Carol and the GIMP

7:39 pm General

For a long time, Carol Spears was a positive contributor to the GIMP. She wrote tutorials, helped people out on IRC and on mailing lists, she mentored people who were a little shy or new to the community. And she re-wrote the GIMP website, to a stage where it was almost ready to replace the old one we’d had some the 0.99 days.

That’s when things started coming unstuck. Carol had several personal hardships around that time, which I understand and sympathise with. She had built up a lot of capital around the GIMP, and people gave her a lot of lattitude, and help. But she became discouraged with GIMP development when replacing the GIMP website took years, rather than weeks. She ended up blaming one or two people for that (including me, I think) more or less harrying them away from the GIMP for extended holidays.

And since then, we have still tried to get the old Carol back. She moved to California, where she stayed with a GIMP developer. She came to GUADEC in Kristiansand with a ticket paid for by GIMP sponsors. For a time, things looked like they might be getting better.

And yet, Carol persists in being incredibly anti-social. She gets incredibly aggressive any time anyone mentions photoshop, Windows, her lack of politeness, or any other of half a dozen loosely connected topics.

And she scares away potential contributors, the lifeblood of the project. The GIMP hasn’t had many new people for a while, but reading the mail she sent to Diana Fong after Diana was trying to contribute positively to the project stepped over a new boundary.

I don’t know how many times she has sent this sort of mail to well-wishing people who then silently went away. But this is the first time that I have seen this kind of thing from her.

I am no longer prepared to be associated with Carol. I’ve asked yosh to remove her e-mail address. He may well refuse. If he does, he can remove mine instead.

20 Responses

  1. Marc Says:

    I have to take a moment and comment on this. I think you are absolutely correct, and I think someone, somewhere, needs to set a precedent for dealing with nasty people (or good people with nasty social skills) who attach themselves to Open Source projects. Being perceived as part of the leadership of a project like The Gimp *must* carry with it specific social responsibilities, or the leadership itself will turn into one big liability as far as the future of the project goes.

  2. John (J5) Palmieri Says:

    I must say that after all of this I think the GIMP leadership is excellent. Instead of bemoaning that someone had posted something negative about the community they all jumped in to apologize which was unneeded since only one person who in the end does not represent The Gimp, was to blame.

  3. Owen Williams Says:

    “they all jumped in to apologize which was unneeded since only one person who in the end does not represent The Gimp, was to blame.”

    The problem with open source development is that on a case-by-case basis it does appear that individuals speak for the group. Outsiders unfamiliar with open source are more accustomed to corporate developers which have entire departments to ensure that each employee stays on-message and that correspondence accurately reflects the shared values of the corporation.

    Without such restraints in place there will always be “loose cannons” in open source. The GIMP people were right to apologize lest it seem they condoned the comments.

  4. Benji2 Says:

    On the other hand, i can sympathise with Carols. I didn’t read the incriminated bugreports, but i know for sure that when you had heard the Gimp bashed _for years_ everywhere for not being like AP, you can sometimes get crazy at some point. (Her main grief seems to be that the mail was comming from an @redhat address)

    Not that the mail is any justifiable behaviour or something, still. Maybe she could just apologize. But banning any contributors really should be a last resort.

  5. BK. Says:

    I must say I’m glad to see someone stand up to carol’s abuse. Alright, she doesn’t get as abusive as some on the net, but I too joined the gimp mailing list in order to help. Sometimes it was just a tiny comment here or there that gave gimp-only people an idea of how a photoshop tool worked, as I use both apps and know not all developers or people in a position to change gimp do. Minor help I realise, but some is better than none, and a little information in the right direction can do some great good.

    Mentioning photoshop even in passing managed to get carol’s ire up enough for her to respond with some snarky comments on-list, but I finally left after I suggested a tool I’d like to see in the gimp. The private email from carol that followed was confusingly abusive, but in a roundabout way accused me of sleeping with someone in order to get the money to pay for photoshop, and that by suggesting gimp could have features that photoshop has I was belittling gimp users worldwide who were capable of doing great work with it regardless. Carol said she wasn’t going to stand that kind of snobbery from a ‘prostitute’ like myself. For some reason she made the link to gimp and other free software saving people from a life of sleeping with other people in order to get quality software, and prostitutes who buy software hate open source.

