Open Source Whining

Was working on a blog post talking about a problem I’ve found in Git (1.7.0.2) and I thought I would check to see if it’s been fixed in the most recent version.  After downloading and installing I reviewed the release notes where I’m quite shocked to read 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.”

Basically, what I get from this is that the msysgit committers are a bunch of whiners. What they fail to see is that the people who would benefit from their VCS may not have the same skillset to work on the code.  This is something we’ve realized long ago with Rhino Mocks

Should more people help? Possibly. As someone active in open source technology I don’t know that I can be of much assistance to the Git team – I am someone who benefits greatly from their software (I am quite thankful for it) but don’t have the requisite knowledge in C/C++ to assist in any meaningful fashion.

Just a bit disappointed to see this type of whining in their release notes – certainly there are far better ways to say what they’re trying to say.  Doesn’t represent msysgit or the broader open source community well.


Posted 07-28-2010 9:04 AM by Tim Barcz

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Comments

James Eggers wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-28-2010 3:33 PM

We all hit resource issues on any project be it OSS or private/corp development.  The nice thing about OSS is that it's easier to fix.  In this case where the software is in C++ and you don't have the time, skills, desire, small poodles, whatever to fix it yourself, I see it as an opportunity to try and find someone who does and try to encourage them to contribute.  Even if the person you find isn't any more skilled than you, it could provide them with experience on such a project and allow them to have a person for quick feedback without fear of rejection.  Such could become a 3 way win scenario.

Just my 2 cents.

Ed Blackburn wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 6:28 AM

Could you help out with: wiki.github.com/.../git-sharp ?

Perhaps closer to your skill set?

Neil Murphy wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 9:42 AM

If they don't like it they should stop writing open source code.

Jay wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 9:58 AM

Thats the reasons why I'm refusing to use OSS. If I have a problem I'm told to fix it by myself. Great. I'm not using software to debug and fix it, I'm using it for the benefit. If I encounter a problem with a commercial piece of software I call the support and will get a fix within days.

OSS devs think: a) We do it for free, hence it does need to be good b) Users are stupid, our software is designed for geeks c) Being harshly is the best way to convince a user better not to use OSS.

Jonathan Dickinson wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 9:59 AM

Wow! I am surprised you haven't been flamed to a crisp. This is the attitude taken on many open source projects. I think the reasoning is simple.

They have become lazy because the 'hive mind' (hackers) always fix the bugs: so on the smaller projects they don't have the required perspective of responsibility.

Being in the opposite situation (closed source) puts responsibility to fix problems - because if you don't *nobody* else can. Hackers need to seriously embrace this mindset: hell even getting big headed about how you are the only one who can fix something is A-OK.

I have personally gotten the "fix it yourself or GTFO" attitude many times (IRC furniture types are particularly bad). This turned me back to Microsoft and their system which is: denial then responsibility.

Keep up the great work with Rhino Mocks - I am loving it!

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 10:18 AM

@Ed,

Interesting project...I'm curious though what a .NET version of git gets me?

From the skills side, certainly you'd still have to have the skill to read/understand the git source and ideas and be able to translate to C#.

From previous talks by Linus several parts of the code are very obtuse - to get every inch of performance out of the system.

At the end of the day what does a managed version of Git get me?

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 10:22 AM

@Jay,

I don't know if it's a reason to stop open source.  I know of several projects where the project owners are extremely (!!) helpful with their projects and respond very quickly.

Your thoughts about support are noted, however I've written in the past about how good open source can be.  Often times support from OSS can be more responsive and personable than big corporations.

I'd like to think that the note written in the ReleaseNotes of Git is NOT the stance of the whole msysgit team or the Git team - just an isolated incident.

Iain Barnett wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 10:30 AM

If more OSS devs put more time into documentation and comments then it would be a lot easier to get people on board to help. Many times I've thought I'd like to contribute but look at the code and think "Where the f*** do I start???"

Steve Jones wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 10:43 AM

@Jay and @Tim;

There's a reason companies like Red Hat exist - FOSS support is hit-or-miss.  Some users of FOSS can't afford a miss.

