Skip to content

A hard part about open source software

Dear Reader,

For Mother’s Day, I made my mom and mom-in-law a digital picture frame. I gave it an email address and family can send emails to a system that will show them on the frame. I assumed that once it was deployed, all my siblings and their kids would be excited to send picture to Babe. (the affectionate term my mother chose to be called by her grand kids, Dad was known as Dude. Don’t ask…) I assumed wrong.

Each week I send everyone an email reminding them that they can do this and challenging them to send a picture on a specific theme, and each week I only get a couple of new pictures. It’s not that my siblings and their kids love babe any less than I do but they have their own lives, their own activities, and well, they are busy.

Open source software projects are a lot like this. Projects start out as a labor of love by a single person. They lvoe it, they build it, they release it to the world. Somebody else likes it so they use it too. After a while, you get enough users so that someone steps up and contributes. Everybody benefits, some tell other friends, the project grows in popularity, the cycle continues.

Even though the project is getting really popular with a lot of users, the number of contributors stays small. ONE of the reasons is jsut that we’ve all got other things to do. We can’t ALL contribute to EVERY Open Source Software package we use. I’ve given back to a couple of projects with mixed results. In every case I’ve given back, it’s been that I wanted something extra in the project, I knew how to program, so I wrote it and contributed back.

Moving people from the role of USER to the role of CONTRIBUTOR is one of the hard parts of running an open source project. If a project leader fails to do this then the project will most likely die as the leader moves on to other things.

If you have a favorite project, consider stepping up and becoming a contributor. There are probably a hundred things you can do, many don’t even require coding.

Make life easier on the leader of your favorite Open Source Software project, step up, be a contributor.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Vendor, Customer, or Partner in Success?

Dear Reader,

I recently recorded an episode of “The Geek 2 English Podcast” that was a panel discussion on preparing your ecommerce store for Black Friday. My friend TJ Gamble said something that struck a note with me. He talked about having a “Hosting Partner”. Partner was his work but it hit home with me.

In “Ready, Fire, Aim“, Michael Masterson used the same terminology when talking about customers.

The idea that both gentlemen are pushing is that to be successful, you have to have more than just a vendor or a customer, you are in a relationship and both of you have to be partners.

If you think of your customers as just customers,they may not be your customer for long. If you think of them as partners in your success (and their success) then you have entered into a relationship. A relationship that benefits you both.

That is a recipe for success.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Be a Mentor

Dear Reader,

A lot of developers I know think that they could be so much more if they could just find a mentor to show them the way. This may or may not be true, that’s not the point of this thought.

It’s find spending time looking for a mentor, I even give people advice on how to find one form time to time. However, don’t spend all your time looking for a mentor.  Occasionally, look around to see who else is looking for help and see if you can lend them a hand.

There are very few of us so far down on the ladder than there’s nobody below us to give a hand up. Look around, see who you can mentor. See who you can help up onto the next rung of the ladder, even if you are helping them get to the rung above you.

Helping others is a great way to show potential mentors that you understand. That you are not only seeking help, but seeking to help. They you won’t waste their time.

Also, if you help someone up, they might be in a position one day to help you up.

Give to get.

Look around right now. Check your email. Is there someone reaching out to you for help? If so, take the time to really listen (because real mentors listen first) and then help them solve their problem. help them understand their situation. Help them up the next rung on the ladder.

Be a mentor.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

I don’t think I can afford that

Dear Reader,

Recently I was listening to “Ready, Fire, Aim“, a fantastic marketing and business book.

In it, the author, Michael Masterson, wrote about a lesson in negotiating that he learned from a business partner he once had that he calls BB.

Masterson writes:

“…I have discovered a much simpler, more elegant, and immensely more effective negotiating tactic that anyone, even a timid person like me can quickly master. I learned how to do it by watching BB. …It goes like this:”

Business colleague: “So what do you think it is worth?”

BB: ” I don’t know, what do you think it’s worth?”

Business colleague: “I was thinking maybe $500,000”

At this point, BB responds in one of two ways. Either he says “That seems fair to me,” or he says “Gee, I don’t think I can afford that.”

This struck home with me because I’ve sat on both sides of the hiring table; that’s the toughest negotiation most people will face. I’ve been the timid one, hat in hand, asking for what I thought was a “fair wage”, and I’ve been on the other side, the person with the job to fill, but also the budget to stay within.

Some of the best hires I’ve made have had zero negotiation over salary because for a long time, I’ve adopted a method similar to BB.

I ask the person “What do you want for a salary?” Not “What do you expect?” or “What do you think you deserve?”, specifically, “What do you want?” This not not a trap. There is no “Ah-HA! GOTCHA!” moment here. It’s a simple and honest question to which I expect a simple and honest answer. I expect the person to tell me what they want. Not the current market for their position, not a low-ball to get the job and then “figure out how to get a raise”, I expect them to tell me what they want. What it will take for them to be happy and satisfied in the job?

Then I have to make a similar choice to the one BB had to make.  “Can I afford this person?”

I know what they want, I know what my budget is. If the numbers line up, we have a deal. If not, I let them know that I simply can’t afford them, sincerely thank them for their time, and see them out. Back-peddling here on their number is a sign that they weren’t honest with me in the first place so it doesn’t help their case.

I do not negotiate salary. I expect people to be honest with me and if they are honest with me then they aren’t going to be happy with a salary below what they have asked me for. Yes, if we are close, we can discuss it and see if we can come to something that we are both happy with, but it’s got to be close for me to do that.

I want every developer who works for me to be happy at work. You can’t be happy if you are worried about your finances, so I don’t want any developers working for me that are worried about finances.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Why I love Scuba Diving

Dear Reader,

I love Scuba Diving. I love it so much I volunteer to help others learn how to dive at least once a month.

One of the reasons I love scuba diving is the respect that divers find for each other. When sitting on a boat gearing up to dive, there is a lot of joviality and joking around, but there is very little insulting people, calling people names, or other insulting behavior. I don’t have to worry that I might say the wrong thing around divers because we are all committed to each other. See, when we hit the water, whether 20 feet down or 100 feet down, we are all each other’s buddies. We all depend on each other to make it back safely. We have to respect each other, even if we don’t agree with each other.

Contrast that with tech, my chosen profession. I keep my opinions largely to myself in tech because I never know if someone listening might not like what I say and go to my employee to see if they can have me fired. (Not a far fetched scenario, it’s happened before to others.)

I watch my tech peers on social media normalize hate over things like political opinions. I’m not pointing fingers at one side or the other and if you think your side doesn’t do it then you are wrong. (but don’t worry, I’m not going to ostracize you for it) People that I consider smart people throw words around like idiot and moron simply because they don’t like someone’s opinion or actions.

I used to be that person. There was a time when I labeled people with terms like that – and much worse – because I disagreed with them. Then I began to look at my words from the outside and spent a year or more in deep soul searching.

One thing I have realized in my 30+ years as an adult is that calling people names like idiot, moron, “insert your favorite political insult here” says a lot more about the insecurities of the speaker, than it does about their intelligence of the target.

I like scuba diving because I’ve never heard a boat mate call another boat made a moron for expressing an opinion.

Maybe we all need to treat each other like our lives depend on each other.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=