Author Topic: A Letter to All Members of this Community  (Read 1970 times)


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A Letter to All Members of this Community
« on: July 18, 2008, 05:42:08 pm »

These are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone. They do not represent the opinions of other members of this project.

I am somewhat dismayed, at the changes happening in free software communities around this planet.

I've been a free software developer and user for many years, I started using free software in 1988, with the first install of GCC 1.4.2 on a second hand VAX to compensate for the fact that I could not at the time afford the DEC compiler tool chain that I needed. As the years have progressed, I have witnessed the birth of what are indeed thriving communities today, and it is amazing where we all have gotten, in a relatively short time span of almost 25 years since RMS's original emacs announcement.

But as these communities have amassed people, the ethos of them has changed. There is no longer a sense of "We built this."

It really hit home for me, when I saw people lynching the KDE people for their work on the Plasma UI, and KDE4, calling for everything short of it being burned because it was not complete, and that people simply did not like it. What makes me sick, is that the most vocal of these people who have been trashing the public reputation of these developers are people who didn't help them in the first place, yet they feel the need to use their right of free speech to trash it.

The sense of contribution and hard work has been replaced by a consumerist sense of entitlement, the "I discovered free software, and I am entitled to screaming at other people to do what I want until I have it." mentality that I see infecting free software projects, and quite frankly, it makes my heart sink.

In the beginning, all software was free, it was something the hardware needed to function, and thus, everybody got source code, and in the beginning, everyone who used the computers had a direct connection with the code they were using and were modifying it to fit their needs. They had to.

But it was this sense of getting down in the dirt, and learning, and making what they were working on better that brought the community together in the first place. This is all but gone now; replaced instead, by people who just want free things, of no cost to them, but to the developers instead who are still down in the dirt trying to make the software they are using, better.

If this is making you embarrassed, good. That's the point. Because chances are, you haven't been helping enough.

This is a free software project. The code you are using, has been prepared over many years, by many different people. Several companies have been involved in its creation, some of them still here, some not.

Their hard work is available to you, free of charge, and under a license that allows you to modify it and distribute it to others. It is therefore good manners to give back to those who have so graciously given their time, energy, and sometimes even their health to provide something that is available to all of you.

Make no mistake, this letter is a spanking. This letter is a big paddle whack on the butt of every one of you who have not contributed a line of code, who haven't contributed documentation, helped people on the forums, tested code, helped create needed art-work, or other aspects of this project that we so desperately need. If you haven't contributed any of these things, you should feel embarrassed.

Why haven't more of you attempted to write code? or write documentation? or given art-work? I know each and every single one of you has a talent that can be of use to this project, and we desperately need it. We tend to listen to people who pull their weight around here.

Earn your voice, either:

* Code
* Write Documentation
* Perform creative services (audio, video, etc.)
* test software
* answer in the forums, or IRC channel



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Re: A Letter to All Members of this Community
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2008, 05:57:45 pm »
As always very well put Thom. I could not agree more.
Come on people jump in and lend a hand. Don't say I don't code, as Thom says there are many ways to contribute.

I am offering help in chat, and trying to add the Hauppauge Media MVP as a plug-n- play device.

Hey people what can you offer.
It's Time to step up.


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Re: A Letter to All Members of this Community
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2008, 06:13:20 pm »
Thom - don't get too demoralised! I understand your fear, at the same time the people you speak of (and lets face it they fall into at least 2 classes I can think of: newbies/learners who should be given plenty of slack as it isn't realistic to expect them to contribute for some time, especially on such a complex project; and others who just want free-shit and put nothing back, who deserve a paddling!)

... these peoples are not the people that drive the developers in the first place. You do this because you enjoy it, want cool stuff, want to build a dev reputation, kudos from fellow devs, expand the scope and functionality of the FOSS "catalogue", and stick it to M$.. I mean commercial software companies!

None of those motivations are impaired by the negative attitudes you are concered about. The way I see it, the number of dedicated FOSS devs out there can only increase because of those motivations. We just need to attract more to our project.

Things will change as products like Ubuntu et al become more and more viable alternatives to commerical products because of the uptake and demand. But I, personally, am optimistic that the positive changes from that will outweigh the unavoidable negatives.... :)

BTW, I do try to answer as many newbie questions as I can, have done a (very) little stuff in the wiki, and am staggering up the looming escarpment of the C++, Linux, LMCE,etc learning curve so that I can at least put pen to compiler before I die! Half way through a dummies guide to C++! Best I can contribute currently, but hopefully more to come :)


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Re: A Letter to All Members of this Community
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2008, 07:56:39 pm »
Very true and valid points pointed out here. I have seen more people jumping in recently, but imagine if everyone here got struck with the urgency to fix something. We would get where we want to be so much faster. People would appreciate more the software they use, and realize how useful feedback and constructive critisism can be.

For a good example, the web admin is and has been setup for multi-language support. Just yesterday, it looks like we found the first person to want to add another language. Its sad to think that this will be the very first language addition to the system, considering how diverse this userbase is.

