“Patches Welcome”

“Patches Welcome”. We’ve all seen it in the Open Source community. Nothing makes me angrier than these two words.

Often this is said by people who are too busy, or too lazy to implement features that just aren’t of interest to them. This isn’t the response you get when you submit a bad idea, or something technically unfeasible. It’s the response that speaks of an apathy to your software’s users.

I get that we all have time limits for development. I know that we have to prioritise. I know that it may not be of import to the business right now. Even at the least, reach out, say you’ll create a ticket on their behalf if they cannot. Help them work through the design, then implement it in the future.

But do not ever consider yourself so high and mighty that the request of a user “isn’t good enough for you”. These are your customers, supporters, advocates, bug reporters, testers, and users. They are what build the community. A community is not just the developers of the software. It’s the users of it too, and their skills are separate from those of the the developer.

Often people ask for features, but do not have the expertise, or domain knowledge to implement them. That does not invalidate the worth of the feature, if anything speaks to it’s value as a real customer will benefit from this, and your project as a whole will improve. Telling them “Patches Welcome” is like saying “I know you aren’t capable of implementing this yourself. I don’t care to help you at all, and I don’t want to waste my time on you. Go away”.

As is obvious from this blog, I’m part of the 389 Directory Server Team.

I will never tell a user that “patches welcome”. I will always support them to design their idea. I will ask them to lodge a ticket, or I’ll do it for them if they cannot. If a user can and wants to try to implement the software of their choice, I will help them and teach them. If they cannot, I will make sure that at some time in the future, we can deliver it to them, or if we cannot, a real, honest explanation of why.

That’s the community in 389 I am proud to be a part of.