The Internet is for energy drain?

One of my favourite books series currently is Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin. Due to like many other fans waiting on the upcoming book in this series I check his blog from time to time for news. George Martin, like a lot of other people today is quite active online and thus interact with his fans through his blog and through email. In some way he is as available to the readers of his books as an open source developer is to the users of his or her software. And it is not always fun as George recently pointed out. As it turns out George experience is in no way unique and another writer, Patrick Rothfuss, did the following hillarious cartoon for his blog, which explains exactly how it these things feels for the author.

I think a lot of open source developers can recognize some of the stuff in those cartoons, the internet seems to be one of the best methods humanity has ever created for spreading negative energy around quickly and easily. So while less people bother emailing or blogging or commenting on a forum about their favourite open source tool compared to best selling books, the effect tend to be the same. The barrage of negative feedback drains the developer of energy and instead of encouraging him or her to bring out a new version to fix issues, in fact such feedback cause the developer to do less than they otherwise would.

I guess open source developers tend to be quite hard skinned in general, but I do remember for instance Arlo Rose, the guy who did the original graphics for Nautilus back in the day, saying he stopped being involved with the Linux community partly due to all the negative comments he saw on footnotes.

So a word for the road, if you want to achieve something in terms of dealing with anyone, be it the author of your favourite book or your favourite piece of software, your chance of doing that is much much higher if you stay positive.

3 thoughts on “The Internet is for energy drain?”

  1. I had the exact same thought when I read this blog post of his! My wife has been rereading the series, so we went to check on the status, and saw that post. I made the exact same comparison to open source developers, and we had a fun little discussion about it.

    In short, +1.

  2. Heh… Martin’s not wrong there – fans of a series will always be demanding, always wanting the next book as soon as possible, but some of them really do go nuts about it. Although I can see their point – it’s hard being a fan when the fourth book is delayed some 5 years, and that was a few years ago now with the fifth still nowhere in sight.

    Paralleling that in software development, I think developers sometimes need to do a better job of managing people’s expectations, letting them know what is, and what isn’t happening. If a developer blogs about some new feature, they need to be clear on when users can expect to see it in a released version – don’t get people’s hopes up, and they’ll be less likely to turn on you for letting them down.

    Not meaning to put the blame on developers (or authors), but they do have a part to play in ensuring fans have realistic expectations. As a commercial developer, clients aren’t impressed if I tell them “I need another month” for six months straight. And I think the same applies to others – tell your fans that something might be two years away in the worst case, and they’ll wait two years as patiently as fans ever do. Tell them six months and delay it again four times, and they’ll be a lot more frustrated.

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