What Your Open Source Culture Really Says, Part One

Just send a pull request!!

by Shanley Kane on April 9th, 2015

We focus on technical excellence.

What Your Culture Really Says: There’s no one we work with who possesses any competencies whatsoever outside of coding. We need user experience design, technical writing, community management and product management to actually build something remotely useful, and our project will fail because we don’t have those skills on our team. We don’t have anyone making any efforts at doing user research, studies and outreach, so we’re out of touch with the needs of our users, don’t understand how the software is used in real-world scenarios, and have no idea what potential markets we could expand into. Our software could be useful, relevant and chosen by people who are not primarily coders, (i.e. product managers, marketers, business development groups) but because we think non-technical people are irrelevant, we’ll never be adopted by those groups. While people with skills in user interaction, user experience, accessibility and visual design could make our open-source product easier to use, we just don’t care about that. The resulting complete inaccessibility and opaqueness of the project is a source of pride. Our abject failure is clear evidence that we are just smarter than anyone else. There is literally no evidence of our shortcomings that we can’t turn into a glowing reflection on our technical acumen.

Our company is open sourcing this project/product/codebase because we want to make it available to the world, give back to the community, and promote innovation on top of our existing work.

What Your Culture Really Says: Someone on our team built this shit in their spare time because our engineering team is full of special snowflakes with too much venture funding who don’t understand the term “company priorities,” but hey, we’re just going to open source it to “build goodwill in the community.” It’s fine. We tried to sell this as a proprietary product and no one wanted it and/or we were too incompetent to sell it. We no longer want to carry the weight of this software because we don’t have the resources or funds, and we either can’t afford or won’t prioritize hiring more people to work on it, but maybe we can get some poor sucker out there to do it for free. This code contains absolutely no innovations, progressions or aspects that could potentially be useful to competitors or potential competitors, so is unlikely to advance the state of the industry and market overall, but we can write a press release about it.

We welcome contributions from the open source community.

What Your Culture Really Says: Our company can subsidize our paid workforce with a workforce that is completely uncompensated and won’t even have any expectation of being paid, and it’s fucking awesome.

Open sourcing our software is a great recruiting tool, allowing us to find and hire people who passionate about our code.

What Your Culture Really Says: We want potential employees to contribute dozens or hundreds of hours in completely unpaid labor before we will even consider hiring them. We don’t want to invest our own time and money into seeking and training employees, so we use our open source software to find people who won’t require any development, tutorials, introductions, training or onboarding, saving us an incredible amount of time and money and keeping us from ever having to develop these competencies. If people are willing to do this shit for free, imagine what they’ll do when we do hire them!

Our open source project is a meritocracy.

What Your Culture Really Says: Our open source project is basically a benevolent dictatorship that the same people and/or their drinking buddies have been leading since its inception. Because we worship “founding” things, even mediocre open source projects, our primary maintainer is probably the person who wrote the first prototype, even if they have no other skills relevant to leading open source projects including effective communication, people and project management, conflict resolution, vision and strategy skills, and empathy for users and contributors. There is no defined path to leadership roles in the open source project, and no way to kick leaders out of the project even when it becomes clear they are harming the project or its community.

We have a robust, vibrant and diverse open source community.

What Your Culture Really Says: Our team is full of straight cis white men, but some of them have unique hobbies, unusual pets or have studied abroad as college students, providing a richness of experience and skillsets to our team.

We have a direct, transparent, no-nonsense style of interacting with each other which promotes better and healthier communication. 

What Your Culture Really Says: We have no code of conduct, no understanding of abuse dynamics in online communities, and no ability to build a community that is safe and welcoming because we think cute slogans about being “nice” are a substitute for the hard work required to build a functional community. We have no understanding of systemic discrimination and inequality and probably don’t believe that those things even exist. We have no processes or strategies for addressing the gendered abuse, discrimination and assault that is in rampant in the open source community. Our mailing lists frequently feature abusive, demeaning and humiliating arguments as a strategy for resolving technical arguments, ensuring that people will leave the community, and only abusers and enablers remain. Yay!

We are active members of the larger open source community.

What Your Culture Really Says: We can often be found drinking free beer at tech events and occasionally paying for other people to enjoy free beer at similar gatherings. We have some stickers available that you can put on your laptop, and our stickers can sometimes be seen on the computers of mediocre presenters at tech conferences. Perhaps we even have shirts, or hoodies with our logo or the name of our project, that you can order from our website. Stickers = community!

If you find a problem or issue in the software, just submit the fix!

What Your Culture Really Says:  Don’t bring up potential issues in the software unless you personally know how to AND have the time, energy and desire to fix them… for free. As an open source project we don’t actually take personal responsibility for the stability, security and correctness of the code, because it belongs to the “community” and is by the “community” and therefore all complaints should be directed to the “community” and fixed by it. (However, all praise should continue to flow to the “core contributors”). We don’t have any process for reporting, triaging and addressing problems that works in any way, but “send a pull request” sounds better than “don’t criticize us it hurts” or “what the fuck do we do now.” The only thing holding this project remotely together is romanticized notions of free and open source software. We have no accountability, no overarching strategy or goal, and no reliable guarantee to users that the software will be useful, usable, or maintained.

Just submit a pull request!

Go fuck yourself.

Be excellent to each other.

Go fuck yourself.

Photo of a burning fire.

Photo CC-BY liz west.