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Open Source Software

Ask Slashdot: Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source? 488

Jason Baker writes: Most everyone is using an open source tool somewhere in their workflow, but relatively few are contributing back their time to sustaining the projects they use. But these days, there are plenty of ways to contribute to an open source project without submitting code. Projects like OpenHatch will even help you match your skill set to a project in need. So what's holding you back? Time? Lack of interest? Difficulty getting started?
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Ask Slashdot: Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:19PM (#48503643)

    they don't make it easy
    they don't have a good list of helper that have helped
    there are not enough tools to quickly provide them all of my os/cpu/motherboard/hd/videocard information (yes sometimes this is needed for bugs)
    and honestly not even the summary says how non-coders can help?????
    if they want help they should put up giant buttons/links "WE NEED YOUR HELP NO MONEY OR SKILL REQUIRED!"
    neoforts at gmail

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:26PM (#48503675)
      Because the only things I want to contribute to most open source projects are to revert the changes that the UX designers make. For some reason, the UXtards don't go for my pull requests.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @12:00AM (#48503821)

        You're absolutely right. Hipsters are killing open source projects left and right with their fucking awful UI changes.

        Just look at what happened to gedit [gnome.org]. It's a text editor that comes with GNOME.

        Gedit used to look like this: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Gedit2261.png [wikimedia.org]

        It had a clean, usable, consistent UI. The major functionality was easily available, and the UI was extremely intuitive and efficient to use.

        The hipsters can't stand for usable software, of course. It needed to be "improved"!

        This is what gedit looks like more recently: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Gedit_3.11.92.png [wikimedia.org]

        I'm not joking. That's really what it looks like. Using it is even worse than it looks.

        Gedit's UI today is fucking awful.

        It's like they've taken the worst aspects of tablet UI design, and forced it into a text editor that's probably never used anywhere but on desktops and laptops.

        The traditional menus and toolbars are gone, replaced with incomprehensibly bad icons and a shitty Chrome-style hamburger menu that's an unusable jumble of unrelated functionality.

        It's absolutely fucking moronic what they've done to gedit. They've managed to completely destroy the UI of a text editor, for crying out loud!

        Why the fuck would I want to contribute anything but a total and complete reversion back to the old UI? Getting rid of this shit-for-brains UI is the best possible bugfix that gedit could undergo right now. But will it be accepted? Of course not! The hipsters can't possibly be wrong about the UI.

        • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @12:18AM (#48503949)

          You're absolutely right. Hipsters are killing open source projects left and right with their fucking awful UI changes.

          Just look at what happened to gedit [gnome.org]. It's a text editor that comes with GNOME.

          It's absolutely fucking moronic what they've done to gedit. They've managed to completely destroy the UI of a text editor, for crying out loud!

          Why the fuck would I want to contribute anything but a total and complete reversion back to the old UI? Getting rid of this shit-for-brains UI is the best possible bugfix that gedit could undergo right now. But will it be accepted? Of course not! The hipsters can't possibly be wrong about the UI.

          Substitute 'Firefox' or just about any other open source program in place of 'Gedit' and you have a perfect description of what is wrong with open source today.

          • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @01:53AM (#48504357)

            >> Getting rid of this shit-for-brains UI is the best possible bugfix that gedit could undergo right now. But will it be accepted? Of course not! The hipsters can't possibly be wrong about the UI.

            >Substitute 'Firefox' or just about any other open source program in place of 'Gedit' and you have a perfect description of what is wrong with open source today.

            Substitute Microsoft Word or just about any other closed source program in place of 'Firefox' and you have a perfect description of what is wrong with closed source today.

            Fixed.

