[lug] The changing Linux Community was Re: cp and rm

Tom Tromey tromey at redhat.com
Fri Aug 3 00:52:31 MDT 2001

>>>>> "D" == D Stimits <stimits at idcomm.com> writes:

D> Nobody likes being constantly ragged on about something by someone
D> who wants results for free. But in this case, as annoying as it is,
D> some of the points by unknowing trolls point out flaws or areas
D> that need improvement. It sucks when it is done in a way that rubs
D> badly on the people doing the work, but in the end, not ignoring
D> the complaints will improve things

D> Getting people to complain politely would be a better solution than
D> asking those who know little about the subject to not complain.

I'm not too concerned about the politeness.  I mean, it certainly
helps.  Messages that start, "Your program sucks and so do you" aren't
at the top of my list to respond to.

My concern is really about the usefulness of complaints.  Sometimes
people complain in a way that isn't really helpful.  Here's a look at
the extremes.

Sometimes I get an automake bug report that says "I tried <something
explicit> and expected <this> but instead got <that>".  This is great.
I can understand this and do something with it: from "sorry, this is a
feature" to "thanks, here's a patch".

But I also sometimes get reports (usually via some indirect method,
like, say, the gcc mailing list) that say "Automake sucks" (the short
form) or "Automake is much too complex.  Why can't it `just work'?"
(actual complaint).  This sort of thing is really pretty useless.  If
I'm feeling generous, it might get a response and generate a useful
conversation.  But by itself it conveys nothing but the poster's
apparent frustration with some unknown facet of the program.

So, there's education for us to do with new users.  We have to explain
to them why the principles of free software are important (at least,
those of us who think they are can explain this :-).  We have to try
to help them understand that free software isn't simply a commodity
like a fork or a spoon, but instead is deeply intertwined with its
social structures.  Whether they like it or not, they're in the soup
with us.  Criticism is really, really useful.  It is much more useful
than praise!  But it has to be focussed, and specific, and
unfortunately making this sort of criticism is not a skill we are born


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