On Interaction with Open Source Communities

During our regular meeting my colleague said he learned a lot during a trip to one of our vendors, much more than he had expected. One of the many eye opening learnings is that it is actually quite intimidating to interact with open source communities.

It is true that it is not an easy task to work in the public. Sending emails to a public mailing list is just like public speaking. Even if I know whatever I say is not going to be used against me in any way, I have the mental burden that if I make stupid mistakes it's going to be on public record forever.

I'm lucky to have time to grow extra thick skin over a long period of time. I started with small changes and gradually took on larger part of the project. I also learned how to effectively to not take criticisms personal and how to focus on the work itself.

Others might not be so lucky. Imagine I'm hired by some vendor and assigned to contribute a big feature as my first take on the project. Surely there will be mistakes and will be picked up by maintainers and reviewers. If the maintainers are terse and straight, it's natural that I feel hostility towards me. The more interations I have, the more frustrated I feel. Eventually I just give up and move on to other things.

It's a pity that the openess of a project actually works against itself. No matter how nice one wants to be, there will be embarassing moments.

There is no easy solution. The negative emotional effect is hard to avoid. Some take it well, others don't. It takes time to educate people. It takes time for people to change mentality. I am not too optimistic on this issue getting sovlved any time soon.