            --
            BMO

          • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @01:58AM (#48504375) Homepage

            You know, I could swear someone told me this wasn't a problem with open source, I wish I could remember their name... see-a-lots? They said that unlike normal software or pri... pro.. propiratory software as they called it they said open source is all about choice. If I didn't like anything I could just change it to make it look and work like I want it to. The details are a bit hazy to me, but I hope it's easy to use and comes with a good tutorial. And it had the strangest name, I thought those belonged in a kitchen drawer. Knife? Spoon? Ah no, they called it a fork. Not sure what kind of fork that is, it sounded almost magical. You know like in Star Trek "Use the fork, Luke". Come to think of it they did look like they had seen that a few too many times. Or maybe you should try a different bistro? Sorry, distro. I think it was some kind of collection of forks, like cutlery. You wouldn't want to eat steak with a butter knife, right? Or maybe you're just holding it wrong, that's what the nice person in the fruit store told me. A real genius he was, it even said so on his shirt. Maybe he can help you too?

            • ....the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. ..

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          is this real? i am using gedit 3.4.1 on ubuntu 12.04 and looks like the first picture (works good too btw)

          i think open source is being infultrated by paid hipsters set out to ruin UI experience... their gameplan appears to be:
          find the most commonly used programs in open source and "UI CANCER IT TO DEATH BY REMOVING ALL FEATURES, HIDING ALL MENUS BEHIND OTHER MENUS AND REMOVING ALL EASY TO UNDERSTAND BUTTONS"

          The long term solution is to fork the project or switch to a better distro, the short term solution i

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That example is an extreme head scratch-er for sure. However, contrast that to The GIMP, which has had a consistently bad UI for over a decade. Programmers don't always make the best UI decisions, and just because it's intuitive for them, it's not automatically intuitive for everyone.

          Somewhere between the gedit bastardization and 70% of open source projects, there is a balance that can be made. Should be made.

          • by LinuxIsGarbage ( 1658307 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @07:08AM (#48505143)

            That example is an extreme head scratch-er for sure. However, contrast that to The GIMP, which has had a consistently bad UI for over a decade. Programmers don't always make the best UI decisions, and just because it's intuitive for them, it's not automatically intuitive for everyone.

            Somewhere between the gedit bastardization and 70% of open source projects, there is a balance that can be made. Should be made.

            Good old The GIMP. My favorite UI fuck-up of theirs is making save do a project save, and having to do export to save as JPEG, PNG, etc. If you complain about the interface You're told you aren't the target audience. [gimpusers.com] They are targeting a professional Photoshop knockoff market that doesn't exist, and yell at their actual core userbase.

            For all the talk of the ridiculous name, at my conservative Windows based workplace GIMP is available in the software catalog. I think they want to have a free offering to avoid people looking for Photoshop, etc. Thankfully they also have Paint.NET.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        yes.

        and you know how those choices got to be? ironically by involving non coders in the projects for the sake of those contributors getting something to put on their portfolio. they don't even friggin use the products - just want to paintshop some pretty ui's.

    • OpenHatch seems to be a solution in search of a problem that doesn't really exist.

      Finding people who are invested in your open source project is usually not a problem, assuming they actually need and use your project, and you take the time to regularly speak with them.

  • I don't care (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:19PM (#48503645)

    I work with computers all day at work. When I get off work, I'm not going to work on them even more, and for free to boot.

    Sure, I'll play on computers, and even web surf and make snarky comments on /., but work? Fuck you, pay me.

    • Snarky yet true (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:44PM (#48503753) Homepage
      The real question should be:

      Why aren't companies paying more people to work on Open Source projects.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Why aren't you giving more to save starving children?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My workplace uses a number of open source projects.

        Not because they support a particular point-of-view, or it fills a need, but because it's free.

        The boss is probably a psychopath, doesn't give a fuck about anyone but himself. Will pile 15 hours of work up for you on Friday, 2 hours before you finish, and tell you that you should have started sooner. Since you didn't, you get to work for free over the weekend to keep your job.

        I've been involved in a couple of meetings, and he talked about using a number o

      • The real question should be:

        Why aren't companies paying more people to work on Open Source projects.

        Because then you lose your exclusive rights to that software. OSS might be sleek, but let's not forget some facts: for most companies, publishing the full source code would mean directly giving the knife to the competitor's hand.

      • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @04:37AM (#48504803)

        The real question should be:

        Why aren't companies paying more people to work on Open Source projects.

        Does their purchase of a programmer's coding time give them any editorial control on the project? If it doesn't, then it's got little value to them to contribute patches to a project, if there's no chance that they're going to be accepted. This is frequently true when you want to make changes that go across area boundaries in Linux, and you aren't an area maintainer, like Alan Cox or Ingo Molnar.

        So the company is willing to hire people who already have commit bits and/or a high enough position in the project that they aren't going to be stuck maintaining local patches for the rest of eternity, and applying them to every new revision that comes out. Google was this way; the Google server team has literally years worth of patches that aren't being accepted back into mainline Linux at this point (example: the TSC resynchronization code for AMD processors that puts the TSCs on all the CPUs back where they would have been, before the platform went into a C2 or greater state, and stopped the CPU clocks. Google carries these forward every time the update the server OS.

        If the software is strategic: you don't want it to be Open Source.

        If the software is tactical: you want it back into the project so that it reduces your ongoing maintenance burden.

        If you can't have both those things, then it makes sense to just internally fork the project, and then ignore anything major that causes divergence with the original project, unless it's a bug fix. Which you then merge back into your private source base.

        NB: This is largely how Android works; most of the development is not in public, and is only published post, or simultaneous to, a hardware release. That's also how Apple works, too, when they figured out that developing in public had no commercial benefit, and leaked a lot of information. Apple didn't want to preannounce their hardware, any more than an Android using company like Samsung wants Huawei or Apple knowing ahead of time what hardware they're going to be releasing in 6 months.

        So I guess if you want more companies hiring people to work on Open Source, you need to turn the question around a bit, and ask why editorial control is centralized in so few people, and why is their kingdom building that reinforces that centralization, such that there are not more prominent developers with some say in the project direct that are available for companies to hire?

    • Re:I don't care (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:47PM (#48503767)

      Okay, replying to myself, but fuck it. The chemo's making me cranky. I'll be dead in a year, odds are. And no one will care.

      All y'all who do work with open source, if you like it, fine. But just don't think that anyone will care. your name will be in a readme file or whatever that no one will read. Only do it if YOU love it, because that's the only reward you'll ever get, and when they shovel the dirt over you, neither that nor anything else will matter anymore.

      But I"m old and bitter, so just ignore me, as all ACs should be.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        Only do it if YOU love it, because that's the only reward you'll ever get

        Indeed, Linux and BSD took-off in the nineties not because they were superior to commercial UNIX, but because they were free. A lot of open source enthusiasts don't understand that open source is popular in some circles because it's more cost-effective.

        Microsoft was kind of late to the game, not even really having good TCP/IP socket services without relying on third-party applications like Trumpet Winsock until Windows 95 came ou

      • Re: I don't care (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Plammox ( 717738 )
        I care about you.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      It is all about extending your skill set by practising in areas you don't normally work in and have the work publicly recognised and acknowledged. Next time you are desperate for help, whether lying on the ground with a heart attack, hanging on cliff, waiting to be rescued from a burning car, saved from a mugger, remember than " Fuck you, pay me." and when you life is on the line surely you should be legally bound to signing away all of your assets.

      So FOSS is all about building a public reputation becaus

    • I have better shit to do with my time. When I'm off work, it's my time. I have other things I want to do rather than work. I enjoy my job, but it isn't fun as a hobby. I value a life-work balance.

      • I enjoy programming even at home, but I only enjoy it for making things I use that aren't available, like personal book cover formatting and such. Those things are thought out, then designed and coded, tested and *done* and I do something else. An open source project would take time away from the things I do program for and quickly become a second job. I ain't interested in that.
    • Once in a while, I will volunteer to help briefly like reporting and testing an issue since that's my paid job.

  • Time? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:21PM (#48503651)

    Between work, my SO, kids, things that need to be done around the house, and a dozen other random things that come up from week to week any free time I have isn't going to be donated away.

