Don't complain! Contribute!

by Sir Cool Nerd

A lot of folks new to Linux and/or the FOSS community, or not aware of the community spirit that has been past along through the years, do not remember the mantra that made/makes FOSS the best software in the world. Coming from a background of proprietary software (in which the consumer has no real input and is treated like a mushroom in exchange for periodic cash outlays) former Windows or Apple users may not know about this mantra or what it implies.

Allow me to explain:

The vast majority of FOSS developers are volunteers working in their spare time while earning their bread with other employment. They write and partially test the app they are working on. What a lot of folks do not realize is that if the developer were to wait until there were no bugs before they released their app then FOSS wouldn't exist at all except on the boxes of the developers. FOSS developers cannot afford to hire developers so they depend on members of the community to send in bug reports to their bug tracking websites. Another thing that non-developers may not understand is that developers are the worst kind of tester for their own app. They consciously or unconsciously avoid the bugs while running their app. Also, they often release apps (usually marked "beta" but not always) that they know have incomplete or buggy parts, and they usually inform readers of those in the "readme" or another msg file. Most users RARELY read those files. They release these apps early NOT because they don't know there are bugs in them, but because they want the community's help in finding bugs they are not aware of.

The bottom line is this: in the FOSS community users ARE the testers, and they are asked to file reports on any bugs they find, not complain in the forums or blogs. Users unaware of this roll end up complaining or whining about an app, not realizing that such activity DOES NOT help improve the app as much as it discourages a developer from continuing development. Stung with the unwarranted criticism they stop development with "if all you want to do is whine and complain and not help, then I quit!" And so they leave with an incomplete app floating on the web.

That is often why you may see an app with a version number of 0.3 which hasn't been worked on in 2 or 3 years or more. Also, there are many apps that haven't reached the version "1.0" but are excellent apps, even though they haven't reached the "mature" level - version numbers of 3 or 4 or higher.

Another thing newbie Linux users should understand is that some apps are easy to write and others are VERY COMPLICATED! Being able to write an "Hello world" program or a simple database address book doesn't mean one is a good programmer or even understands the complexity of the process of several developers scattered around the world working on different parts of an app residing on a central server and under version control.

So, IF you want KDE 4.x to succeed then DO Not post "KDE 4 sucks" remarks on forums and blogs around the Internet, either patiently wait until KDE stabilizes or pitch in and help with bug reports, wish lists, critical comments about design, layout, etc.