TL;DR: Don’t be a passive consumer of FOSS. It’s going to kill the FOSS community or change it in bad ways. Contribute in any way described in this article, even really basic ones, but contribute daily or on a very regular basis.
I have been a system engineer for more than 10 years now, almost exclusively working with GNU/Linux systems. I’m also deeply involved in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community for a long time and I spend a lot of time on social networks (mostly Twitter and Mastodon these days). And some behaviours always piss me off.
The consumer thinks he’s smarter and more efficient than others
Many IT professionals using FOSS display a behaviour of pure consumerism in their relationship with FOSS. They often try to use a software in a very specific environment (specific version of a GNU/Linux distribution, specific version of a software). They don’t succeed using it in that environment? That software is obviously crap, it should work with the default settings, otherwise it’s not user-friendly. The documentation is available? Who reads the doc? I need answers now, I don’t have time to read the damn documentation! And who wrote this piece of crap anyway?
If the answer is not the first StackOverFlow link of the first Google search, I’m done with this shit. My time is precious so I’m going to try another software (and waste 2x time) or better code it myself (100x waste of time) in a unreusable way.
Passive consumers never write a bug report. It’s a waste of time, requiring effort. Who has time to write it except fuckers? Not even a ping to the maintainer or the lead dev of the project (they should know, they wrote this crap! Ok I pinged him/her on Twitter 2 minutes ago. People don’t reply in a minute? Fuck off, you bunch of time-wasting losers! I don’t care if it’s 2AM for him.
Ok, ok, FINE, I’ll write a bug report if you whiners insist: IT DOES NOT WORK YOU FUCKERS MOVE YOUR ASSES FIX IT NOW!
Rewards for the lead dev? What for?
Even with softwares they like and use everyday and that perfectly work, upgrading just fine as needed, most of IT professionals have the exact same behaviour of passive consumerism.
5 years this software powered the whole IT, helping the company making big money? True. The lead dev asks for money/recognition through social networks? What a bunch of beggars! He needs money? Me too! Does this person have a Patreon? Who cares! This guy owes me to use his software, he loves coding for free, the sucker.
Helping him by subscribing a professional license of this software? What for? My boss will laugh. Nobody pays for softwares (except suckers). That’s free as in free beer baby!
I’ll even ask him/her to modify the license because I can not rebrand the software and use it for my own proprietary software he maintains for free. He should thank me to help him spread his software, this wannabe Marc Zuckerberg. Pretty sure he gets tons of money. Not by me, no way.
And of course this behaviour of passive consumerism has negative impacts on the FOSS ecosystem. Really. Usually after somes years, the lead dev eventually gives up the project. At this time, you usually can read these kinds of furious comments « You lazy fuck you didn’t upgrade your software in years, serious people use it, reply fast or I’ll leave thousands of insulting comments! I bet my ass on you, you should thank me crawling. You lazy communist, I would remove my star on the Gihub/Gitlab repo if I had starred it. But of course I didn’t, I’m not going to star every projects I use, what do you expect? Contributions in any way? Come on, grow up, deal with it. Life is hard. »
Promote and interact with the projects you use
Please help the projects you use. If your company earns money thanks to FOSS and you are the boss of this company, providing money or manpower for at least one project you use daily should be a reasonable goal and show some understanding of th FOSS ecosystem.
If you are an employee of a company using FOSS, a very important step is to let your boss know that parts of your infrastructure will die in short term (some years) if you don’t help this project in any way.
If no money is implied or you only provide a free service to others, let the world know you use FOSS and thank some of them from time to time. Just telling people through Mastodon or Twitter you use their softwares will cheer them up BIG TIME. Star their projects on Gitlab or Github to let them know this project is helpful.
Some ways to contribute
Here is a list of very great ways to contribute:
- Tell the world through social networks of your latest upgrade of this software was smooth and easy. Spread the word.
- Write a blog post describing your experiences and how much value was provided for your company or for your projects by this great FOSS project.
- Follow lead devs of different projects on Mastodon or Twitter and retweet/like/boost/favorite latest news from time to time.
- Write a thankful comment on the project blog or on the lead dev blog. Reading your comment will ensure the dev have a great day.
Don’t be a passive consumer
Don’t be a passive consumer of FOSS. It’s going to kill the FOSS community or change it in bad ways. The required average level of contribution to a project and the expectations towards FOSS increase days after days in a world where complexity and interactions grow fast. The core of really fundamental FOSS projects is often only a very small team of people (1 to 5).
Contribute in any way described in this article, even really basic ones, but contribute daily or on a very regular basis. You’re powerful by providing good vibes and great contributions to FOSS projects. Your contributions WILL change things, encourage and (re)motivate people. It’s good for you, you will improve your skills, gain knowledge about the FOSS community and visibility for your company or your projects. And it’s good for the FOSS community, having more and more people contributing in ANY productive way.
Carl Chenet, Free Software Indie Hacker, Founder of LinuxJobs.io, a Job board dedicated to Free and Open Source Jobs in the US.