    The free time I do have is going to be spent relaxing and de-stressing from all of the above.

  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:23PM (#48503659)

    Unless you are committing code the projects I have tried to get involved with have been a black hole in terms of response.

    Documentation is a bitch because things are changing all the time and as a user you are often behind the 8 ball for where development is going. For bug tracking and reporting issues my experience has been either I get no response or I don't have the capabilities to supply the developer with the information they need to track the bug down.

    As for artwork I am artistically dead....

    The most positive experience with projects has actually been with a game, gnomoria, which is a closed source program with a single developer. I think knowing you are getting paid probably makes a difference.

    The opposite end of the spectrum was trying to work with the development team for Evolution (mail client). There was a lot of "if you don't use it this way you are stupid" type responses.

    • For bug tracking and reporting issues my experience has been either I get no response or I don't have the capabilities to supply the developer with the information they need to track the bug down.

      I'd say that's because unless it's a corporate-sponsored project the developers are probably just doing it as a hobby (or to support something else) so they aren't particularly interested in the bugs you experience unless they experience them themselves, they usually have more important or interesting areas to focus on.

    • by Kardos ( 1348077 )

      > For bug tracking and reporting issues my experience has been either I get no response or I don't have the capabilities to supply the developer with the information they need to track the bug down.

      You don't need to find the bug.... you just need to make it reproducible. A reproducible bug report is essentially as good as finding the bug itself; once the dev can follow your steps to reproduce it, he'll find it in short order. If you're getting no response, it's either a dead project, or your report is no

    • "if you don't use it this way you are stupid" Ha! Oh the bell rang loud with that one. I attempted to get involved with Libre Office Writer once to see what was wrong with the auto-capping. Mind you, they have the feature to auto-cap the beginning of a line and it doesn't work properly. Their response - 'You shouldn't rely on that'. Why the hell have it if that's your attitude?
      • Mine wasn't a feature that didn't work properly. Mine was a disagreement with the Evolution team over whether an email reply could be at the top of it if had to be at the bottom.

        Their argument was that it was best practice to have your reply to an email below the original. So that you can read it as a thread. Which makes sense. The problem with that is no one outside of IT uses email like that. The reply is always at the top and I wanted an option put in that would allow the reply to be at the top. I

  • not cost effective (Score:5, Informative)

    by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:24PM (#48503665)

    If I start spending time contributing back to open source, then open source is no longer the cheapest and best option for the areas in which I use it.

    • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:35PM (#48503713)
      Contributing can be part of work. I already contributed a line or two in the past for a couple of open source projects, including the linux kernel. Also, contributed with bug reports, which are/were of my interest. Notably, I always got personalised answers to bug reports, which is far more of want I can say for other non-open source OSs I used in the past. I would also not mind to donate do devuan, if I believed it is a serious project.
    • then open source is no longer the cheapest and best option

      If it's not the best, then cheapest is really a false benefit, for any kind of software that is an enabling tool for one's productivity.

      Proprietary software costs are almost always set below the value they bring, so if they're really better they're worth paying for.

      FWIW, I use open source because it's the best (and contribute code and non-code).

      Aside: whenever I've suggested the opportunity to a "starving artist" I've been informed that artists don't

      • I work in enterprises, usually the best tool is the primary concern. However their are so many areas where everyone has similar functionality that there is no best, just your preferred poison and then cost becomes a factor, especially time investment. I have no interest in contributing in my own time, nothing against contributing but my free time I like to spend away from the computer and work have no interest in paying me to contribute.

  • One real reason (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Most open source projects are
    999 header files
    355 directories
    2345 code files
    3 intermixed build systems
    A python script or so just because

    AND (&&)

    There will be not a single line of documentation on how the source tree is laid out, and where to start understanding the project.

