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Hug an OSS Developer or just don't be a dick

Wed 30 Nov 2011

I am one of the few privileged people in the world to only work on open source software for a living. All the work I get paid for as well as all my private projects is open source. It was one of the main things that drew me to work at Mozilla. Creating software that I can give away and when there are bugs I can fix, or even better receive a patch, and I can learn from my mistakes all in the open. I can show other people my approach to problems and perhaps they can learn from it too! I find this really exciting for me.

OSS is what makes the software world tick. Let's face it, a large number of libraries, frameworks or even our key datastores that we use in our day to day jobs are open source! There is also a chance that you use Linux as your main OS. A lot of these projects are run entirely by volunteers who freely give up there time to make something that they think is useful to the world!

Unfortunately there does appear to be a increasing trend for users of the OSS projects to feel they are allowed to treat developers as if they were paying for the code. Perhaps I am more aware of this trend since I am part of OSS landscape.

I am constantly seeing messages that say "how can I use your product that is full of bugs", "I am embarrassed to see this happening", "Urgently fix my problem...".

To be honest, that is the extent of the bug or query to the mailing list and looking past the trolling comments I couldn't help if I wanted to.

We have seen examples of this quite publicly with posts about Node.Js being cancerous and the article about Mozilla Places database crashing one users Firefox instance. But if you were to go through bug reports of your favourite OSS tool you will see these comments. They are not useful, helpful and can be down right hurtful.

Speaking to Simon Stewart he said sign of a OSS product making it big is the amount of comments that come in that are not useful and/or trolling increases. While I can understand that I don't understand the need to make comments like that.

We can see this a similar idea from Mikeal Rogers in one of his tweets.

Both my Selenium colleagues and my Mozilla team are made up of some of the cleverest and friendliest people who bend over backwards for the community at the drop of a hat.

So next time you make a comment on OSS think about how much you would feel if you gave up your free time to be treated this way by users. Be constructive in your criticism and make sure to make sure to give steps to replicate bugs even down to the smallest detail!

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