Open source and open nuisance

coffee_compIt’s more than 15 years I am in touch with open source. I had been working on Linux most of my career and I have seen open source thrive and take the place it has today. Off late, a trend that disturbs me is the growing culture of harsh and derogatory discussions in the name of code reviews and technical standoffs.

Recently I witnessed such an instance in one of the projects I maintain. I had to confront the dev to refrain him. This problem is widespread. It annoys me to see people working with others across the globe (whom they have never met) practice this. Many devs (even studying in the university or just out of it) who haven’t even seen 10% of the troubles in large projects or faced the pressure of a stop-ship issue take to this attitude to criticize others’ code.

Yes, it’s the common excuse: this is about the code, not about the person.

That makes no sense at all! A code is an inanimate object, no matter how much you frown at it, it won’t change itself by any magic. All the bitterness in a open, google-searchable forum is directed at the dev responsible for the code and that’s the intention in the first place – to hit hard and get it done the way you think is elegant. It gets worse with lewd language, and so it works better! And when a third-party reads it, he doesn’t think about the lines of the code, he imagines how the developer to whom it’s directed at would feel. It’s schadenfreude.

I don’t think any developer (including those working for a company) spending his/her time to contribute deserves this. To defend their attitude further, some point out they don’t care about corporate culture. Funny to see that coming from people who haven’t worked full-time in corporate environments for a year! Having worked in several top-notch companies I can vouch this is not corporate culture. There are exceptions here and there (to which employees protest most of the time and nowadays there’s a strong process in place everywhere to handle it) but consider the rate at which you spit filth. So don’t spread FUD or blindly accept FUD spread by your gurus. Just because you shout it out in a open forum doesn’t make it true.

And I don’t believe lower tolerance and patience has become an epidemic. People practicing this enjoy demeaning others.

Because there’s a very easy solution. Instead of making it a habit to be harsh on others in every instance, be funny in the instances where you really want someone to learn a lesson and remember it. Here’s an example of two similar situations I came across and how they were handled:

  1. A dev used a fresh feature from another project which wasn’t the right thing to do. The maintainer responded with long paras of curses and filth after it threw a conflict. It would have taken at least 10 minutes to write. This took place in a open forum.
  2. I’d been working with a busy editor for a while. The mailing list was a restricted forum. One of his writers approached him for his approval on writing about a new feature in a product. Incidentally, the guy wrote about the product a few days earlier. The editor replied: let’s not turn the magazine into an advertising pamphlet for the … product.

I leave it to the readers to compare the qualities of the 2 responses. If nothing else, the second response didn’t risk losing the guy.

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