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Dear Open Source Project User: Quit Being A Jerk

Posted on January 25 , 2013

A few weeks ago, this article was circulating around in HackerNews and other social media: Dear Open Source Project Leader: Quit Being A Jerk

I 100% agree  with the author’s points.  Sometimes, open source project leaders can be seriously rude and elitist.  Ironically, the same projects beg for contributors “no matter the skill level or type of assistance”.  These two realities cannot happen simultaneously.

However, in my experience, the flip-side is frequently true as well: a subset of users will simply be…jerks.  So, here’s my quick plea:

Please remember that the project is open source and community driven.  Instead of saying “WHY HASN’T THIS BEEN FIXED YET?!”, actively dig in and fix it — especially for something simple.  Project committers are not the sole developers or owners; rather, we’re facilitators.  Shed the customer and consumer mentality and refocus on being a contributor.  Realize that your priorities and criticalities are not the same as others’.  And above all, lighten up; keep the communities friendly, polite, and fun.

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2 responses to “Dear Open Source Project User: Quit Being A Jerk”

  1. Politeness costs almost nothing, and makes (almost) everyone happier – and more likely to care about your problem. It’s always worth trying!

    This is an issue for most human interactions. However, a key point is that coherent communities can act together to promote polite behavior – or, can not bother. While it takes a little patience, having a welcoming community is a key feature for attracting new contributors.

    The other key point is very much a cliche, but very much true: open source is about scratching your own itch. (A bad metaphor, but an old one) So to users: instead of complaining about something, try to actually *help* fix whatever your problem is. Even if you’re not a coder, supplying the extra level of detail to your bug report, or supplying a real-world example of why it’s important to fix (and not just because you want it) goes a long way to getting developer’s attention.

    Thanks for the perspective!

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