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FOSS and Entitlement

Lance Bachmeier
I'm a macroeconomist, energy economist, and time series econometrician that does a lot of programming
・2 min read

Another day, another discussion of entitlement on Hacker News. This time the post that drove the discussion is My FOSS Story.

Let me say that I know nothing about the author or any of the background behind the post. My comments are general in nature. The biggest problem is inappropriate expectations of open source project maintainers.

The author of the post writes:

I've seen or experienced this in FOSS in a number of different ways:

You should put out a new release.
You should rewrite this in [insert programming language here].
You should rename your project.
You should [insert major architectural change here].
You should change the license of your project.

That apparently bothers the author. I don't understand why it matters. Of course people are going to request/suggest things. If you don't like what they're asking you to do, just ignore it, or even better, answer that you've open sourced your project so that you can incorporate pull requests.

Anyway, I don't really understand what this has to do with "entitlement". If you put your project out there for the world to see, you're inviting comments, feedback, and shoulds. If you don't like it, don't share your work.

Later on, he writes "At some level, even the act of opening a bug is a form of entitlement". Of course it is. That's why the dang bug tracker exists. The author even says that in the very next sentence. Evidently the complaint has nothing to do with entitlement.

My suggestion (or "should" if you want to use that term) is to be very clear on the project site what limitations there are. If you don't want feedback, state that clearly. If you don't want bug reports, state that clearly. Even better, make a release and tell the world "this is complete, take it as it is, I have no plans to make changes to this project". It's my opinion that you should normally release open source code without any promise to evolve the project or to do any more than basic maintenance. The real problem in that post is that the author is experiencing burnout. He's spending a lot of time on things he doesn't want to do because he doesn't see them as valuable. He should step away, or at least be clear as to the things he's going to work on, and let the community take care of the rest.

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