Sunday, March 13, 2011

And Now, for Something Completely Different

Recently, my little world of FOSS has been like a peaceful valley, surrounded by thunderstorms. As I sit in my recliner, watching the lightning strike, and hearing the booms which always follow, I am wondering how we all will weather this.

All the kindly, smart people I encounter in IRC, on blogs, forums, lists, wikis; all are people who believe in the power of giving to the world; sharing knowledge and work, music and programming, art and packaging. And yet there is infighting again. I've read the major posts which have become the flash points, and many of the thunderous responses. Canonical vs. Gnome, or Gnome vs. KDE, and on and on.

Finally, a bit of sunlight in the west: Allison Randal's reasonable and thorough discussion of the entire matter. As a bonus, she titles it after one of my favorite songs from the 60's: With A Little Help From My Friends.

Listen: As a world-wide multi-project FLOSS community, we are a diverse collection of cultures, customs, and governance structures, and some things that seem strange to an outsider or a member of a different subgroup make perfect sense when you look more deeply.

Please read her post, and think deeply about the structures she describes, and about how WE (no matter which WE you are a part of) are seen by "outsiders." When we meet in un-logged IRC channels, how will new contributors find out about the decision-making process, or the background of standards, directions, and other important factors of our products? And what IS our product? Software, or a community which works together to make software?

Rather than pointing fingers, I hope each one of my readers will look inside, and think about how each of own conduct is building up or tearing down our community. Please, let us choose our words and actions wisely, and strive for transparency, clarity, and kindness. Daylight chases away suspicion and distrust.

So we can discuss painful events of the past, but with the goal of using those experiences to do better, BE better. I could say so much more, but please: go read Alison's post instead.