[Mailman-Users] {Oink!!} Pig at the wedding question/diatribe

Chuq Von Rospach chuqui at plaidworks.com
Fri Nov 5 23:02:47 CET 2004

On Nov 5, 2004, at 12:09 PM, Stewart Dean wrote:

> John, everything you say is valid, and your response is helpful.  It 
> is not my intent to just 'bitch from the cheap seat'...the old, 'The 
> food's no good and there's not enough of it'.

> What I was attempting to express was/is my frustration at a beautiful 
> application with many good feature, responsive development, etc., 
> etc....that is missing the boat with the fundamental issue of 
> maintenance and updating.  It is like the guy who builds an exquisite 
> power boat in the basement...but with no way to get it out of the 
> basement.

And those two issues are fundamentally tied together.

There are a limited number of people actively involved in Mailman's 
code. Most of those people have limited amounts of time (I'm currently 
back in 60-70 hour mode, although I seem to be heading back to a more 
normal 50 hour week finally). Volunteers are involved because they have 
their own ideas of what's important and what is needed to improve the 
system, and they commit the time to make sure their priorities get 

I've got a nice laundry list of things I'd like to see in Mailman. 
Better UI and easier maintenance would be nice, but they're in the 
middle of my list, not the top. I'm not going to move them to the top 
of MY list because YOU feel they ought to be there. And given my 
schedule, which is similar to Barry's and Brad's, and Toiko's and... 
(you get the point), there are always going to be more features than 

I know when folks who are involved with open source projects say "hey! 
start coding!" it pisses people off. I sympathize but I sympathize from 
both sides, and the bottom line is that's the reality. It's not that 
developers aren't open to feedback or suggestions, because we all are, 
and knowing the core Mailman folks the way I do, I feel safe saying 
they agree with you and wish they could do it, too (but we all have 
lives, or pretend to).

But the bottom line is -- users who make suggestions can influence the 
priorities of the developers (and do), but when users attempt to 
dictate those priorities, it gets the developers just as pissed as 
"hey! start coding" pisses off the users. It goes both ways here.

It needs to be remembered that the coin of the realm in an open source 
project is sweat equity. If you invest in the project with sweat equity 
(hours, code, donuts, resources, jolt cola) you get a say in setting 
the agenda and direction of the project. If you don't invest that time 
-- you're a spectator. And spectators can't change things, they can 
only attempt to convince someone who can to champion their cause. Which 
happens, but if it doesn't, that's not OUR fault as developers 
(although many leave in a huff claiming so), it's your fault for not 
putting more than talk into the bargain.

that's life. None of us are paid to do this. And most of us not only 
have full-time (or more) jobs, but spouses, children, lives, houses, 
lawns and all those other things do, just like all of the users do -- 
except we ALSO try to fit working on this code into our lives as well, 
because it's important to us. And there's a lot to do, and way too few 
people around putting time into doing it.

So it comes down to the reality that if you feel it HAS to be done, do 
it, or find someone to do it and pay them, or pay one of us to do it 
for the project, or something. Because that's how you set the agenda 
instead of complain about it. And if that sounds mean, sorry. Life 
doesn't always allow "live happily ever after" sugarcoating, and it 
serves no useful purpose here to pretend otherwise. I'm not bitching at 
a person, but at a situation, and you don't fix the situation by lying 
about it or avoiding it because it's unpleasant.

but the reality is simple: lots of needed work, few available 
development hours. Physics wins, and the only way to change that is to 
change the basics of that reality: take away features, rearrange their 
priority, or add resources to solve them. And unless you choose the 
latter, you're just one more voice in the hundreds asking for things to 
be done, and it's the ones doing the work that decide the priority.

More information about the Mailman-Users mailing list