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    This is a tough situation but I think the author handled it thoughtfully. Figuring out what to do when an author of a key OSS component is having mental health issues is rough enough, but then when sizable dollar counts get involved it gets even stickier.

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      Mental health issues are a justification, not an excuse. I have high-functioning autism, depression, anxiety, and some messed up PTSD trust issues. It might be understandable if I cause problems, but nonetheless I’ve still caused problems.

      If I am collaborating with people on a project, I’ll say “these are the issues I have, these are the problems it might cause, these are the signs they’re affecting my judgement, these are the best mitigations.” It is something I’m supposed to actively manage, to make them known, handleable risks. Just saying “oh he has bipolar, he’ll do bad things” is disrespectful to the person, their collaborators, and the project..

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        Just saying “oh he has bipolar, he’ll do bad things” is disrespectful to the person, their collaborators, and the project..

        …and to other people having mental issues.

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          Further than that, I even doubt bipolar explains such manipulative behaviour. I am not a psychiatrist, but I would guess the two are mostly unrelated.

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            I wouldn’t go that far. Co-morbidities exist and an untreated mental issue often doesn’t come alone. Which follows which and what is entangled is often hard for non-professionals.

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            Note: the article explicitly agrees with this.

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            Wow, what a response this has gotten! From my perspective, much of this discussion boils down to: If you’re going to try and fund an open source project, be extremely clear about where the money is going, and ideally have some kind of external audited entity handle the distribution, because otherwise, as this situation shows, things can get MESSY.

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              Yeah, or something like substance abuse. I did a ton of damage… didn’t even want to do it, but I still made amends and continue to do so. Requires honesty. With this situation, and like others, I’ve been watching this guy strut and pander and I wondered how it would shake out because the mask would slip and there’d be drama and stuff. I hope he can get honest about his motivations and the harms that resulted. People respond to humility. And people can tell when it’s authentic.

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                With this situation, and like others, I’ve been watching this guy strut and pander and I wondered how it would shake out because the mask would slip and there’d be drama and stuff. I hope he can get honest about his motivations and the harms that resulted. People respond to humility. And people can tell when it’s authentic.

                What’s so interesting is that self promotion is both encouraged and rewarded in industry and to perhaps a lesser extent the open source world.

                Where does letting people know about the goodies you’re gifting to the world end and strutting and pandering begin?

                I ask not to attack you or your statements (Which seem very heartfelt and tbh courageous - I don’t know that I could admit such things in a semi-pro forum like this.) but to try to calibrate my understanding of what makes sense and clarify what we as a community have defined as our norms on the topic.

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                  What is better: to have done the work and got zero credit for it, or to get credit for something done by someone else?

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                This response isn’t a denial. I think folks should notice that. He goes out of his way to diminish the author without actually denying it. He’s mad about the post, not that he’s falsely accused, because the post is true.

                This response is also filled with red flags:

                Saying Tom didn’t want money and then saying all future donations will be split with Tom is a weird contradiction. The quote “work on the advancement of requests” seems like a way to differentiate between maintenance (which he wasn’t really doing while others were) and “advancement” (which is whatever he’s doing). Including the news that the library will changing its backend sounds like one of those sudden, made-up decisions people do try and make their accuser seem unqualified. How interesting the timing on that! Talking about the small set of “real collaborators” excludes someone who he explicitly says he was collaborating with is gaslight-y. And the “just don’t fucking work with me” has such a long history of being said by people who really did awful things and don’t want to admit that.

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                  Saying Tom didn’t want money and then saying all future donations will be split with Tom is a weird contradiction

                  But Tom is not njs.

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                    Including the news that the library will changing its backend sounds like one of those sudden, made-up decisions people do try and make their accuser seem unqualified.

                    You make some good points. In terms of timing, feel like this was mentioned ahead of PyCon on an episode of Talk Python, but I was only half-listening to that the first time.

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                    All that being said, I’m not sure why this person feels the need to attack my character, including curating a list of quotes (what?) from “collaborators”.

