FOSS: passive consumerism kills our community

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.

99.9% of FOSS projects are one-man project. This small javascript library the frontend of your company website uses or this small database backup script nobody cares but saved your ass 2 times already.

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.

Star the Feed2toot project on Gitlab

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).

I talk daily about some FOSS latest news on my Twitter account

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.

About Me

Carl Chenet, Free Software Indie Hacker, Founder of LinuxJobs.io, a Job board dedicated to Free and Open Source Jobs in the US.

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11 thoughts on “FOSS: passive consumerism kills our community

  1. On the « bug report » problem: we need to do our part too!

    Asking the user to register to some devel-driven service (say -bleah- github) vs. providing an email address or other more user friendly options to report bugs makes a difference.

    Nice article and nice Courrier!

  2. Hi Carl, thanks for this interesting article. You encouraged me to contribute more.

    With regards,

    Malsasa
    A GNU/Linux User

    • Thanks, you just started with this comment 🙂 Any feedback in any project is always warmly welcomed by the founder or the lead dev 🙂

  3. This plea of yours will have no measurable effect. You need to start asking reward for your work, however not necessarily monetary. On the other hand, getting FB-like likes also does not cut it IMHO. We need something better.

  4. I generally liked this article, and I totally get it too. I really hate to use words like « entitled » when referring to peoples’ attitudes with FOSS, and I have worked in a couple of shops where we would report bugs we’ve found back upstream and work with maintainers.

    I don’t want to get into a license war, but I do feel like the ideals of the GPLv3 and how they’ve been pushed away contributes to the current trend. The entire reason we have Clang is because gcc is tied to the GPL. Apple has removed all its GPLv3 apps from their operating system.

    I wrote a post about this a while back. Those of us who grew up in tech in the 90s believed one day Gimp would truly replace Photoshop, Inkskape would replace Illustrator, tons of people would be running Ubuntu netbooks and we’d truly enter the world of free software:

    https://penguindreams.org/blog/the-philosophy-of-open-source-in-community-and-enterprise-software/

    That never really happened though. All the big players pretty much only release middleware; stuff that will let you build tools that must interact with their big platforms. We’re in a very different era of what FOSS even means.

  5. I Like the notion, although some of this. eek I do. I’m mostly angry if userland or public API’s are changed without a major revision. I’ve had to port kernel drivers from 2.x to 3.x and eventually 4.x, it was mildly fun but it was also stable for the whole of 2.x, 3.x, 4.x. But I also get a bit ragey if poor judgement or cliquey behaviour exists.

    When software breaks it’s API too often, I go nuts. It’s infuriating because it was often wasted effort from the devs. Now I have to have a conversation with the schmuck that wanted to use that software about how pinning to a version of network software is a bad idea, reiterate that they don’t own the software, shouldn’t go nuts or visit the address for the maintainers they found (that happened), and adapting to the patch although $X is cheaper than maintaining a fork (which I’ve never found a software I’m passionate about doing that for). I sometimes also have to deal with devs that I’m not sure are awake, or how they are functioning. On the one hand they are string interpolating to SQL, on the other they really care if a tagged format is included because of some obscure bug that affects people downloading free tagged media. On top of that they support injecting tagged media elsewhere in their software, but are not willing to discuss the exception.

    Things like meltdown and spectre patches, I wish were not patched. It was a waste of human effort to patch a problem that should only affect AWS, Google, large companies running untrusted third party code.

    I do let people know when I love their projects and I have contributed code and documentation to Open Source projects, as well as issues, I’ve authored code released under FOSS licenses, made publicly available source code including production-ready as well as experimental code. Probably not as often as I’d like, but do you know how long it takes to convince business owners that they shouldn’t want to own their software and smother it to death in their business? Couple that with dealing with others software (which they are totally more precious over). It’s Immensely difficult, especially as I don’t knowingly or intentionally help businesses for free.

    I wish there were more do you use {X}? you should contribute {Y}% to projects based on {Z}. I spoke with MariaDB and Nginx about their entry tier packages and although they seemed fair, we always fell short of the buy-in (if you pay one, it’s only right to pay them all).

    TBH Even Open Source licensing isn’t that clear. I had some nutter chanting at me for nearly a week on GitHub (who released their own esoteric framework combining lots of others projects) for using a license they didn’t agree with. Their justification? Because I’d used a single word they felt meant something (to them). They latched onto that, assumed that I’d copied and pasted JavaScript code to Java and PHP (which is insane, it was an unfortunate turn of phrase and shared constants).

    I think we all need to be a little more forgiving, and perhaps revolutionise FOSS to give leverage and clarity, just like closed-source and restrictive license open-source alternatives do.

    • Cascador : on vient de traduire l’article avec Framasoft, qui va être publié incessamment sous peu sur leur plateforme. Je remonterai bien évidemment le lien sur le Jdh haha.

  6. Package managers should be configured to account for all packages installed and allocate a portion of money to each project automatically.

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