A very good friend of mine, and an avid programmer, recently passed away. He left nearly 40 projects on BitBucket. Most of them are public, but a few of them are marked as private. I've decided to take on curation duties for the projects rather than leave his work to disappear.

If you have been in the same situation, what did you do? Did you open-source everything? Continue development? Delete it all? I'm very interested to hear other people's experiences.

There are a few reasons why some of the projects are marked as private (private projects on BitBucket are visible only to invited users and the original creator):

  • One of them is an iOS web app that was free in the app store. I've had to remove the app from the store as I'm shutting down his web sites as a favour to his widow. However, I've already made the app public under the GPL v3 (he was a big GPL supporter).
  • One of them contains proprietary code. It can't be open-sourced.
  • Others are very much work-in-progress. I don't know if he intended to make them into hosted, paid services or if he wanted to give the code away under an open-source licence when they were finished.

Here's a list of the private projects:

  • Some kind of living cell simulator that uses SBML along with Runge-Kutta and Euler algorithms to do... something. There's a fair amount of code here but I don't know what it does or how far along it is. No docs.
  • An accountacy application; it seems to have a solid DB design behind it but there's little code on top of that.
  • A website whose purpose is to suggest good restaurants. Built on yii. Seems to have a lot of code but I'd need to set up a WAMP stack to see how far along it is.
  • A website intended to host memorials to people who suffered from the same problem he was. Built on Joomla. I'm not sure how much of the code is just Joomla and how much is custom; again, I'd need to get Joomla running to find out.

I'd just introduced him to Mercurial and BitBucket. All of the private projects are single commits of codebases he wasn't using version control with/was previously using SVN. I don't have the SVN repositories so I can't see the commit logs.

  • "few of them are marked as private"? Any thought as to why? Any history? Any hints?
    – S.Lott
    Feb 15, 2011 at 10:49
  • Since only the "work-in-progress" seems ambiguous (the other two decisions you've already made), you'll have to further explain what those look like. Do they work? Are they reasonably complete? Could they be valuable? Details matter, since we don't have any information at all.
    – S.Lott
    Feb 15, 2011 at 11:07
  • That is a very loving thing to do.
    – Zachary K
    Feb 15, 2011 at 12:13
  • 4
    As it stands the question is missing a very important datum: what does his will say? The copyright in his work was part of his estate, so it might be with his widow or with some other legatee. He may even have made specific provisions - I have a section in my will which lists source directories on my hard drive; people who are to receive a copy; and licence terms. Feb 15, 2011 at 13:07
  • @Peter: There is no mention of his code in his will. His widow has given me carte blanch to do what I think best with his web hosting/software projects/etc. A long time ago we discussed what would happen to our online identities if anything happened to either of us; we swapped passwords, but we never discussed what we'd do with each other's code. It seemed too morbid, but now it's too late...
    – Ant
    Feb 15, 2011 at 13:17

3 Answers 3


As he is a good friend, I'm guessing you know what his key strengths were and what he believed in. If the majority of his projects were open source, but a few were marked private, was there a reason for this? Perhaps the project wasn't in a condition where he was confident to reveal it publically or maybe it was a project for him and not for anyone else?

Personally, if I were to pass away while working on a project, I would like to have someone/people I trust to keep it alive and to make the call on wether or not to share it publically.

Sorry to hear about your loss and good luck with these projects. I'm sure you'll make the right call.


Don't be hard on yourself. Don't feel that you personally have to complete all the outstanding projects and make them wonderful. You don't. As others have said, keep the public stuff public, make a call on the private stuff (proabably erring towards public exposure otherwise the code will just disappear). By all means, contribute to projects along with the community,but don't feel you have to. If you don't have the time to set up a WAMP stack, set up Joomla etc. then don't - just put the code out there. Someone else will.

For projects that are actively generating income, and are trivial to maintain, maybe you could look into maintaining them as a service to the developer's widow, but this has to be your call.


I'd say keep the private ones private, unless it's obvious he was about to release them.

If you want to continue any of the rest, and have the time, do so.

Otherwise, offer the rest up to the communities he has following each one.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.