How are you nurturing an ecosystem of “Specialised contractors”?

Continuing the discussion from Which is Better? Discourse or Flarum?:

As I said, I’d love to know more about this. What are the benefits and how are you creating this?


Just about a year ago they handed off the $99 install business to me. Not only did they hand it over, but @codinghorror spent a surprising amount of time helping me tweak the CSS on my site. Several times after that, @codinghorror and/or @erlend_sh checked in to see how I was doing.

Last winter, @erlend_sh suggested that I get in touch with @joebuhlig, as he too was doing Discourse work and we had complimentary skill sets. I had no idea what good that might do, but I contacted Joe and now he and I regularly pass work off to each other. I’m more of a sysadmin, and he’s more of a Rails guru.

Similarly, you can find dozens of examples of replies from @team that match the schema “it sounds like you don’t have the skills to solve your problem and it is too complex to solve with hints you can get here; you should contact @pfaffman at”

My last educational technology professor gig ended just over a year ago. I had the luxury of a partner with an income when I started this, but for this tax year I’m on target to make at least what I did as an education professor.

What are the benefits?

I asked @erlend_sh “Why are you guys being so nice to me?” and he explained that the more people who use Discourse, the more people use Discourse. “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “A rising tide raises all ships.” And then I remembered that I once spent a bunch of time time writing about just that back when I tried to explain why schools should embrace Open Source Software (, I’ve mostly given up on schools and education, but I’m still believe in Open Source Software.


I kinda think that open source breeds this kind of ecosystem by its nature. You learn not to be proprietary about your work. What I love about it is that we never have to say “nope, not gonna happen”. It feels much better to say “we don’t have the time (or inclination) but you’ll no doubt be able to find someone else that can” and better yet to say “hey, I know a guy that can help!”.

Those relationships also support us here – Jay answers way more support questions on this forum than I do but that relationship needs to be symbiotic or he wouldn’t bother. That’s community.


I know! It makes me wonder what you do all day. :slight_smile:


Me and Hawk, all day long :wink::


I thought you guys were smarter than me. Now I know it!

I think it’s more likely that I spend lots of time watching importers run and that I’m bad at managing time.


WordPress, our spirit animal, is the golden standard of open source ecosystems. While Automattic (the company that essentially drives WordPress forward together with The WordPress Foundation) employs people in the several hundreds, WordPress is the source of livelihood for several thousands of WP workers, spread across companies and solo entrepreneurs.

So how do we compare? We’re not at WordPress’ level yet, but we’ve come pretty far!

  • (CDCK Inc.) currently employs 18 people (proper announcement of our many new hires is coming shortly) and we expect our growth rate to keep accelerating. :business_suit_levitating:
  • We’re aware of ~5 people that nearly or completely sustain themselves with Discourse-related work.

Hopefully in a few years the ratio between those two numbers will be flipped. The bigger CDCK gets, the better we can afford to invest in ecosystem improvements that don’t make a lot of economic sense in the short term but will improve Discourse’s sustainability & service offering in the long term.


What are we doing to nurture this ecosystem?

We pass on any kind of work that doesn’t fit well with how our company operates

The Discourse Encouragement Fund

We also have some developers from the community effectively “on retainer”, doing medium-sized development gigs on a regular basis.

We hire from within

This is a bit of a double-edged sword (but a pretty awesome one either way). There’s a very simple incentive in “do great work within the ecosystem, and Discourse might hire you”. Yet every time we do that we remove another person from that outer circle that ought to be the biggest one! Again, this will be less of an issue as we get bigger.

What more can be done?

The list is in constant flux, and ranges from “any day now” to “maybe, if we get to >500 employees”.