John Fiala wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:06 AM

So... they have a limited number of people/resources working on a highly desired project, and - I assume - they're doing it in their spare/free time.  And they're tired.

So it's better to ridicule them than to step up and offer to help out with their workload for something they're giving away for free?

I dunno.  Doesn't make sense to me.  I guess it's easier to whine that the free pie doesn't come with whipped cream.

Reasonman wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:15 AM

Sounds to me like maybe they are a bit tired of working for free.

Oisín wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:15 AM

@Tim

"At the end of the day what does a managed version of Git get me?"

A version of Git that you can expand and bugfix yourself, rather than waiting for the apparently non-existent Windows C++ Git devs to do it?

@Jonathan

"I have personally gotten the "fix it yourself or GTFO" attitude many times"

Yes me too and it's not very pleasant, but it seems more of an individual personality issue rather than something endemic in open-source.

But even that (the possibility at least to fix something myself, even if the devs won't, which isn't really that common) is better than the complete impossibility in some cases of having bugs fixed in closed-source software.

For example, I've bugrepped a number of crashers (and less serious bugs) in OS X and I don't know how many were ever read, let alone fixed.

Similarly, I use the Opera browser which has had a number of crashers in its OS X build for months. Again, no response to bug reports, no usable debugging data and no chance for me to fix it.

Of course, this is not to say that anyone can just "hop in" to any FOSS project and repair bugs, even regardless of skillset - there are many cases where I downloaded the source distribution of a project to try to fix a bug and gave up because the build process itself was too complicated or had crazy dependencies.

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:17 AM

@John,

As someone invovled in the open source community I am pointing out that their attitude is poor.

Am I ridiculing, absolutely, I think the stance that they are taking is the wrong one to take.  They have a useful product but the .NET, PHP, Ruby developer who picks up their code and reads the ReleaseNotes isn't likely the ones that can help.

Ed wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:18 AM

We are doing a OSS business app and saying that the vendor will make fixes is often something that never happens.  Our product competes with several closed source applications that the user base has been trying to get changes to for over a decade and the vendor only makes them when a contract requires it.  

As mentioned above, the secret to getting people involved is making it so they can without investing weeks of time just to see were to start.  Documentation, tutorials, and such are what is really needed in most OSS projects out there.  I have seen tons of OSS web sites where you have to hunt just to find out what the heck the project does.  

Saying to use MS products is another risky business. I have been developing for 30 years and in that time MS has completely pulled the rug out from under its developers at least 4 times.  So paying thousands of dollars to MS to have them eliminate a complete dev code line, is not my idea of a solid platform.

TheNerd wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:52 AM

Ok here's what you who do not code do not understand:

In Any Given software project, there an an infinite, indefinite amount of bugs and feature requests.

If its OSS, then its done by one, maybe up to 5 people, who are doing this in their free time - means outside of work, school, and family. That gives them maybe 4-10 hours a week to devote to it each. Thats 20-40 hours a week. On a Commercial app, if you had 5 dedicated developers, thats 200 hours a week.

The fact that A: This person wrote something useful, and is providing not only IT for free, but the entire architecture to reproduce it for free is a huge act of kindness. For users to then come and whine and bitch that the project developers aren't on top of software thereafter is dumb. You have two options: 1. Write something better yourself or 2. go and BUY something where you will get your dedicated team of 200 hours of a week. If you don't have the cash to spend, then you are stuck with guys who don't have all the time in the world.

Software is like everything else, you get what you pay for. With OSS you also get a chance to get an education - maybe you should try to figure out why it's working for most everyone else, but not for you, and learn something about your machine/operating system/C++/coding in the process - or do you not have time?

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 12:00 PM

@TheNerd,

"Ok here's what you who do not code do not understand:" - I do code. As do most of the people who read this blog.  We're well aware of what bugs and development lifecycle.

What you fail to realize is that a product/project can be useful outside the tools in which it was built.  Imagine if Excel were open source, how many people who use the product would know how to build the engine that runs it.

Tim Barcz wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 12:52 PM

Oisín,

will the .NET version of Git follow the same git/msysgit roadmap or will it define it's own?

