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Harassment of Open Source Maintainers or Contributors

Mon 24 Apr 2017

On Friday I had the unfortunate pleasure of taking the brunt on an unhappy Selenium user. Their issue? My team said that a release of GeckoDriver would happen when we are confident in the code. They said that was not professional. They started by telling me that they contribute to Mozilla and this is not acceptable for them as a customer.

Below is a break down of why I took exception to this:

  • My team was being extremely professional. Software, by its very nature, has bugs but we try minimize the amount of bugs we ship. To do this we don't set release dates, we set certain objectives. My team is relatively small compared to the user group it needs to service so we need to triage bugs, fix code. We have both groups inside and outside of Mozilla. By saying we can only release when it is ready is going to be the best we can do.
  • Please don't ever tell open source maintainers you are their customer unless you are paying for support and you have a contract with SLAs. So that there is no issue with definition of customer I suggest you look at Merriam Webster's definition. It says "one that purchases a commodity or service". Mozilla, just like Google, Microsoft, and Apple, are working on WebDriver to help web developers. There is no monetary benefit from doing this. The same goes for the Selenium project. The work and products are given freely.
  • And finally, and this goes for any F/OSS project even if it comes from large corporations like Google or Facebook, never make demands. Ask how you can help instead. If you disagree with the direction of the project, fork it. Make your own project. They have given everything away for free. Take it, make it better for whatever better means for you.

Now, even after explaining this, the harassment continued. It has lead to that user being blocked on social media for me and my team as well as them being blocked on Github. I really dislike blocking people because I know when they approach us they are frustrated but taking that frustration out on my team doesn't help anyone. If you continue, after being warned, you will be blocked. This is not a threat, this a promise.

Next time you feel frustrated with open source ask the maintainers if you can donate time/money/resources to make their lives easier. Don't be the moron that people will instantly block.

    Area: blog

Honest and open conversations

Fri 10 Feb 2017

Can you have an open and honest conversation with your peers and, this is the most important one, can you have an open and honest conversation with your manager?

Have a good think about this, don't answer straight away. Let's go through the following scenarios to find out if you can have open and honest conversations.

Can you...

Tell your manager when you are struggling with a task and not feel like you are going to chastised?

For me, as a manager and a technical lead, it is super important to help grow people. We all have times where we don't know something and no amount of searching the internet can fix it. Being able to go to your "lead" and say, "I don't know what to do.." is a good thing for everyone!

Tell your manager when you are being harassed?

This should be a given but if you were to ask a lot of your female colleagues, you will hear a resounding "NO!". This has to do with company culture or "not upsetting the 10x'er". Even though it can cost a lost of money for a company if there is harassment, a lot of people just don't trust their manager to tell them about problems like this.

Tell your manager that they are wrong

Feedback is hard to give and to accept. Especially in some cultures where it is seen as a weird thing. European culture is like that, you give a slight nod and that is it and anything more makes people uncomfortable.

Now imagine getting critical feedback, it can be hard.

Now... imagine telling your manager that you think they are wrong and giving them feedback. This could be at a technical level or it could be at how they are as a manager. Expressing that feedback can be hard. Now... how does your manager take it. Do they get all defensive, do you get defensive.

If you answered No to any of the above, you really need to take the initiative and speak to your manager and tell them that you don't feel there is good opportunity for dialogue and you want to fix this. If they don't want to meet you half way to solve this then you don't need to feel bad that you want a new manager. This could be in a new company or within your company.

Honest and open conversations between your peers and your managers will create an amazing work environment and will allow everyone to succeed. It all starts from trust.

    Area: blog