For people not knowing where to start, jump on IRC, theres plenty of help available. Theres a lot of information in the wiki also - use it to get started! (do a search for Setting Up A Development Environment in the wiki)

I'm not a great C/C++ programmer in any respects (and in the past had very limited usage of it, but have read a few books just in case I ever needed to use it), but I have been able to write improvments, and I believe anyone can. Likewise, I'm neither a web devoper nor have I been heavily involved in PHP/MySQL before, but I've been diving into it head on. I've learned more about programming in the last several months than I ever have.

The reason I am saying this is, I'm not a professional programmer, web developer, graphics artist or english major - and I'm always short on time. I think that is the case with many of us that are trying to contribute what we can. But we can still get these things done (albeight slower than we would like sometimes). I do it because I enjoy creating. I also enjoy helping other people.

If a "normal" person like me can contribute, I think anyone can.

Well put Thom


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Re: A Letter to All Members of this Community
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2008, 09:54:48 pm »
IMO people do not have the right to trash or bitch about projects like these that they get for free.  They don't seem to think about all the time it took and does take to get the project where it is now.  All they see is "Why the hell doesn't it do this or that".  They don't think about all the volunteer hours, debugging, troubleshooting, research and documentation.  Now maybe if they themselves were a developer or contributor to the project, then they might have the right to complain a little bit, but I wager that they would be much more cordial and understanding if they did help in the project.

Now I myself have been leaning on the "crutch" if you will, of not being "able" to code or contribute.  Note that I've not had any lack of desire, just fear of a lack of talents.  Thom, you've opened my eyes a bit so I'm going to jump in and see what I can do to help and I thank you for that.  In fact, it is probably just what I need to learn the coding and stuff that I've wanted to for so long.

So let me, an admitted noob, please tell all the LinuxMCE developers and contributors how thankful and appreciative I am for your work.  Man, this stuff is awesome.  I've been reading the wiki and forums everyday to learn more and then go home and tinker with my setup, I just can't get enough.  So thank you for all that you do, and sign me up, I'm in!

Linux Rox...LinuxMCE rocks in HD!!


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Re: A Letter to All Members of this Community
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2008, 03:03:44 am »
Let me add a different perspective.  I know, the devs don't owe anything to anyone.  They do the work for free, in their spare time, just for the satisfaction of being part of a large successful project that benefits others.  I for one really appreciate the work being done.  I'm also probably a target of the so called spanking.  Not that I haven't contributed anything, I've tried to help others even when my experiences are counter to devs (ie. the recommendation vs. the requirement for having two nic cards).  I also posted a howto and the related config for making a streamzap remote (or any remote) work with usbuirt which someone else very kindly edited and put on the wiki (which after I rebuilt my core/md hybrid I had to reference, thanks!!!!).  Still, I recognize it isn't much and in the views of devs I'm sure I haven't "earned" a right to voice opinions. 

Like it or not, lmce can be a bear for a new user.  Frustrations are going to happen, and sometimes those frustrations are going to turn into "LinuxMCE sucks" type posts.  Sure, LMCE does have a lot of issues still, but I think it's fantastic.  The users may not pay money for a FOSS app, but that's not to say it's completely free either.  I've spent probably $750 for LMCE in hardware.  Hardware that I wouldn't (and didn't) need had I stayed with MythTV.  The old hardware SHOULD have worked just fine with LMCE according to the wiki, but as many have found the wiki isn't always right.  Time is also worth something.  The devs spend far more time than users for sure, and that time has a value to it for devs AND users.  The public web pages and videos create an expectation that end users base hardware purchases and time investments on.

The devs may not think the average user who hasn't contributed doesn't have the right to voice their opinion or request features/bug fixes.  I disagree.  Not because users are so valuable they automatically get that right, but because the lmce project has given them that right.  The creation of the LMCE users forum, separate from the devs forum, specifically for users to talk about their experience and help each other out.  What more of an open invitation is there?

I will agree that bashing a FOSS project, ANY FOSS project, because it isn't polished or is lacking features is uncalled for.  Pointing out shortcomings or requesting features is different though.  If some part of a FOSS project is crap, but the dev who wrote it thinks it's great, how can it ever improve without user critique?  Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I believe input for the user community is vital.  Nicely, not demanding. 

IMHO, telling people that are using, or trying to use, LMCE but have not yet contributed directly to "SHUT UP!" is just as bad as a user that bashes LMCE.  Posting problems, feature request wishlists, detailing horror stories about an install, listing reasons why you are going back to some other software, etc. != bashing.  Bashing is uncalled for, the rest seems pretty appropriate for a users forum to me.  Perhaps I missed the point of Thom's post and he is only referring to the trash talkers?  In that case I agree.  If the point is either join the team or you're not allowed to comment on LMCE then I think Thom is being unreasonable.  You don't release something to the public, create a public users forum to talk about it, then tell the public to STFU when they discuss problems they experience with it.  You certainly don't tell people that are trying to use your app that they should be embarrassed for not contributing to it.  Think about all the FOSS apps we Linux users use on a daily basis.  Should I feel bad that I haven't contributed to kernel development, KDE dev work, kontact, firefox, handbrake, k9copy, HP printer drivers, xorg, and pidgin?

Maybe that's how I can contribute?  I'll tell the whiners to STFU, and the devs that get fed up with whining to go easy on the frustrated newbies.  :)