Is there actually an open source community? I participate quite a bit in open source, and I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced a broader community outside more closely knit ones (like the ones that form around a specific project or group of projects, or a web site). Then again, I wasn’t involved in open source in the 80s (or even the 90s, I didn’t start until the early 00s), so maybe my experience is just different.
The community today isn’t about sharing or discovery; it’s about people being cheap and demanding things from you.
Isn’t this how you experience it? Maybe there are a lot of others that experience it the same way, but I certainly don’t. That’s not to say I never run into users who are demanding or maybe have their expectations set a little too high, but in my experience it’s the minority of them. Most of them seem to be genuinely appreciative and understanding of the time commitment involved.
I’d like to agree with you, but just watch how people react when you inform them you’ll need to be compensated for the time you put in. Keep in mind many users will literally run part of their business off the code you write, yet, be unable to pay you back in any way.
That is the rotten core of open source: that so much profit is generated off the backs of people who don’t see it, because cat pictures and chat apps are what the market responds to.
I am compensated for the time I put in. That’s why I do it in the first place. Compensation doesn’t have to be money. You might consider this a privileged view, because I have the luxury of working on open source while earning an income elsewhere. But this is my free time and this is how I like to spend it. Moreover, just because money doesn’t change hands between users and developers doesn’t mean it isn’t involved at all. For example, my open source projects were integral to landing my current job, which does provide money. Maybe I never would have gotten my current job—which I love—if I never had users in the first place.
In other words, I think you paint this picture as black & white. While I think you point out a real problem that a lot of people have with OSS, I think you miss a vast field of grey that is just as important to acknowledge. (But this means not using phrases like “the rotten core of open source.” Who says what the core even is in the first place?)
For example, my open source projects were integral to landing my current job, which does provide money.
I think this is a much greater factor, especially for self-taught developers, than many realize.
Everything I hack on is borne out of intrinsic interest. It’s usually liberally licensed, too. I’ve benefitted from this work professionally.
I get really incensed by the extent that people freeload, often off-loading huge parts of their app to open source and never feeling any guilt about not contributing back, be it in patches or money. That’s why I consider it rotten: it seems weird for people to feel bad about not contributing. In other words, it’s a culture of consumption. (I don’t consider Internet Points sufficient payment for managing bug queues/PRs well.)
I want to see more of a spectrum between “free stuff” and “totally locked down closed source.” If startups are as successful as they claim to be, surely they can spare some pocket change for the very infrastructure they run off of?
I guess I just don’t have that same emotional reaction as you. I’ve done this long enough to see ungrateful people, and yes, they suck, and yes, sometimes they even ruin my day. But I don’t think I’ve ever taken that experience and thought, “well, that’s it, open source is rotten.” I could go into more depth on why I feel this way, but I fear it will take us into territory that I don’t really want to enter today.
Im with you. Open source mostly led to lots of freeloading by personal and corporate users. Paid software mostly led to the kinds of practices that probably inspired licenses like GPL. This is why I’m advocating more research into and adoption of paid models for open source. Also, I encourage people to ignore feature requests from people that dont contribute back to project unless feature is critical to its success.
He’s not advocating that everybody withdraw from open source. But the people that happened to gather around the open source he uses are unpleasant, so he’s withdrawing and explaining why.
It wasn’t at all clear (to me) that the OP was talking about a community any more specific than all of open source. Hence my question: Is there actually an open source community?
I think this is a flavor of no true Scotsman. You’re not wrong, but I think drawing a neat box around the “community” somewhat misses the point.
How am I supposed to interpret this article? If I can’t conceptualize the thing the OP calls “community,” then what am I supposed to take away from it?
If it’s “I’m fed up and I’m quitting,” then fine, I don’t really have much to stay in response to that because it’s an entirely reasonable thing to do. It feels like the OP is saying a lot more than that, to be honest. (I even perceive a call to action towards the end.) From where I’m standing, the OP has made a ton of generalizations. I’m simply here saying, “Well, those generalizations don’t hold up in my experience.”
Frankly, I’m just really tired of language that portrays itself as if it were a Known Fact, when in reality, it’s an opinion or an experience through someone’s eyes (or even an experience shared by many). I pointed out an example in my initial comment. I don’t say this because I think opinions or experiences are worthless—in fact, they are typically more important than the facts themselves—but because it’s important to distinguish between them.
In other words: no thanks, I won’t tacitly accept that open source is “rotten” at its core as if this were some Universal Truth that everyone knows. Open source isn’t rotten for me, and it isn’t rotten for a lot of other people I know. It’s OK to experience it as rotten (it’s more that OK, I accept that others experience it that way), but it’s not OK to just assume that everyone else thinks that way too. That’s how the OP came off to me, anyway.
“I’m fed up and I’m quitting.”
It might be more appropriate to put it less as a “community” and more as a broad, widespread “culture”; although it’d be sensible imo to consider certain communities such as the one on the lkml part of a certain nexus of that culture, and a part of a community at large.
On the one hand, the author is concerned about the prevalence of “curmudgeons” and toxic elitism. On the other hand, he is 1- complaining about the problem without offering solutions (his definition of “curmudgeon”), and 2- disdaining even the idea of non-developer contributors to a FLOSS project (elitism by any definition). I feel like the author has put his finger on a real problem, but misidentified it.
In what he’s describing, I see something else: the importance of community standards and structural non-developer contributors. If your project’s attitude is “everything is free, take what you need, and if you want to contribute back, the first trial is figuring out how to”, well, yeah, that’s going to foment both entitlement and lack of contribution.
On the flip side, if you put together a code of conduct (or, better, pick an existing one, like we do with licenses), and spend the time to make it easy for someone new to contribute (host on github, curate a list of approachable TODO tickets, require justification to deny a pull request rather than the other way around, …), then you’ll end up with a more active, engaged community with a stronger sense of project ownership and participation. Of course, that work isn’t code contributions, so you need to be open and inviting to people who might want to contribute in those other ways. If you manage expectations well, by setting a predictable release schedule, and announcing beforehand what’s being worked on, or if you provide a way to have an open discussion about the future of the project, where everyone gets their chance to talk, then you’ll get fewer complaints and demands for free work from disengaged users.
None of this is rocket science, but it’s not coding, so it often gets ignored. If you want a healthy community, it takes work.