I use a lot of open-source software. I’m constantly hopping on and off email lists for open-source software. I talk to a lot of open-source software developers. I’ve been the creator of a couple of (failed) open-source software projects. And recently I attempted to organise a group of people to put together an open-source specification for modelling ambisonic data (it didn’t really work).
Over the years, I’ve noticed a few things.
- Head strong visionary at the helm. I reckon that all successful open-source projects have had a head-strong visionary at the helm. At least until the project is established.
- You can see the lack of that in the FLAC lists, where discussions about a potential ambisonic format fizzle in circular group arguments.
- You can see it in the Shoes list, since _why has dropped off the radar, there is a lack of coherence where the direction of the development might just end up following whoever seems to shout the most (or post the most).
- You can see it with WavPack, where the author David Bryan responds clearly, succintly and with forward-motion in mind when new features are discussed.
- You can see it in the ambisonics Google list that I set up to try and establish an open-source ambisonic format. It didn’t work because I was trying to be too-democratic… there’s simply too many opinions. I should have intercepted and led much more strongly (I kinda did that but very late).
- Ignored bug means death. An un-repaired bug can kill an open-source project. An ignored bug signals abandonment.
- There was a AWS::S3 windows bug that quite a few people were complaining about on the lists. The authors just ignored them (probably because they were developing on OSX and deploying to Unix). It really strongly put me off using not just that project but any other projects by those authors.
- I’ve been astounded at the quickness of support (bug squashing) on some open-source projects. It gives you the confidence to use and depend on those projects more. I’ve always been impressed by the response on the SND list (computer music software). The SuperCollider list is good too.
- Cordiality and respect. Many developers develop a diva syndrome. I guess when you write software from the ground up, you get to know that code better than anyone else. Many developers end up interpreting this as meaning that they are more intelligent than their users (or other developers)… and they develop a ‘diva’ syndrome.
- I’ve seen this recently on the Perian list, where the authors respond with terse unhelpful comments. I unsubscribe immediately. Actually, I’ve seen this on almost all lists (not always from the core developers though).
- When open-source developers show respect for their users, I think it has a big impact. _why was always very good like this on the Shoe list, which is why I think he could have a huge impact on software (if he could just focus (perhaps?)).
One of the attitudes that irritates me the most is the “this is open-source software so if you have a problem with it then fix it yourself” attitude.
There’s nothing more annoying than when you land on a webpage and the authors are saying “use our software! its great, it does this this and this, and its free!”. Then you encounter an issue, you post on their list and they respond with that “sorry, its your problem” angle. Its schizophrenic, and immature. If you are putting a product out there, take responsibility for it.