                    I’d just like to point out that Kenneth has lists of quotes…about himself…on his website.

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                      Kenneth has lists of quotes…about himself…on his website.

                      While I’m in no way defending Kenneth or his actions, mocking someone for stating their opinions (in quote or any form) on their own website is not in the spirit of engineering or science. If you feel the need to be petty, please find another place to dunk on people.

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                        I was highlighting the irony of the journal entry expressing incredulity about nj’s inclusion of a list of quotes from collaborators, as KR knows all about including quotes from “collaborators” (or sycophants, everyone can make up their own mind).

                        As far as “scoring on people”, I’d suggest that you are the one who is attempting to do so, with your virtue signalling and calling me petty.

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                      It always amazes me (and scares me) how different people percieve reality (if that is even an achievable thing) and how the same situation can be read completely differently by two different brains. It is super scary to me. In this case I believe neither of them had anything malicious going on, and still, both of them have a completely different grasp of the situation.

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                          This is why I think the original article was bad form. I know neither of the people involved. I’ve never even heard of them. I wouldn’t know who to believe even if I knew them.

                          Tag this one as “call out culture.” If there’s something to be done, it should probably be done within that community and with discretion, precisely because there are two sides to every story and people are biased toward the first/best expositor regardless of whatever actually happened.

                          I think it would be great if the mods banned personal call out articles on this basis. And, again, I know neither of these people. I’m not in the Python community.

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                            it should probably be done within that community and with discretion, precisely because there are two sides to every story and people are biased toward the first, best expositor.

                            I don’t disagree in general, but how do you do that in the context of an open source community? There is no real central authority, and people can essentially just do what they want.

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                              I actually can contextualize Nathaniel’s post with my own interactions with reitz (which were a lot less involved) but they verify my impression.

                              So I an glad Nathaniel posted this. It helps me stay clear of unproductive conflicts for the future.

                              A few helpful and engaged members of the python community have signaled that it matches some of their observations.

                              If you keep such things private and secretive is hard to go through with community actions (like removing someone from boards, etc). If you make it public discourse people complain about character assassination or whatever. At the end of the day I believe in a victims right to discuss their case publicly of they want to.

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                            I do think that’s true, but I think that one of the author’s central points, and part of the reason I posted this, is that it’s important to be aware that when money is involved there is a whole different level of accountability that comes into play.

                            This is why the legal system exists. This is why scrupulously detailed contracts arbitrated by lawyers exist.

                            Moreover, this is why foundations like the PSF exist - they handle the ‘dirty’ work of distributing money in a way that’s free of legal entanglement and less likely to engender this kind of mis-understanding.

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                          This is a great demonstration of describing your experience of what you consider a bad situation without falling into the trap of the fundamental attribution error. It sticks to discussing observed behavior and steers clear of hypothesizing about motivations, character traits, etc.

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                            It goes without saying that the vast majority of people involved in creating open source software are moral, fair, and hard working people. Unfortunately there does exist a minority of “celebrity-status” malicious actors, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of directly interacting with a few of them.

                            It’s hard for good people to write exposes like this because they don’t want to be associated with petty drama or the optics of being someone that attacks others online. At the same time articles like this can be important as a warning to others, and to root out bad behavior in our communities.

                            Obviously we should hear the other side of the story, no one should be condemned without being a given a chance to defend themselves. Would like to see others who have also been maligned to share their stories.

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                              There also exists a sort of person who seeks that “celebrity-status”, and I suspect most celebrities – even in “open source” are that sort of person. I’ve worked in media for a while (usually in a technical capacity, but at a high enough level that I’ve gotten to go to some parties), and bigger celebrities I’ve met seem to have some wiring that allows them to quickly evaluate their interactions and determine if this new person they meet produces potable praise or access to new channels, and shut down – what they perceive as – the wastes of time. I predict any response will be to malign njs as just that – a waste of time.

                              However I think the real problem is the rest of us: Looking for heroes and champions to celebrate their life- to follow their amazing stories, rather than having our own. Why do we even care?

