Rant: So you want help?

Thomas Friedrichsmeier thomas.friedrichsmeier at ruhr-uni-bochum.de
Thu Nov 4 12:57:40 CET 2010

Caution: Rant.

Dear KDE on Windows people: So you want help with KDE on Windows?

Well, you're not gonna get any. At least not like this [1]. "Why not", I hear 
you ask, "didn't I start working on the project for less of an invitation?". 
Well, yes, for all I know, each of you did. But the project was in a very 
different phase, then. You were making KDE on Windows work at all. And you have 
all right to be proud of that. You have fixed the most pressing problems. 
Excellent. And you have probably fixed a gazillion of the non-critical-but-
easy-to-fix problems along the way. Of course. And thank you!

But alas, software development pays with ingratitude. First, anybody who would 
be to jump head-first into the project will face a steep learning curve, and 
with the low-hanging fruits already picked, they will not be in for any large 
rewarding achievements anytime soon. So this just *is not going to happen*.
Nobody will enter the project the way you did. Ever. Unless perhaps if they 
get paid for it. You're best hope is to trick somebody into getting involved 
with some easy stuff, and then becoming addicted. But - sorry to say it this 
clearly - you couldn't do much worse in this deparment.

But second, lets consider the second major downside to successful software 
development: People start using your software. And they take issue with this 
or that. And they want this feature added. And they want that feature removed. 
And they want more. All the time. Yes, this can be quite distracting, and 
trying not to communicate too much can be a good strategy to scare people 
away. But did you say you want help?

Well, again, you are totally unlikely to find anybody to jump into the project 
the way you did. But you do have considerable ressources at your hands: A good 
number of people on this list are developers, themselves (and I'll pretend I 
can speak for those as "we"). True, we have our own pet projects, already, and 
we won't jump ship. But we *do* have an active interest in the KDE on Windows 
platform, 'cause we need it for our applications. And we *are* willing to put 
in _some_ ressources to help. And we *are* developer folks, so we are 
certainly qualified enough to be of use here or there.

*But we need some help with that*.

So, finally, tell us, the major directions were the project is heading. We did 
not attend your sprints, and probably we won't in the future. We won't know 
what to do, if you don't tell us some about your plans.

And, finally, tell us, just *how* to create a release. It's been asked more 
than once. Even combined with very explicit offers for help (e.g. [2] - has 
anybody ever answered that?!). Maybe it's glaringly obvious to you. But then 
it shouldn't be much of a problem to write it down. Or maybe it's pretty 
complex. But then you can't expect us to abandon our primary projects to try 
to figure out those secret steps. *Please* give at least a rudimentary overview 
of the steps involved. That will probably increase the chances of anybody 
actually giving it a try by a factor between 10 and 100.

And, if somebody shows an interest in the project, please communicate. E.g. 
did anybody ever answer this review request [3]? So it's incomplete, but at 
least to me (who doesn't understand a thing about kioslaves, unfortunately) it 
looks pretty useful, if it can be made to work. So is this a good idea, 
indeed? Then why didn't you try to help that guy along? It's not like you are 
drowning in review requests by users willing to help, are you? Or is this idea 
a dead-end in the first place? Then why didn't you tell that guy? Or to use one 
of my own mails [4] as an example: Well, at least I did get one reply (thanks 
Bernhard). But in case you agree with any particular of these ideas, then why 
don't you say so. A bit of specific positive feedback might even lead a 
commenter to work on implementing some of their suggestions (hint, hiint). Or 
if all of these ideas are counter to your grand plan (whatever it may be - see 
above), then even a short hint about that would be less frustrating then plain 
silence. And even if you don't have the time to look at things in detail, 
three weeks should still be ample time to write "I don't have the time to look 
at this right now, please try again, later" and hit the send button.

So, in short, if you are honestly interested in some help, then please 
dedicate at least *some* time to documenting and communicating. I know these 
two are typically not the most fun exercises in programming. But if you want 
to get any help at all, then it's an absolutely mandatory exercise. In fact, 
it even seems the core group of KDE on Windows people could benefit from a bit 
more communication on the list ([5] - how can such a thing *not* be 
communicated among the core contributors for weeks)?

End of rant.

I'd like to stress that I really mean the praise and "thank you" in the second 
paragraph. Truely, and without any bit of sarcasm or dishonesty. Thank you for 
everything you have done and are doing for KDE on Windows. But I also mean the 
what I've written in the remainder of this mail.


[1] http://lists.kde.org/?l=kde-windows&m=128812436613301&w=2
[2] http://lists.kde.org/?l=kde-windows&m=127142838408193&w=2
[3] http://reviewboard.kde.org/r/4939/
[4] http://lists.kde.org/?l=kde-windows&m=128689460909832&w=2
[5] http://lists.kde.org/?l=kde-windows&m=128825996718941&w=2
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