    I just left the list. I didn’t realise others had experienced similar, or that Carol wasn’t a core gimp dev.

  6. Søren Hauberg Says:

    Quite some time ago I was considering joining the Gimp comunity, but I desided against since the people was extremely unpleasant. I remember Carol, and I remember thinking she was very annoying, but I thought it was quite obvious that she was just part of the “noisy” of the list. The person who got me to leave the list was Sven Neumann (did I spell that correctly).
    Now, Sven is properly a very smart guy, but he basicly acted as if that meant all other people where not so smart. He wasn’t very rude to me, but he really treated other people very bad.
    And then I left…

    (P.S. Don’t get me wrong I really love and love using the Gimp)

  7. Ravi Shekhar S Says:


    Carol had always been polite and helpful when ever I used to seek help in #gimp.

    When I first read your post I thought — WTF?!
    After I read her mail, I think she has to first help her own life before fixing the Gimp.


  8. Me Says:

    I think you people are all overreacting here. Carol used to be a long years contributor to GIMP, did a lot of useful stuff and somehow is a respected person around GIMP.

    Just because she has some private problems (which we all have every now and then) shouldn’t be the reason to throw her off as if she’s some sort of abscess.

    I mean how do we value people, just because there are some Red Hat people filling in some bugs doesn’t mean they get some sort of special treatment, except the thing maybe that something is to be expected from Red Hat which justifies getting rid of a long year contributor that easily.

    Personally I also believe that the Red Hat people start to take some sort of special rights whenever they are saying something which is more important than what anyone else says.

    Free Software is also about free speech and if Carol felt she had to reply in that way then there might have been a reason doing so. And from the looks of filled in Bugs it looked like Sven has closed most of them as NOBUG or WONTFIX or whatever anyways which already is a sign that most of the stuff that has been reported only caused a lot of wasteful time for the developers to respond.

    Please accept my comment as given and don’t see any personal offendings here. Just clearing my own opinion, but then sometimes it’s better to simply don’t comment to anything.

  9. Me Says:

    > Since only one person who in the end does not represent The Gimp, was to blame.

    John, for me she does represent the GIMP since she contributed to it with tutorials, help and other really useful stuff. I recall years back when I had long chats with carol and she always was quite calm and polite. So what are you trying to achieve here ? In your own blog you use words like ‘the person should step back’ and even here you use stuff like ‘she is not representing GIMP’. These sentences only reflect that you desperately want her to go away as soon as even possible. Please think that you are not representing either my opinion nor the one from others, you are not even representing GNOME as a whole either.

  10. Alexandre Says:

    Well, I didn’t ever talk to Carol, though I’m a long time GIMP user (ca. 4 years). I’ve being reading gimp-developer@ via gmane for last several months and almost everywhere I saw Carol writing to the list she was pretty abusive and nasty.

    I truly have respect for all that she has done for GIMP users, so instead of banning her it would be better if one of lead developers spoke to her and tried to explain her that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable and not appreciated by anyone.

  11. John (J5) Palmieri Says:


    My opinion is my own. I don’t represent anyone but myself. I posit a theory and then prove it Q.E.D. If I happen to be logical and people agree then great. As it seems though the incedents in question are not isolated and rather represent a pattern. Wether or not she is allowed to use the address is up to The Gimp community not me and I have not asked for such a thing though I think it is a valid step for anyone who abuses their privilege to own one. It is not taking away her Freedom of Speech as you so boldly put it since she still has her own voice and her own blog and e-mail address. It just makes sure that her abuse does not reflect on The gimp

    I think you put words in my mouth also, “step back” means to take a step back to evaluate what you are doing because when you don’t you are often too close to see the whole picture. And “Doesn’t represent The Gimp” comes from the Gimp developers themselves. It has come to be my understanding of the case which is why I don’t think the actions that had been taken are a refelction on the Gimp as a whole.

    As far as the Red Hat remark – do you belive that having deserves me any worse treatment than anyone else? Again the us against them doesn’t fly with me. Every one involved stands on their own two feet.

  12. ravi Says:

    I agree with you that Carol has wronged Diana.

    But, here the issue is more than plain hatred.

    Please request your colleagues to be patient and polite, though the volunteers are accountable in free software community, they don’t function like employees of a company where the other can demand an explaination for every trivial thing and force them to spoon feed them to learn about the project.

