Mister Pitcock's wild ride

Mister Pitcock's wild ride


William Pitcock (aka nenolod, aka the guy who wrote Audacious [1], aka the guy behind atheme.org [2]) has decided to, in spirit, respond [3] to my earlier article about ESR and the Bazaar [4]. Every good reply deserves a reply in turn.

For those who don't know nenolod, he hates inner- and intra-project political warfare, and tries to avoid it at all costs. Mostly, I agree with his take on how the community acts and reacts to it's own members, "codes of conduct" policies don't work, trying to quash egos before they get too big doesn't work either.

I agree with his assessment on how cherry picking works for some projects and not others: through darcs and git a project can either flourish or flounder. Sometimes, this is due to ineffective leadership, but sometimes this is also due to ego.

However, nenolod bases this on whether a cherry-picking project is made of mostly mature members or not; and from my point of view, that isn't entirely true. Sure, being able to shut up and swallow your pride is a sign of maturity, but ego is one of the largest drives geeks have. The lack of ego does not denote maturity, only the lack of drive.

The computer was invented to see if it could be done, Linux was written to see if it could be done, all the neat little projects out there were all started to see if they could be done, too.

The fact that these projects and inventions actually solve real world problems is both secondary to the creation of and also the driving force of a project who has gotten off the ground. To simply maintain and bugfix is to be (mostly) without ego, to truly create is to have ego in one hand and imagination in the other. Some of the really wild projects juggle ego, imagination, and balls of steel.

This leaves a slightly awkward balance. If geeks require ego to create, and require absence of ego to maintain, then you can't do both effectively at the same time. The best example of this is when you have someone come to a project, "I have this really awesome idea, but I'll have to change like half the code in fifty files;" unless the project is still in the early stages, he will be told no. A fork happens soon after.

The fork, unfortunately, then becomes politically motivated. My example geek would fork, add his code, and then try to get people to use his version instead of the original. Once you have the part of the community local to this example project polarized on the issue of who's is better, people get angry, fights and flamewars begin, and people leave the project permanently.

nenolod brings up a good point when he says developers need to have a place where they can vent without it actually meaning anything. Flamewars help the individual but not the community, but you can't neglect the individual in favor of the community.

I think nenolod has the right idea about atheme.org. Recommending the use of cherry-picking on projects that would benefit from it in addition to allowing people to discuss projects without fear of reprisal is the only way to allow healthy creation and prevent clashes of ego to stall or destroy development.

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A wanderer among the free software community, I write what I want, when I want, and where I want to. Coding goes similar. I also write on my other blog.