    2). The response when asking where do I begin. RTFSC ? I'd rather pay for the software than be involved with that crap.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      dunno,

      all the open source projects worth something for me tend to have documentation on use and how to compile, at least for one platform or another.

      ok, apart from couple of nes emulators, but I doubt there would have been instructions on to compile them over to series 60 v1.2 anyways if someone had done something(and if they had, then I wouldn't have needed to look over them in the first place).

      thing is, if it needs a new port then it's likely to not have instructions for said port in the first place.. ...

    • Most open source projects are
      999 header files
      355 directories
      2345 code files
      3 intermixed build systems
      A python script or so just because

      AND (&&)

      There will be not a single line of documentation on how the source tree is laid out, and where to start understanding the project.

      2). The response when asking where do I begin. RTFSC ? I'd rather pay for the software than be involved with that crap.

      You' re being too kind.

      Most are worse than that.

    • Most open source projects are
      999 header files
      355 directories
      2345 code files
      3 intermixed build systems
      A python script or so just because

      Indeed. I have found out that it takes ages to become familiar with the codebase even to make a simple change. There can be hundreds of thousands of lines of code and complex build systems. Guys, try running cloc [sourceforge.net] against some codebase, it gives you nice and easy report.

      Anyone can try this: imagine a change or bugfix you would want to happen in an OSS project. Now, actually try to properly find where and how the fix should be implemented. Just try this little experiment. Then we will talk how easy it is to c

  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:30PM (#48503691)
    Let's set aside the bulk of OSS users are by and large oblivious to what OSS even is and focus on those that do and are not programmers. A good portion of those see programmers as old fart *nix self proclaimed messiahs or fast and loose hothead control freaks because about the only time they actually get to see the programmers in nature is when they are fighting over VI and Emacs or Init and Systemd. Would you want to work with you?
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:33PM (#48503709) Homepage

    Testing alpha/betas full of broken stuff is no fun. Writing detailed reports on what is broken is no fun. Writing documentation is no fun. Endless discussions is no fun. Being help desk for people with entitlement issues who can't be bothered to RTFM is no fun. Being someone else's side show is no fun, graphics artists probably have projects of their own. And I've yet to meet anyone in marketing who'd do that on their own time for fun. In fact, it's a strange breed who comes home from work after developing software all day to continue writing more software in their spare time instead of doing... well, anything else really. It's kind of of cool to make something though, so the coding part gets a pass. The rest is a different story...

  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:44PM (#48503755)

    I'm a downstream contributor. I work with two distributions reporting bugs and updating Packages. I have Cluster access to two Distributions. I find that if you are non-coder, Downstream is easier to work with than Upstream. I do this because I run these OSes, and I use them to get work done.

  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:51PM (#48503789)

    Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source?

    Time.

    Two kids, aged 4 and 6. Golden Retriever. House with a 'to do' list as long as my arm.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2014 @11:56PM (#48503807)

    As a career technical writer, I once tried to help out a few open source projects by improving their universally bad documentation. In all cases, my contributions were belittled, and often far worse than that, eliciting scorn and disdain from the "l33t programmers" who thought I was just wasting repo storage and bandwidth. This was something I did on my own time, to improve projects for the benefits of others, for no money.

    As a result, it didn't take me long to say "fuck it" and leave those open source projects to wallow in their own filth. They're little more than a cult, and if you don't conform to the leaders' idea of what a contrib should be and do, you're not welcome.

    • Tech Support Here (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I work at an software company, in the enterprise tech support department. I'm the tech support liaison to engineering. I use JIRA all-day everyday. I even fix minor bugs on my own dev box.

      I've offered my help on several open source project. No response or even worse, dickhead response. They are not interested. So please stop running articles about how non-coders(and I do code, I'm just not an "engineer") can help with open source projects. They don't care.

      And FYI: It's not much better in the commercial worl

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock&poetic,com> on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @12:02AM (#48503845)

    I've offered my services, found no takers.

    I'm a Mac user, and I've rarely had to read a manual to know how to use Mac software or hardware. But that stuff you geeks turn out needs a lot of explaining before ordinary people will benefit from it.

