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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.

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