The Room Do I dare disturb the universe?

"Patches Welcome" or Volunteers vs Hobbists

There has been a strong meme going around that I’ve not been paying attention to until today. I’m not sure my opinion really matters here but I thought I’d add my perspective which doesn’t seem to be represented well in the discussion.

I’ve been paid as a Perl developer for a little over a decade now. I’ve been involved in various degrees in the Perl Community for a little less than a decade. I have been what I consider actively involved in the Perl community for only about 3-4 years. In that time I’ve watched some projects I’ve been involved with flounder and effectively die, and other projects not. I’ve worked for very large companies with a DarkPAN problem, and for very small companies that contribute heavily to CPAN. I am currently running another.

All of this is background to say “I’ve been around the block a few times”.

So the current “Patches Welcome” … discussion … seems to be based around the idea that CPAN contributors should treat their volunteer work as if it were equal to their day jobs. The analogy made is that of a volunteer Firefighter, or Nurse, or the extreme example the Peace Corps1.

I think the analogy to Volunteers like this breaks down. Those jobs are never treated as hobbies. A CTO I used to work for is a volunteer firefighter. He will never get a call and say “you know, I just ate a big plate of ribs, I’m gonna sit this one out”. I’m sure if he did, the rest of the squad would say “Dude, don’t come back.” (If they didn’t, I would have serious qualms about moving into that community).

Anything I’ve uploaded to CPAN that I wasn’t directly paid to do was done because I love doing it, recreationally. It’s a hobby. RelaxNG support for XML::Toolkit won’t happen until I am in the mood. If you would like it to not be a hobby for me, I have an hourly rate that is I’m told very reasonable2. I hate saying that, but it’s true.

As a hobby FOSS programming is a team sport. “Patches Welcome” is an invitation to play.

If you ran into Tony Hawk3 skating at the Brooklyn Banks, would you tell him his flip kick was a little off or ask him to help you with your pop shove-it? Yeah, me neither. But if we were to do so, and he replied “hey I’m busy right now, why don’t you show me what you mean”? Even if he phrased it like “show it, hot shot” that shouldn’t automatically translate to “screw you, I’m TONY HAWK!”; it’s challenge to participate.

I’ve never skated in my life, but if a professional skateboarder4 offered to work with me if I were to show up and try. I would[^5]. If I can’t or don’t try to participate, does that reflect on them?

“Patches Welcome” is an invitation to play. It may be said during a period of frustration or exhaustion. It may be said to people who don’t know the first thing about the game. It may even be said by people who mean to say “screw you, I’m STEVAN LITTLE!”. That doesn’t make it any less of an invitation.

I have already started discussing what we as a community can do about increasing the number of professional opportunities available5. If you want to discuss how people should be more Professional about their recreation, you really need to look at the definitions of those terms.

The thing of it is, discussing this is unprofessional. Claiming you know best what something someone else means is unprofessional. Claiming that your time (recreational or not) is somehow holy or too valuable to share is unprofessional. So let’s move on and do something else with our time.

for two years. Though it is wonderful if you want to volunteer to do so. They have more requirements than CPAN for contribution though.

contact me I can definitely use unpaid professional labour right now.

Lee if you’re reading this I’ll happily bust my ass on a board at your direction as well. I would love to learn to kick-flip before I die, but I suspect being able to ollie is a required skill I lack.

pretty sure if Christian Jacobs were to ask me to sit in with the Aquabats because I said that he’d gotten sloppy on Charge! with his horn section, even though I’m not a professional musician, you’d bet your ass I’d be sitting in with the band. Same thing for Mr. Gaiman and his loose plotting (although I adore his prose style).

[^5]I’m not expecting to even be contacted by a professional skateboarder. I’m pretty sure ours is the only industry where not responding to complaints in a blog some where somehow makes us less professional too.

related business opportunities in the world.

  1. At least nobody is asking CPAN contributors to move to Mongolia 

  2. If you would like to Volunteer as a FOSS programmer, please 

  3. Doesn’t have to be Tony Hawk. Elissa Steamer, Bucky Lasek, Jason 

  4. You can replace skateboarding with any profession here too, I’m 

  5. One of Tamarou’s explicit goals is to grow the number of Perl