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Maintaining FOSS Projects Sucks

10 V 2023

4.6k

Many people like to complain about software. Although praise for software may sometimes be more frequent than hate, it's usually the hate that is more pronounced. That's the reality that we live in. As Schopenhauer says, that which inconveniences us is visible as the turmoils in life, because the positives just feel like the calm flow of a river. It's what drives us and makes us feel alive. However, although Schopenhauer's position was very much on the side of "Life is suffering", in my opinion, too much suffering brought onto oneself is also not a great experience to be had. There is an inherent reason why we all strive to just make our lives simpler, we, as humans. It's because that mindset is just baked into us.

This would go completely ass-backwards to what 99.9% of FOSS developers are doing. We're basically putting ourselves to do monumental work for little to no real pay, while also having to bear the interactions (the PR) of the project. The issues, coverage, support, etc.

The root problem with FOSS

The most important part of FOSS is that we are not paid, (or paid not enough to make a living) and yet people often expect from us more than the people that are paid, mostly because you can directly interact with the developer. In the case of companies, people have started to accept that getting onto the JIRA board of a multi-million dollar company is a hassle, so they don't bother. However, getting onto the bug tracker of a FOSS app and asking the dev themselves to do something is far easier.

Adding insult to injury, most FOSS devs (especially those maintaining great software) are usually highly intelligent, at the natural cost of being an absolute brick in social relations. Add that to the fact that they have to interact directly with the, very often, absolutely clueless and unqualified bug reporters, and you get the stigma of "developers being assholes".

Sure, some devs are more assholes, some are less, I probably belong in the "more" category judging by people's remarks online, but that's just life. There probably are even some devs that do have normal social skills and actually aren't thought of as assholes. Not the majority, for sure*.

So, basically, FOSS developers are doing more, for less. Sounds like we are the prime Apple Macintosh ad from the 1980s.

* to the idiots that say "oh the rust community is cool" or "naaa, the void linux community is great" or "everyone in the XYZ community is chill", please go outside. Just because someone aligns with your political views, or ideology, or because your space is so highly moderated that no one is allowed to say a single word that does not align with your philosophy like in China, doesn't mean everyone is great.

What's the point, then?

Good question. Most developers do it because they enjoy making something for themselves. The fact that other people found it cool takes a backseat. If they don't, that's usually a sign of masochism, at least in my opinion.

There is no sane incentive to create FOSS software other than ideology, and ideology dies with your lack of money to find a shelter or buy food. As long as you're underage, or a student, and live off your parent's money, you can definitely dedicate a bunch of time for FOSS. (within reason, because usually people who maintain great software don't really struggle with education) However, as you turn into an adult, it might have to take a backseat as you get a job and have to feed your family. You also cannot just spend every minute of your free time on FOSS, come on.

Is it really hard?

If you have to ask this question, then I am surprised how you're even able to read this considering you need a brain to do so.

In short, yes, it's very time-consuming:

Each one of these is someone requiring attention, from help, to MRs, to issues.

Is there a solution?

At the moment, not really. Donations are very unreliable. One solution would be to put laws in place to force companies to pay for the FOSS stuff they use, that might solve the problem with a lot of FOSS projects. Doubt it's going to ever make it, though.

However,

The massive problem, as we've discussed, is the userbase. Although reporting issues and stuff is fine, the userbase should start to understand who we are. Unpaid, random people, with no social skills. The amount of poorly-written issues, nags, expecting people to do stuff for you or be kind to you, is the root problem of the frustrations of FOSS developers. I've seen people, and I have been myself too, gotten criticized for replying à la "please stop adding noise to this thread". We are completely serious and in the right, though. It pops up in our notifications, we have to go to the issue again, read the comment, it wastes our time that we could've spent on something else, and ultimately, trashes the discussion.

I always encourage people to add a "like" reaction to issues they support. I go through issues occasionally and prioritize those with more likes.

Classic annoyances include:

These are typical microaggressions that are aimed at the developer, basically saying "get your ass to doing this because I WANT IT"

Why not do this instead:

Recap & Summary

Although I do realize that this post will probably be used by idiots online to say how "immature I am", this is an honest rant from an actual FOSS developer, unlike those people.

Maintaining FOSS sucks immensely at the moment, and that's kinda the reality we live in.

Doesn't mean I will give up on Hyprland & co. any time soon, asbolutely not, but I wanted to let you, the reader, know how it is to be a FOSS developer.

Special thanks to people who report well structured issues, and those that make great MRs. Y'all the goats.

For your own future, developing some small app on github is a great thing to put on your resume. However, think thrice before wanting to make something "everyone uses". It's been one of my dreams forever, and now that it's come to fruition, I am unsure whether it was a great idea, and even though it's definitely positive overall, I am 100% sure it's not as great as younger me thought it would be.

As I have exams looming (first one being tomorrow) and me being a bit tired with y'all, I've decided to replay the entirety of HOMM5's storyline, and I am currently finishing the base game before going into the DLCs. It's an amazing game I poured literally thousands of hours into, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a functioning brain who likes strategy games :)


Questions, comments, mistakes? Ping me a mail at vaxry [at] vaxry.net and I'll get back to ya.