                              When we sit around the campfire and share with our closest friends our craziest and funniest stories, what are we enjoying first, a friend who would help us move? give us the best advice when we need it most? or a fun laugh with a cool bro?

                              I think a lot of people get the latter, and maybe for luck or for a devolved and increasingly critical community, we have far few of the former. To some, maybe it sounds like that voice in their head asking, how can we have only one or two friends, when others have dozens? Yet surely, we’d rather one close friend to help in a time of need, rather than a dozen people to laugh at us when we’re in trouble?

                              Understanding ourselves the kind of human interaction we ourselves crave may make us more immune to the wiles and guiles of those who crave something else… something wrong.

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                                There also exists a sort of person who seeks that “celebrity-status”

                                Overt status-seeking behavior is a red flag in my book (maybe me projecting?), for whatever that is worth. Like you said, it leads to people being heavily transactional because they’re so intent on continuing to win. Life is not about winning. (This is not a statement on Kenneth).

                                However I think the real problem is the rest of us: Looking for heroes and champions to celebrate their life- to follow their amazing stories, rather than having our own. Why do we even care?

                                Precisely. Celebrity culture is stupid, and tech’s doubly so.

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                                  So what can we do?

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                                    I was wondering the same thing. In one sense, celebrity culture in technology is stupid, in another, it’s not at all.

                                    Take for instance the fact that Guido Van Rossum is a celebrity in the Python community. He invented the language, and constantly puts effort into both its substance and its community. What precisely is bad about his celebrity status?

                                    Are we maybe trying to come down on people who become celebrities through ceaseless self promotion as opposed to those who get there because of the sheer volume of adoration they receive from their community?

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                                      I think it’s the difference between stewardship and self-promotion. There’s nothing wrong with respecting the hard work of open source contributors and appreciating the time and effort that goes in.

                                      However, I think that is wholly different from becoming a brand. Perhaps it is the leftover hangups of the old guard hacker culture that distrusts brands, or social media’s pervasive live and die by the sword mentality, but once you cross over into the territory of brand then it seems like people think anything is fair game, unfortunately.

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                                        Agreed!

                                        Maybe all we need is “good” celebrities to call out the bad ones…

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                                          I think celebrity culture is dangerous because it ends up being this pseudo-meritocracy of people who are most visible are disproportionately rewarded while others who may be contributing in significant ways get ignored because they didn’t happen to get lucky on HN. It’s a sort of centralization of influence. Like many forms of centralization, it ends up being a collusion of power that everyone tries to get in on, rather than fix.

                                          The only real idea I have towards solving it is a community that actively prizes decentralizing influence. I perceive this as a hard sell to the many devs who won’t touch a GitHub repo unless it gets its first 100 stars, because there is significant value in outsourcing trust and influence: namely, the individual is absolved of having to do it. But what ends up happening is the people who are actively driven to seek such things are able to lap it up while most other people are busy just doing things.

                                          This is related to the rising corporate influence on OSS as well.

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                                            The only real idea I have towards solving it is a community that actively prizes decentralizing influence.

                                            How do we do this?

                                            A fully anonymous codebase seems impractical – most people can’t read code (even those people who call themselves “programmer”), so is there anything else we can do?

                                            This is related to the rising corporate influence on OSS as well.

                                            It happens everywhere: When we measure “only results” we’re just creating another KPI to be gamed, and people will game it.

                                            How do we create a game without points?

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                                              Become people who want to contribute without winning :)

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                                            They wouldn’t. Why should they bother engaging in such petty drama when they can write more awesome code? :)

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                                    Yeah. It’s not clear to me that in this case Kenneth was actually malicious as opposed to scatter brained and disconnected from the effect his actions were having on others.

                                    On the other hand, reading what others have written about how his mental health issues mightn’t be enough of a reason to explain away such behavior, maybe it’s a foregone conclusion.

