Bring Kindness back to Open Source

When you’re rude/crisp/sharp/whatever to someone in a PR or Issue, your meanness may have turned off the next generation of open source committer. It’s that simple. When folks are just starting out as Code Newbies their initial interactions in this new world matter.

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. There’s knowledge and (hopefully) wisdom that I’ve gained in all that time, assuming it’s not the same year of experience twenty times. Along with all that time that I (and you!) put in comes great responsibility. We need to think as a community about stewardship, sustainability, and successor management.

There are folks in open source — successful folks — that think that all this talk of “niceness” is overrated. “Talk is cheap, show me the code” is a fun thing to say. But no, talk isn’t cheap. It’s not cheap, yes, it takes time and patience, but it IS important.

As we try to move towards more representative teams and expand the leadership beyond the old network, this somehow controversial idea of being welcoming and patient to new people is even more important.

There are many folks out there with skills and knowledge that are not joining open source because their initial attempts to contributed were rebuffed.

Jesse Pollak posted two great tweets last week that really point out what’s wrong with open source, especially for new people just starting out.

Jesse pledged a “no meanness” rule. I join him in this pledge and encourage you to also.

I’ve thought similar things before.

Sound like too much work? There are ways to built a welcoming culture into the process. Here’s some ideas. I’m interested in yours also.

Make a

  • Gently point folks to it.
  • If you get a lot of newbies, write a kind form letter and funnel them towards forums or mentors.
  • Create a Getting started friendly FAQ.

Tag issues with “up-for-grabs” in your repositories.

Have you helped with an open source project? Did you had a bad initial experience? Did it slow you down?

Perhaps you had a great one and your first pull request was awesome? I’d like to hear your story.