Doesn't anything work around here?

Miles Nordin carton at Ivy.NET
Sun Nov 4 08:38:27 PST 2007

>>>>> "kk" == Kris Kennaway <kris at> writes:

    kk> Sorry, what was your point?

When you work on a marginalized project that has to interface with
others, like FreeBSD/sparc64 with FreeBSD/i386, or like BSD
ports/pkgsrc with the Linux-centric mainstream of free Unix software,
in practice your work is not ``what interests you'' or ``scratching an
itch'' or ``what you make of it''---larger and larger chunks of your
agenda get chosen by what the dominant project is breaking.

It interests some random guy to rototill libcairo for some reason
which he finds interesting, and which I would probably find silly if I
knew what it was.  And that's fine because we all work on our
interests, right?  But it interests NetBSD's Michael Lorenz to run X11
on Creator3D framebuffers, so does that mean he gets to learn how
Creator3D works and write drivers for it?  Somewhat, but more so it
means he gets to spend his time frantically following around randomguy
with a dustpan and cleaning up everything he breaks.  If you've done
this, you know very well what it's like---the fastest way is often to
go through the commit log looking for impatient- or confused-sounding
messages from i386-centric people, or just changes in general, and
ask, ``could this be it?''  People working on the dominant
architecture will say ``I don't have a sparc64'' or ``I don't have a
FreeBSD box,'' which means to them more-or-less ``I don't have to
worry about what I break here, because after all, how could I?''

Yes, it's always going to be like that somewhat.  No, these people who
are breaking things definitely aren't bad or necessarily even doing
anything wrong.  But it's not just an ``we're all volunteers so no one
can complain about anything'' situation.  It's a software engineering
problem, and certain habits, best-practices, social pressures
absolutely will influence how much you have this problem, and the
``we're all volunteers'' mantra I think sometimes squashes that
process before it can begin.
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