Entries tagged - "open-source"

A governance system, if you can keep it

One of the most famous anecdotes that forms the basis of the United States’ political self-identity is the story of an interaction between Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth Willing Powel after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the United States’ present form of government. Powel asked Franklin what sort of government the U.S. was to have, to which he replied: “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Given the self-conscious references to “constitutions” and “checks and balances” in the Rust project’s recent governance RFC and the discourse around it, some further reflection on this quote and its implications about governance as such might now be appropriate for the project and its community.

Organizational Debt

We all know that classic aphorism: Year comes to an end, Rust blog post press send. This is mine. There are lots of cool technical improvements to Rust that I want the project to achieve this year, and a few in particular that I’m definitely going to be putting a lot of time into. But this blog post is going to talk about none of them. Instead, I want to talk about organizational debt, and how badly the Rust project needs to deal with it in 2019.…

The hard parts of talking about open source

Evan Czaplicki, the creator and maintainer of the Elm project (a project that I love by the way) gave a great talk at Strange Loop last month called “The Hard Parts of Open Source.” I really enjoyed and valued this talk, and I encourage everyone who is involved in open source to watch it. You can find on YouTube here.

In particular, I got a lot of value out of his identification of three specific harmful patterns of behavior in the open source community, and of his geneological work tracing the origins of those behaviors through the history of the “hacker” subculture. I think I’m going to be utilising these patterns a lot when trying to understand unpleasant interactions I have in connection with my open source work.

In case some readers decide not to watch Evan’s talk, I want to highlight those three patterns here:

  1. “Why don’t you just..” People sometimes propose solutions to problems that are very obvious, but have nuanced and non-obvious problems. Often, these proposals are made with an intonation that the project maintainers - who have thought about the domain a great deal more than the person making the proposal - have completely overlooked this obvious solution.
  2. “On whose authority?” People sometimes will attempt to subvert and undermine the authority of project leadership. Sometimes they go as far as suggesting ulterior, untoward motivation for decision-making (usually having to do with the project’s financial sponsor). Sometimes they undermine the competence and capabilities of people leading the project.
  3. “All discussion is constructive.” While the previous two patterns were forms of outright attack on project maintainers, this pattern is more subtle. It is the attitude which ignores the negative externalities of discussion, the way that producing more discussion content can be harmful to the project’s goals. Sometimes it goes so far as to say that discussion containing negative behavioral patterns is still constructivebecause behind the attacks there might be good ideas.

As I’ve said, I think Evan’s talk is quite good and worth watching, but I do have an objection, which is why I’ve written out this whole blog post. In the final segment of the talk, it shifts from disecting these social phenomena into a sketch of a proposed discussion platform designed with the goal of producing more positive discussions.