Curing “Shy Developer Syndrome”

7:39 pm community, freesoftware, maemo, marketing, work

From the Neary Consulting blog:

One of the most common issues I have seen with experienced professional software developers who start to work on community software is a reluctance to engage with public communication channels like mailing lists. Understanding the reasons why, and helping your developers overcome their timidity, is key to creating a successful and fruitful relationship with the community you are working with.

In my experience, common reasons for this timidity are a lack of confidence in written English skills, or technical skills, nervousness related to public peer review, and seeing community interaction as “communication” or “marketing” (which are not part of their job), rather than just “getting stuff done” (which, of course, is part of their job).

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7 Responses

  1. jani Says:

    Maybe the ‘too few women in FOSS/tech syndrome’ is the most famous sub-instance of the one you describe. Many non-contributing or discouraged males get lost among the males making up the majority of
    contributors, but females stand out.

  2. Rodney Dawes Says:

    For me, mailing lists are a huge risk vs. low return problem. They can become a time sink easily, and it’s quite often that pointless arguments get started on them, as offshoots of the original intent of the thread. Web Forums also have this problem. And, to really get much of anything out of a list, you must subscribe to it, as not everyone who replies, is going to put you specifically in the recipients headers. That means, you’re now suddenly going to get a lot more mail than you normally would for any highly active project. And for anyone trying to get involved in an open source community, 99% of the mail on that list is probably going to be totally irrelevant to them. It will just make tracking the conversation they are trying to have, much harder.

    Been there, done that, unsubscribed from lots of lists. Mailing lists are just a horribly inefficient way of communicating, but which are sufficient for a lot of people because they are very visible, and it’s generally easy for anyone to jump in. Even if they aren’t the people that should be jumping in.

  3. Gas Chlorinator Says:

    I tested these things too … but mostly my eamils get spammed.

    trying to figure out why it is so? Do you have any idea?

  4. Rob Staudinger Says:

    I think many professional developers are just shy of dealing with the shit that’s being thrown around in many public mailing lists.

    Will the zealots go and suggest postgresql’s process model was poor, or samba’s memory allocator sucks? Unlikely, but they will tell you your GUI was bad or that you’re using a package format they don’t like, just because it’s so easy to engage on that superficial level.

    Too many fanboys out there just don’t accept that a company open sourcing a product usually keeps holding the maintainership, and that you can’t just come along and make big decisions. Open source never worked that way, the young’ns just don’t get it.

  5. Ryan Abel Says:

    Yes, but is the pay-off you get from an open way of working worth it? That’s an awful lot of people who will be pushing and helping to improve your product—for free! Nobody said it would be easier, but the wider benefits seem to be worthwhile.

  6. Neary Consulting » Follow-up to “Shy Developer Syndrome” Says:

    […] gnome.org, Rodney Dawes argued that developers tend to stay away from mailing lists because the more public […]

  7. tf Says:

    > That’s an awful lot of people who will be pushing and helping to improve your product—for free!

    That’s a myth. What you really get is an awful lot of people who will have an opinion on what you should be doing, without having any real understanding of the issues involved. Individual FOSS projects are invariably not created by masses of people contributing titbits, but by a handful of dedicated individuals doing all of the work. As both Rob and Rodney said above, the noise level on public mailing lists is deafening, shyness has little, if anything at all, to do with this :-) .