    I've offered my services in software design such that software will be so friendly that no manual will be needed. No takers. As a senior member of the Society for Technical Communication I was respected in the commercial world but snubbed by Open Source.

    I'm reminded of when my associates programmed in dBase. At the time I designed Apple & Mac databases that anyone could understand and use to good effect. They could even safely modify parts of it. My associates preferred to create systems that users could NOT understand or use easily. Even another dBase programmer would have difficulty. Their strategy was to keep the client dependent on them. I tend to believe that many open source programmers retain that mentality.

  • I'm geeky for a non-programmer, but, for example, rarely managed to get Linux to run on one of my PCs, and never managed to get it to run *satisfactorily* (with my dual monitors set up as I want them, smoothly playing video, running what I want at startup...). Stuff such as "recompiling the kernel (which someone had to do for me on my last attempt) stumps me.

    I could contribute: translations, feedback on the UI ("could your mom understand *that* ?), testing... I've tried twice, and found the atmosphere utter

  • My neighboorhood has an armed negiboorhod watch, a bike patrol and a parents foot patrol. They all do great stuff keeping me and my kids safe. I keep thinking about volunteering to one of them but never do.
    I get invited almost every week by a local charity to help distribute food packages to needy families, haven't gone in years.
    I was very politically active in college, since I have a family the most I do is vote.
    Asside from giving some money to various causes I don't do anything.
    Contributing to open sourc

  • The obvious answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hamster_nz ( 656572 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @12:12AM (#48503919)

    Could I contribute while mountain-biking? Could I contribute by ballroom dancing? Could I contribute while driving miniature steam engines in the park on Sundays? Could I contribute while acting in local Shakespeare plays? Could I contribute while woodworking? Could I contribute by going to the movies?

    It is simple, most people have hobbies that they enjoy spending their spare time on.

    Just because some people have a passion for Open Source and others find utility in it doesn't impart any sort of onus to assist development. Isn't that the ethos of Open Source - you can use it with no strings attached?

    You might as well ask the opposite - Why are there so few FOSS coders just dropping in at rest homes to talk to the elderly? Why are no FOSS coders painting murals in public spaces? Why are no FOSS coders picking up rubbish in the park? Why are no FOSS coders building mountain bike trails in the weekend?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Screw you!

      I'm a FOSS developer painting murals along a self-made mountain bike trail for the elderly. As far as the trash goes, that's usually what becomes of my mural.

  • I just don't give a shit enough to contribute. I already have hobbies. I get paid to administer, consult, develop, and test at work. Most of my hobbies do not involve computers (sports, reading, music, good ole fashioned napping). The few that do relate fairly closely to my line of work, which is largely closed source.

    tl;dr - neither the time nor the willingness to contribute to something that only affects me tangentially
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @01:06AM (#48504155) Homepage

    I think part of the reason people don't contribute is that, whether it's deserved or not, there's a perception that open source projects aren't friendly and aren't welcoming of input from "normal people". I can say that I've been in situations where I submitted a bug and had it ignored or else told that it wasn't a priority and the developer didn't care. I've offered feedback on ways that I thought the software could be improved, and was essentially told, "If you want that done, write it yourself. I'm just here to scratch my own itch." In a number of situations when I've participated in forum discussions, I've encountered the attitude that if you're not a programmer that can contribute code, you should butt out of the conversation.

    There was one instance where I actually paid programmers to fix something in an open source project that my company needed to have fixed, and the project would not accept the fix for some reason they wouldn't explain. To be clear, this wasn't a new feature or some kind of redesign, but there was an open source project that wasn't working, we paid a couple of programmers to fix it and make it work, they were successful, and even those programmers (who had experience contributing to FOSS) were surprised when the fix was rejected without explanation. That's fine, since my company got what we needed out of the software once it was fixed, but I doubt anyone else ever got to benefit from the fix.

