The Open Source swear jar

May 22, 2008

Jeff Atwood this week offered the world an article on the fact that “PHP sucks [but it doesn’t matter.]” For a man who’s usually quite thoughtful, the critique presented in the article made it look like he’s been stuck on the LOST island with cached Slashdot discussions for a few years and he hit his head really hard and lost the ability to tell whether he’s actually saying anything of value or not. The substance of the apologia on the other hand – that in spite of sucking, PHP powers the web’s biggest and busiest – was put forth much more ably by Terry Chay in his thesis on the science fiction mythology behind the enterprise of the Enterprise.

However, I think Atwood has been redeemed by the fact that his piece provoked the following gem from Stanislav Malyshev: “I wish for every 50 ‘PHP sucks’ blogs people would write one good RFC.”

That brings me to the swear jar. There should be some sort of pledge bloggers could take relating to flamebait directed at particular technologies. For some number of page views (perhaps proportionally to their normal traffic) they could pledge to dedicate a certain amount of time to submitting bug reports, feature requests, RFCs, or better yet patches, bug fixes, and documentation to their target. This would be even more imperative for those who generate revenue from their blogging – they could simply send a portion of the proceeds of their flame straight to the project.

At the very least – and Coding Horror, I believe, is usually one of the better blogs in this respect – all criticism should be at least somewhat constructive. This doesn’t mean tacking on praise unnecessarily. It doesn’t even mean one has to propose a fix for every problem. But there needs to be some element of working with the community on a road map to what you feel would be an improved situation. It doesn’t matter if you’re suggestions are going to be taken up – the intention is just as important. And perhaps in the process you will inspire yourself or someone else to seek out a new direction or launch a new project which fills someone’s need.

Lastly, if you do not have – and can not develop – the capacity to understand why other people might be looking at a problem differently or pursuing different purposes, it is your obligation to at least accept that they are. Everyone always has a reason for everything they do and say. If you can’t maintain that much perspective, I seriously suggest choosing silence.


2 Responses to “The Open Source swear jar”

  1. Ted Says:

    If you think the php post was ornery, look in the archives for the XML sucks posts. It’s quite hilarious as people discover the comments strips out all bracket tags and no one can really discuss XML in the comments w/o using the html entities typed in expressly — a subliminal touch to the post about the perils of the bracket tax.

    Your blog is quite good! I’m adding it to my igoogle programming page (of course coding horror is there).

  2. iqag Says:

    Thank you for the nice words. I’m definitely not one of those unsubscribing from Coding Horror. I still appreciate Atwood’s style and philosophy most of the time.

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