  13. Me Says:

    John, I am by far too long participating to the entire GNOME community (This includes GTK+, GIMP and GNOME) and I am quite astonished that you come up with this topic about ‘rudeness’ in this community. This only leave one conclusion – that you haven’t been participating long enough to this community or movement to know everything. In the past I was at a point where I believed that the entire GNOME community is based upon the same type of rude people. The kind of bad behavior you are criticising Carol for – now is the same kind of bad behavior that I saw within a big handful of GNOME participants over the year. To say the truth, in all of us there lives some sort of ‘asshole’. And I was treatened like a dog myself quite a dozen of times and at the end I didn’t knew what I did wrong and only felt (like Sven said on his blog) to be missunderstood. If you look on the recent GNOME Woman announcement on then you see how that said Red Hat employee was acting stupid by using really agressive and stupid wording in her sentences. Treatening others with disrespect and what else and yet nobody has given a damn.

    I believe everything is cooked hoter than it really is. It’s not worth the effort and I think that Carol will be normal again once she get all the problems solved.

    Even now as we type there still are a lot of egomanicas in the entire GNOME community that even today act much worse.

  14. John (J5) Palmieri Says:


    Vounteers/employees – I think it is a line that shouldn’t be drawn. It is an issue that people seem to want to bring up but really isn’t relevant to the representation of a project. It all boils down to being able to come to a project without fear of abuse. Sure someone can get fustrated with you if you do something wrong but accusing someone of sleeping their way to getting a title is wrong.

  15. John (J5) Palmieri Says:


    I can be an asshole at time too. I’m not arguing that people don’t lose their temper or have a right to flame people. It is stepping over the line, being abusive and going down to personal attacks on people you don’t even know that is my concern. Had Carol simply said “you’re being annoying and wasting everyones time” I would have no issue, I have certainly done the equivalent to Carol and I think she deserved it though initially I never named her as I was hoping she would have resolved the issue privately. Remember she outed herself on my blog. If I would have posted the letter I would have done so without her name attached. The post was really just something I felt was a drain on the community and where I felt we could improve moving forward. It just caught on to themes I had been posting about lately. I bear no ill will to Carol as a person but I do take issue with her actions.

    BTW. Assumptions are bad. I have been part of the Gnome community since before 1.0 (as a user at first). I didn’t start hacking on core components until I got hired by RH at which part my own projects fell to the wayside and I started spending most of my time on infrastructure.

  16. John (J5) Palmieri Says:


    So I went to the gnomedesktop announcement. I don’t see a single post by Diana but it is hard to tell because they are mostly all posted anonymously. In fact from what I could tell it was mostly men posting to that thread.

  17. I me mine Says:

    ‘Me’, saying Diana commented in that gnomedesktop news when nobody used her name at all (link: ) is like if I suggested that you are Carol herself.

  18. Raymod Says:

    Es-tu sûr de ce que tu fais ?
    Je n’ai jamais rencontré Carol de ma vie mais tout laisse porter à croire qu’elle est sujet parfois à quelque instabilité mentale.
    Ce genre de problème ne peut qu’empirer avec des refus, exclusions ou autre action que tu préconises envers elle. Je comprends aisément que son attitude est parfois néfaste pour le projet Gimp mais n’en est-il pas de même de Sven et Carol n’est-elle pas aussi une pourvoyeuse de contribution utile au projet Gimp. En quoi son site est-il moins utile au projet Gimp que les pauvres
    codages d’un individu orgueilleux comme Sven ?
    Je te serai gré de revoir tout ça avec ton coeur d’humain car c’est le lot des logiciels libres d’être humain avant-tout.

    SVP merci.

  19. Me Says:

    John I might be mistaken but the person with the nick “dohpaz” isn’t that Diana ? If not then please accept my apologizes. I read the entire article and thread long ago and had something in my head for long.

  20. John (J5) Palmieri Says:


    dohpaz is a guy named Kenneth Paul from what I can gather:
    Submitted by dohpaz on Wed, 2005-06-15 15:55.

    I have also taken the liberty to mirror this document on two of my servers:

    Submitted by dohpaz on Sat, 2005-06-18 22:54.

    And no, I’m not Val; I’m not even a woman.

    And actually I found his posts to be quite enlightened. Perhaps things come off different to you.

    In any case an apology is not needed. It is an honest mistake.