Gaim on Slashdot Again

An article about Gaim hit Slashdot again a few days ago.

You can find the article here: A First Look at Gaim 2.0 []

After several attempts with the comment interface (and three mispostings), I finally created this posting: Various Thoughts

The Slashdot article is here: A First Look at Gaim 2.0 []

In general, when Gaim hits Slashdot, lots of users spend lots of time making lots of comments. Many of these comments represent honest questions, many are completely irritating, and a few can be very insightful.

I try to address the legitimate questions as much as I can, because I like being helpful.

However, when it comes to the second category of comments, some things just really drive me insane. Here’s a good example: Re: What happened to Gaim-vv I don’t disagree with them that having videoconferencing support would be nice. However, to suggest that the developers just “hop to it” is incredibly irritating. (I’d love to write voice and video support, but other things are more important to me, and I have limited time.) It’s not just this one individual either… this is a systemic problem with large numbers of open-source users.

As far as insightful comments go, I really liked this one: Agreed, but people need to know that.

I’m biased, but I think my reply to that comment, and especially my conclusion paragraph therein, applies nicely to both of these situations. I’ll reproduce it here:

The whole issue of “do it yourself” is very complicated. In many cases, people ask for huge features (say voice/video support) and expect that it’s incredibly simple to do. Also, users often think they should still be treated like “customers” when they’re not contributing anything to the project. It’s not fair to take something for free and then complain that you want it improved to do what you want, but you don’t want to help in any way.

The amount of work required to fix a bug or add a new feature is highly dependent on the size of the change, probably even more so than the size of the whole codebase. The Gaim software is pretty compartmentalized. When I started out, I fixed a few bugs without knowing much at all about the general architecture. So, it’s not really that hard to fix little things. The problem is, *most* of the little things have been fixed already. Addressing more fundamental issues does take quite a bit of startup time to learn the codebase.

In general, I try to help out anyone who has a legitimate bug report, suggestion, etc. However, the amount of things that the developers can take on is extremely limited. There are a million things on my TODO list, and that’s just the top items I’d like to accomplish. So often times, “do it yourself” is the only response.

There is definitely a big opportunity for non-coders to help, though. Graphic design, web design, bug triaging, documentation, etc. are useful to all open source projects.

People who like open source because the product is free need to remember that the product is free. If they expect anything more than zero support, they’re going to be disappointed. People that view open source as a community are much better off. Not everyone in the community is a coder, but everyone that contributes is important.

— Originally posted to Slashdot as comment #16585466.

I’m not sure what the solution is. Maybe I should just ignore these people. Maybe we, as an open-source community, need to better communicate with our users, encouraging more non-code contributions?