    Now, I'm not claiming that these handful of experiences represent every open source project out there. I'm sure there are projects that are very welcoming, but I haven't really experienced that. You ask why I don't contribute? It'd because nobody has asked, and my attempts to help have not been welcomed. And then when I've explained this on Slashdot before, people respond saying something like, "Well you need to approach the community in the right way. They have their own way of doing things, and you should spend time to learn about the community and do things the way they want things done, and then I'm sure they'll welcome your contributions."

    Which... you know... fine. Maybe that's true. But honestly, I don't care that much. My motivation to contribute my time and effort for free is pretty limited to begin with, and if people are going to make it even harder and less pleasant, then I'm not going to bother.

  • When I find open source programs that I use on a daily basis, I will usually donate money instead of time. I spend enough time on the computer at work as it is.

    I used to contribute, 7 or 8 years ago, to a program called jalbum by building a couple of different skins. Jalbum is a java based program that lets you build customized photo albums for your web site. However, the program got picked up as an internal engine for a couple of applications and then there was a rapid growth spurt in features and capab

  • "Projects like OpenHatch will even help you match your skill set to a project in need. So what's holding you back? Time? Lack of interest? Difficulty getting started?"

    Not knowing about OpenHatch until just now may be a part of it.

    As an artist, I've contributed a fair amount of material to the creative commons ecosystem, and I've posted some tutorials for open source projects that have a small user base, but other than that, I have no way of knowing what skills of mine could be useful to anyone working on a

  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @02:22AM (#48504449) Homepage

    Sometimes I can only financially help with $20 here and there. Atm Im helping out an OS FPS game (Xonotic) by running several servers which costs me around $110CDN per month for two servers (North American and European based with a NA based VPS for hosting maps which will become a public map repo shortly)

    Also atm I'm fund raising 550EU to have custom monster models built for the game which will be used for single player mode and will be open source so others can use them. I'm at 440 EU but that mostly between 7 users.

    I also just restarted my internet radio station which I ran pretty succesfully from 2001-2004. ATM I'm using Icecast2 and MPD for the software and promote them when I can.

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @02:38AM (#48504479) Homepage
    Many years ago I was a programmer. Then, I found myself doing tech support and got a big surprise: not only was I good at it, I liked doing it. Yes, I had my share of ID10T callers, but at the end of the day there was the great satisfaction of knowing that there were people out there who's days were better because they'd talked to me.

    Now I'm retired, and instead of using Windows I use Linux. I belong to several tech support forums and mailing lists for Linux and for various FOSS programs I use and I spend part of every day trying to help others, both to keep my hand in and because I still find it satisfying to be of help. And, when needed, I report issues to my distro's Bugzilla and respond, as best I can, to requests for information because if I'm having this issue, others are too and even minor bugs need swatting. I may not have (and maybe never had) the coding skills to contribute code, but I can still give back to the FOSS community by helping others.
  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @04:34AM (#48504797) Homepage

    I have many reasons why I do / don't contribute, but mostly it's time. You don't realise what an investment of personal time means to the person giving it. When I was young and a student, I could code for hours into the early hours and not have to worry and could churn out twice as much code in languages that I had been unfamiliar with the week before. As I get older, giving up my time produces less results but also costs more. To do so for a small software project, or a game even, is something to be applauded - time is precious.

    However, when I have time, I don't have the time to argue with people. I won't get into a discussion about whether or not X should exist if it's what *I* want, and I could start coding in the time it takes to argue it. Open source is an inherently selfish (and selfless!) prospect - I write a feature because I need it. If someone else benefits, great, but that's not the prime intention for me. Also, if someone else has coded a feature I need, whether or not it gets upstream, that's what I want and I'll use it. I might not even tell anyone about doing that.

    The larger projects do attract an attitude of kinds. I used to contribute to a large open-source game but when all my feature-patches (actual working patches, with code, that I'd be playing the game with for months) were pushed, there were disparaged to oblivion. Why would anyone want that? Put full translations for every language for this string you have. Why would you use THAT piece of free MIT-licenced code to help you when you could have used this other, almost identical MIT-licenced code that has less correlation and a worse API?