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                                      Sorry, my comment about “malicious actors” wasn’t intended to confirm what the article implies about Reitz. It was more a meta-comment about the unfortunate and perhaps counter-intuitive reality that malicious actors do indeed exist in the philanthropic world of open source, and also, in my experience, tend to be disproportionately represented by the public celebrity types.

                                      I agree that it’s not clear that Reitz’s behavior as described in the post was based in malicious intent. The claims laid out against him also don’t necessarily seem to be ethically questionable either.

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                                    I was skeptical that the $5k computer had anything to do with Requests. Requests is a small pure-Python library; if you want to work on it, then any cheap laptop is more than sufficient.

                                    This line-item justification that people expect for OSS donations is bizarre.

                                    More generally, the post is talking about $30k, which after taxes is about $20k. I.e., the equivalent of a few weeks of FAANG dev salary.

                                    While the world goes round, OSS participants tear each other apart over a few scraps, and commonly insist that “real OSS devs work for nothing but the glory”. Sounds like Baptist religion.

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                                      Scraps? That’s a decent year salary for a Bulgarian programmer. Please take your Bay Area blinders off. There are more coders, including plenty of equivalent quality, outside of the US.

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                                        We’re talking about $30k raised one time for a project with many contributors and millions of users.

                                        In any case your righteous reaction is typical of OSS drive-by analysis, extrapolating one-time fundraising outliers to salary. Ask yourself whether it makes sense that the salary of one Bulgarian programmer is newsworthy as a fundraising target for a top-1% OSS project. Just think about that.

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                                          It would be nice if the world were such that we wouldn’t have to care about how 30K is spent on an OSS project. Unfortunately 30K is all we’ve got, so we do care.

                                          There are places in the world where people kill each other for food: do you also tell them there is plenty of food in the world and they really shouldn’t need to be killing each other over it?

                                          I don’t see how your comment is helping. Drive-by analysis indeed.

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                                          I think they meant that 30k is scraps to the companies that donated, not necessarily for them or the individual that received it.

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                                            Fork the library and make it better, it’s not rocket surgery. If you can make it better you can then get that sweet sweet bay area compensation in a country where the cost of living is 90% lower.

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                                            More generally, the post is talking about $30k, which after taxes is about $20k. I.e., the equivalent of a few weeks of FAANG dev salary.

                                            This is insanity. If you see someone making in a month more than you do in a year don’t bring them down, find out how to bring yourself up.

                                            The open source community has turned into the crab bucket community. Reading the thread here, hacker news and reddit it seems that without noticing the majority of people left are poor, bitter and mentally ill. If this continues we will end up with open source software imploding, like the Firefox fuckup yesterday, because anyone with any skill ends up in corporate closed source or if were extremely lucky in a walled garden which we can see the source code of - like sqlite.

                                            I have stopped my contributions to anything remotely public under my name because I’ve been, doxxed, stalked and had ddos attacks against my sites from people who demanded line item accounting on where I was spending the money I was charging for open services based on top of other open source/hardware projects.

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                                              I think the implication was that he was taking 1/4 of the funds and splurging with them, where otherwise they could’ve gone to contributors who were doing more of the actual work and who needed them more in the first place.

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                                                A lot of it has to do with what kind of expectations were set. If you’re saying “yo, I need a new computer, I spent a lot of spare time on this Requests thing, and it would be great if you could show your gratitude for my work by contributing then that would be awesome” then that’s completely fair and reasonable.

                                                If, on the other hand, you say “I need money to develop this” and then buy a $5k computer with it, then that’s … a bit stranger.

                                                I’ve donated some large amounts of money (>€100) to some projects to make specific certain things happen, but I would never donate that kind of money so someone can buy a new computer. I might donate €5 or €10, but not €150.

                                                As far as I can find, this is the only info about the fundraiser, and it certainly seems to suggest that contributions will be directly used for Requests development, by paying someone (“we lost our sponsored maintainer, we are seeking community financial contributions towards the development of Requests 3.0”). I certainly don’t see a $5k computer mentioned anywhere.

