When open source is like bad sex

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Earlier, in response to designer demands for programmers to be more responsive to users, I wrote a post titled Open Source is Like Sex. In it I said that the users need to think about being less passive–to meet the techs half way.

Of course, when the users say, “Come on honey, I’m ready to rock and roll”, it would help if the developers don’t respond with, “Not now, I’m not in the mood.”

This new writing is related to the earlier post about the vulnerability found in WordPress 1.2.1 and 1.3 that would allow anyone to change a person’s siteurl value just by entering a bad URL into a browser. This can render a site unreadable, and even unusable; luckily though, it was a relatively easy hole to plug.

That WordPress, like all software, has bugs is nothing new and no big deal. There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ software, and you can spend the next twenty years jumping from weblogging tool to weblogging tool and still manage to stub your nose or your toes hopping into bed with each new hope of the moment. Perfection isn’t going to happen and the most that you can hope for is reliability, and that the tool doesn’t actively get in your way when you’re trying to write.

In their relationship with developers, users can meet them half way by understanding that shit happens. They can help with testing, by reporting the bugs, and by maintaining a sense of humor when things don’t quite go right. And yes, being grateful for the software, especially when it’s ‘free’. However, the developers also have a responsibility back to the user: to fix bugs, as soon as possible; to let users know about potential problems; and above all, to be respectful of the application’s users and their concerns.

That’s why I am disappointed about the events surrounding the siteurl bug – not because of the bug, but because of what happened before and after. It was best summed up by what one of the WordPress support forum moderators, podz said, “When decisions are made, we will no doubt be told.”

And that about sums up the entire communication about this whole problem.

You know, if I had even a tiny fraction of the enthusiastic users that WordPress has, with any of my ideas and efforts, I’d damn near cry in delight. Ask any developer and they’ll tell you the same thing: sure you can write code for yourself, but its more fun when others want to use it.

If users shouldn’t take developers for granted, the reverse should also be true: we should never take those who use our software for granted. Sometimes ‘free’ software developers forget that they truly are being paid for their time and their efforts; users are paying them with interest, with gratitude, and with trust.

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