TheNerd wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 2:00 PM

My Comment was directed at those who read the blog that do not code.

In any case, as a person who produces a lot of open source code, my moto is always this - I do this in my spare time -  if you've given me nothing for my efforts but grief - go use something else.

What people who do not write in the OSS world fail to realize is that we do this without asking for anything in return - to be constantly bombarded with complaints by the user community who gladly eat up the free software, free support and free education - smacks LOUDLY of lack of respect and lack of gratitude for what we do. I can count on one hand the number of thanks my team receives, versus the hundreds of "Why hasn't my bug been fixed yet?!?!"

Over time, such an imbalance in the scale wears on a team. The question then becomes, why are we doing this? No one appreciates it- Should we go commercial, and force them to appreciate us? Should we just close the project and say screw it, this abuse isn't worth it? Ultimately, because of the reasons we started it in the first place, you want to stay on the shelf, true to OSS, and still alive - but screw those who haven't appreciated your team or your product for the past ten years. And thus, a "If you have a problem, you're on your own. Figure it out, Kid." attitude is born.

It takes two to tango - wrongs come from both sides of this particular pool. But I think that both sides could probably benefit from a mutual respect - users learning how to appreciate those that work for free, and developers learning how to communicate with their users to deliver higher quality products that don't need as much support.

Philip wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 5:20 PM

"They have a useful product but the .NET, PHP, Ruby developer who picks up their code and reads the ReleaseNotes isn't likely the ones that can help."

Someone who only knows .NET, PHP, and Ruby can hardly be called a 'developer'.

SomeGuy wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 10:04 PM

"I have personally gotten the "fix it yourself or GTFO" attitude many times"

I wonder, since the alternative to OSS is proprietary, generally *commercial*, software...

Those with this sort of attitude would *not* be involved in any kind of customer-facing role in the proprietary world (i.e. support or customer service).  But in OSS it's just whoever happens to get involved...is that a reason why it seems so prevalent?  (Another would be the example set by *some* of the 'leading lights' of OSS...)

Chris wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 07-29-2010 11:10 PM

OSS developers do this for various reasons.  Some because they have egos in need of stroking or they just might be nice people.  Anyway, unless you want to pay for professional support (which is always available) then fix it yourself.  That is the point of open source software.  You have the ability to make changes you need, not development slaves to make your stuff work.

Lee wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 08-02-2010 1:18 PM

"Someone who only knows .NET, PHP, and Ruby can hardly be called a 'developer'."

Wow.  I hope my boss and customers don't find out I'm not really a 'developer'.

Steve wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 08-04-2010 8:21 PM

Is it really whining?

If they don't have the ability to keep up with users requests, they only have a few options. Rather than pretend there's no problem or try to magic new developers into existence, it seems a good idea that they should warn people that the problem exists.

Tone? Well, how many arguments have there been on the internet because someone misinterpreted someone elses tone. Also, I don't care to guess how many demands for fixes etc they've had - do you?

OTOH - whining about people whining? Not exactly claiming the high ground here, are you. But then, at least you're not whining about people whining about people whining, as I seem to be.

Melissa wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 08-05-2010 12:53 PM

This actually raises a relevant question for me.  I'm toying around with the idea of releasing a tool that I'm building.  It's a tiny little Python/Django app that provides integration with Redmine, and could prove useful to others.

That said, I'm probably not going to have a whole lot of time to extend it with new features once basic functionality is established.  Should I still release it?  What if (for some reason), I don't want to support it anymore at all?  

Is it rude to just toss it out there and say "use it if you find it helpful, but leave me alone"?  Even if you say it more politely, that'd still be the gist of it.

david wrote re: Open Source Whining
on 10-11-2010 10:43 AM

johnathon d. , you used the term "hacker" a couple of times in your post.  with regard to open source projects, i am confused by why you used the term "hacker", as i always thought that had a negative connotation (i.e. low skilled, used bad techniques, wrote crap code, etc).  please explain how/why the "hackers" fix bugs/open issues, etc. on projects like Git.  Is this a common occurence?  i am a software engineer, do not work on any open source projects, use svn and never used git; so i have "no dog in this fight" .. kind regards, david

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