    So instead I put my patches on my website and let people pull them as required. Over time, all those same features made it into the game proper, but years later, and with much more complex code. I wasn't bitter because by that time I didn't care and had stopped coding for the project. I'm not easily put off, but it was more than my investment in time was not rewarded (rightly so if my code was crap, but I don't think it was) and thus the patches I was making for me were only ever going to seen by me, so why bother to push them?

    Even as a teenager, I was cleaning up the English documentation for open-source emulators, pushing bug reports and trying to hunt down the lines of code that were the cause, and handling questions on the forums. That kind of time is what I still give to the projects I enjoy, want to see propagate, and that I see in need of help. My answering a question on the forum could (I like to think) save a programmer ten minutes of having to interpret a bug report written inexpertly by that user.

    I also wrote a port of a game once after seeing that there wasn't one for the GP2X - a handheld open-source video games console. I questioned on a forum whether there was a port, and got told no. I was then encouraged by a handful of people to start porting it myself because they thought I was as good as they were and they'd ported games.

    It was probably one of the larger things I've ended up doing and cost many months of time for me. And I got a lot of good feedback, and I know thousands of people used the end product. And I had great fun, and I feel quite proud of it, even though the actual code isn't great. People took it and ported my code because all the hard work was done and they could easily port what I'd written than the original project. But that was about it. You don't get recognition for what you do (and I wasn't expecting any - OS is selfish too, remember?) so you have to enjoy doing it.

    I actually get more good feedback, and more enjoyment, out of putting up a couple of game servers out of my own wallet, being admin on them in my own time, and chatting with the regulars. That's a sad state of affairs, but I suppose in a large OS project you do get that kind of thing too - the game project above certainly ended up with a huge compile farm that one guy managed - no doubt they had fun on the IRC channels and felt appreciated.

  • by thisisauniqueid ( 825395 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @06:50AM (#48505105)
    I estimate I have reported over 3000 bugs over the years across maybe 80 different open source projects. I would say that 5% of the bugs I have reported have ever been fixed intentionally by the developers. Some of the bugs have become obsolete or "accidentally fixed" with subsequent code changes; some have been marked WONTFIX with a range of justifications; but the vast majority have been ignored, and are still sitting open in a bugtracker somewhere. Some projects like Fedora close most of my bug reports after the bugs expire a couple of releases into the future. I'm not quite sure why I bother, except that some projects like Eclipse are fast to respond and always fix the bug -- this sort of proactive and responsive attitude keeps me going.

    I get it, there's no reason I can ever justifiably expect a developer to fix my pet bug, given that they choose what they work on -- except that if they fix the bug, the software will be better, which should really be the goal. My bug-reports are objective, carefully researched, and properly written, with minimal test cases / repro instructions, required logs, etc. etc. -- and I'm a developer myself, so I understand what's needed.

    No, I don't have time to figure out how to build, test and isolate bugs in every product I find a bug in -- the developers can do that much faster than me, they are already set up to build and run the code, and they know the code better than I could hope to. So reporting bugs is my contribution. I would love to see a bit more responsiveness to contributions across all open source projects, even if fixing bugs feels like laborious busy-work.
  • by simplypeachy ( 706253 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @08:30AM (#48505375)

    Because I'm made to feel I shouldn't burden a project with bug reports when I don't write code to fix them. No, I'm not the whiney, petty bug reporter that this post makes me out to be! You did ask!

  • by jeremyp ( 130771 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2014 @08:52AM (#48505437) Homepage Journal

    There are a number of people on this thread who are saying "I don't contribute because I don't have time". Well, why don't you contribute money instead then? If a piece of software has value to you, either because it helps you do your job, entertains you or saves you some time, then it surely has monetary value.

    The advantage of contributing money apart from it taking only about five minutes is that you don't have to deal with the arrogant arseholes that all successful open source projects are staffed by (if many of the anecdotes above are correct).

    Full disclosure: I am in this group of people, unless you count the very occasional bug report.

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