Jessica Ledbetter

Open source is made of people

Reading up on the rvm vs rbenv … fallout. Yeah, I guess “fallout” is the best word here.


Basically, it’s a reminder that those of us that contribute to open source are people.

Longer story:

Here’s what I’ve gathered.

Wayne Seguin made rvm, a way to manage Ruby versions on your box. Sam Stephenson made rbenv, a way to manage Ruby versions on your box.

There was discussion on Hacker News which has some complementary praise for rbenv in varying levels of positiveness.

Wayne Seguin read it and reacted on Twitter at 9:30 a.m. on August 12.

Sam Stephenson asked “Why do open-source programmers take things so personally?”on Twitter at 11:07 a.m. and “You can’t make progress in an environment where egos are more important than ideas.” at 11:12 a.m.

Wayne Seguin responded to the question about why we’re taking things so personally with: “@sstephenson because we’re all persons.” at 1:14 p.m.

I don’t know either of them, and kind of feel like I missed something somewhere. However, I definitely read some hurt feelings there. That’s pretty obvious, right?

Now what?

I’m all about lessons learned. I am someone who enjoys contributing to open source and spends a great deal of my free time doing just that. What can I take from this recent demonstration of a facet of open source?

“Thank you.” Yes. “We’re all persons.” I try to remember that whenever dealing with new contributors. I don’t have a lot of free time but really try to help the person debug his or her environment to get it running, and figure out a good first bug if the person doesn’t have one picked already. I also thank the person for the time put in, though I am not perfect and do forget sometimes.

“Constructive criticism.” I also remember the first time a chunk of my code was rewritten without telling me why. I figured it out but would have liked to have been pinged to fix it myself via constructive criticism. Speaking of criticism, I also try to remember that sometimes we require a thick skin when putting our code and ourselves “out there.” At work, we do code reviews and have to remember that it’s the code being picked apart, not us. It’s probably a little easier there, though, because I know all of my coworkers and how they say things. But, that new person on IRC that’s criticizing how I did something? No.

“Respect diversity.” I sometimes let people assume I’m male on IRC. Why? Because I don’t want to deal with the “omg, ur a girl????” Then, sometimes I make sure it’s known because someone I respect very much reminded me that new women to open source might not realize that we’re here and available to mentor them. I find that I correct more often than not now though with time. Also, diversity isn’t just about gender. There might culture, language, or more barriers we need to overcome in order to contribute and work together.

I’ve seen quite a few blog posts about how to survive (and thrive) in open source. Still, it’s all very personal. “We’re all persons.” So true, Mr. Seguin. So true.


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