personal issue, more psychological than physical. Helping people through it is best done through relieving workload and allowing people to work through it themselves. Oh yeah, it sucks.

  • http://www.diegosblog.de/2007/11/05/wohin-der-kuhne-reiher-fliegt-ubuntu-804-hardy-heron/ Diego’s Blog » Wohin der kühne Reiher fliegt, Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”

    […] Klicks . Auch um die Entwickler soll sich in Zukunft besser gekümmert werden. Vor allem das BurnOut-Syndrom , welches oft bei freiwilligen Projekten auftritt, in die man viel Zeit investiert, will man […]

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