                                                I don’t think it has to do with “tearing each other apart from scraps”, but with “spending money in a different way than you suggested you would”.

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                                                  I don’t think it has to do with “tearing each other apart from scraps”, but with “spending money in a different way than you suggested you would”.

                                                  I’m pointing out a macro effect. When resources are scarce, conflict happens. I’m suggesting that OSS as a culture embrace and normalize money instead of the abstinence culture proselytized by the loudmouths. That’s step 1.

                                                  It is much too rare for projects to raise money. It should be 1000x more common. This particular case of squabbling over scraps is ghetto violence, something on page 8 that the locals care about while the structural mistakes go ignored.

                                                  Even in this thread there is someone blathering on about the evils of money. (Not to mention starting other rumors. Wow. Again: tearing each other apart for scraps.)

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                                                    As a general point I don’t disagree. But in this specific case there are a lot of signals that this person spent the money in a different way than he indicated he would. And that is, regardless of the merits of the general point, pretty darn sketchy.

                                                    I don’t think it’s a “local” issue, as it involves a fairly high profile project with a fairly high profile developer. If I steal $5 then that won’t even make the papers but if an MP does it it’ll make the front page.

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                                                  But if you start relying on money, you defy the original purpose of the open-source, that is to be free from profit logic. Yeah, in 2019 it sounds ridicolous because corporate interests invaded and destroyed most of the OSS communities, but many still stick to the same values. Clearly this favours the corporate interests because they get free work from volunteers, but the alternatives are to either abandon OSS as a form of political struggle and contribution to the commons or embrace the dominance of corporations over the OSS. Both of them are unreasonable to many. Maybe one day they will figure out.

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                                                    …the original purpose of the open-source, that is to be free from profit logic…

                                                    I don’t think open-source was ever meant to be anti-profit.

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                                                      Stallman even encouraged selling free software.

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                                                        being free from profit logic doesn’t mean to be anti-profit. If profit is just a mean to keep doing what you’re doing you can be free from profit logic. If you do what you do to maximize your profit, you’re profit driven and profit will be the measure of your success. There’s a huge difference.

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                                                          There’s no inherent conflict between being profit-driven and embracing the Free Software or Open Source philosophies. People thought there was back when software was being sold shrink-wrapped in stores on CDs, but everyone has long since realized that that’s not how software should be sold–the real profits are in support fees.

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                                                            There’s no more conflict, you’re right. That’s why more and more people are driven away from Open Source as a tool to do good. Now it’s just a tool to make money.

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                                                              How do you arrive at the conclusion that people are more motivated by money than ‘good’ in Open Source?

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                                                                I’m not saying that. I believe the vast majority of people in open source are still driven by the will to do good. Nonetheless the relationship between positive impact on society and free work for companies is getting more and more imbalanced, leading more and more people to criticize open source as something intrinsically positive and distance themselves from projects that have been colonized by corporations. That said, the form of Free Software is still a reasonable medium to promote an initiative that aims at the common good, but in 2019 the myth that this is sufficient to have a positive impact is becoming weaker and weaker.

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                                                                Would you rather it be unprofitable? You have to accept that software is not just a hobby, but also an industry. It’s going to be used as “a tool to make money” no matter what; all we can do is choose whether to view that fact as an obstacle or an asset.

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                                                              I agree that having something other than profit in mind is nice. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about money, and so you’ll come across times when you have to choose to compromise one or the other: your morals or your profits. Sometimes profits should come dead-last: there are certainly some projects I’d like to see no work done on at all, such as Google’s various government tie-ins. But for other (less controversial) stuff, such as databases and frameworks, money is what keeps the updates coming. Maybe someday all our software will be developed by altruists. Until then, we’ll just have to settle for the compromises that come with developing software in a primarily capitalist economy.

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                                                            The original goal of open source software was to commercialize free software: https://youtu.be/vjMZssWMweA?t=2748

                                                            There’s the people who invented it saying exactly the same thing.