2 August 2010

Why Open Source Software Can Get Itself A Bad Name

There is a LOT of good things about the Open Source Development model. However, the fact that is open can mean that anyone and everyone will be looking at not only the code that a project produces but the related files and issues etc.

I came across a blog in my feeds this morning which relates to what a developer read in release notes from the GIT project. Most people now know GIT is the excellent decentralised Source Control project start by Linus Torvolds. Over the last 5 years it has grown and become an excellent product which is both powerful and to me at least quite simple to use. It has been ported to Windows and I use it on both Windows and Linux without issue. However, the author of the blog, Tim Barcz, did have an issue. He installed a later release to see if the issue was resolved and found in the release notes the following :

…All hopes to the contrary, Git for Windows is backed by only a handful of developers, in spite of being downloaded almost one hundred thousand times. You can expect developers to be enthusiastic to fix others' issues in such a situation only for so long. In short: Do not expect other people to fix your issues for you.

This is not a good enough and is harmful to OSS development. My reaction is that if you code on a project then you should at least be respectful and polite to your users. It may be that there are misunderstandings and it may be that the user is trying to do things with you application that it is not intended to do. However, to promote your project, even one started by Mr Grumpy himself, you take time to discuss issue and problems with your users and you aim to keep them informed of solutions and decisions the project takes.

In short OSS projects should treat their users like paying clients when it comes to communications.

The other main problem with the entry in the release notes is that you should not neglect one platform for another if you or your project decide to support multiple platforms. It may be you favour Linux over Windows but if you have chosen to port to Windows you should support it equally. By making your project available to everyone you may find more people opt for your chosen platform on the basis of your application.

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