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Re: Concerns about community contributor support

From: Timothy
Subject: Re: Concerns about community contributor support
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2021 13:04:43 +0800
User-agent: mu4e 1.4.15; emacs 28.0.50

Hello Thomas, good to hear from you.

Thomas S. Dye <tsd@tsdye.online> writes:

> As a long-time follower of this list and a devoted, if often ignorant or
> confused, user of Org mode, I'd like to give my perspective on your concerns,
> which I find genuine and IMHO intended to further the Org mode project.

Thank you, as a more recent addition to this mailing list I was hoping
to hear from people who have been 'around' longer than I have (~ a year,
for reference).

Ultimately, my hope for this thread is that it may lead to some degree
of improvement in the reception new patches have.

> I was drawn to Org mode when Eric Schulte and Dan Davison were implementing 
> Org
> babel.  At the time, I had dabbled in literate programming and was using
> reproducible research practices in my work, so the babel project made sense to
> me and I was thrilled to find a couple of terrific programmers working on what
> to my mind was a beautiful implementation of these ideas.
> I knew about Carsten Dominik from his work with RefTeX, which I also used in 
> my
> work,
> but got to know him better as the creator and maintainer of Org mode.  My
> impression of Carsten was an indefatigable worker whose vision of what Org 
> mode
> might be kept growing as the user base expanded and diversified.
> The mailing list was a different place back then, less technical and open to
> more noise than it is today.  It was a place that understood the importance of
> kindness for a collaboration of volunteers.  I think the list has done an
> admirable job of maintaining the ethos of kindness

I also think that the tone and attitude on this mailing list has been
quite good in my experience :)

> , but Org mode development is
> in a new phase that *requires* technique and is quicker to identify and filter
> out noise.

Hmmm, what constitutes noise?

> When Bastien took over as maintainer after Carsten exhausted himself
> working on Org mode (my interpretation), Nicolas Goaziou took over most of the
> coding work.  His brief was clearly to put the Org mode code into better 
> order,
> which he did with astonishing efficiency and expertise (at least from my often
> ignorant and confused perspective).  His work on the syntax, exporter, linter,
> and manual represents IMHO an outstanding contribution to Org mode.  I'm sure
> there are other important contributions that I'm not remembering right now.  
> My
> point is that the project changed from one that was expanding its own vision 
> of
> what it might be to one that was working to ensure that it wouldn't collapse
> from its own weight.
> Kyle Meyer is the next step in this direction, whose efforts have helped tame
> the discussions on the Org mode list with a remarkable facility for threading
> together the various strands of discussion, some of which have histories that
> comprise several years. Combined with a command of git, his work has brought 
> the
> discussion into closer contact with the development of the code base.

Fantastic to get a summary of what Nicolas and Kyles long-term
contributions to Org have been, thanks.

> These changes mean that contributions need to be checked for contributions to
> Nicolas' project and also fit into the history of discussion and development.
> The Org mode project now resembles a scholarly discipline that moves slowly 
> and
> deliberately toward a more or less well defined goal.  The days when Carsten
> would bang out a new feature during his train ride home from work are gone.

I think here there may have been a minor misunderstanding
/miscommunication. Reading this paragraph I get the sense you read my
email as complaining about a delay in merging patches, however this is a
separate ---if related--- point to what I intended to raise: the
lack of /response/ to patches.

1. Were I talking about merging: a more considered development model, as
   you describe above, can certainly see a protracted merge delay.
   However, 6 months for a minor feature addition [1], and 2 months for
   a minor bug fix [2] is not justified by a more considered development
   model IMO.
2. (My main point) Even if development is slower, leaving a first-time
   contributor with /absolutely no response/, i.e. *zero* replies to
   their email *months* after they sent it (see [1] and [2] for example,
   and updates.orgmode.org for more) is not good enough IMO. We should
   be better.

> Bastien did recently call for maintainers, though IIRC he was interested in 
> ox-*
> and ob-* maintainers more than org-* maintainers.  If enough good programmers
> heed his call, then there might be some progress on the concerns you raise.
> But, my sense is that patches to Org mode proper will continue to be adopted
> slowly and deliberately.  It would be a shame if that pace put off talented
> programmers, but my sense FWIW is that the pace might be necessary until the
> code base is fully tamed.

I'm fairly sure this was strictly for ob-* maintainers, otherwise I
would have volunteered for ox-html and ox-latex :P.

Once again, with reference to my earlier paragraph, IMO slowed
development is one thing, not responding at all to attempted
contributors for months on end another. It is the latter which I seek to
improve. I can, have, and will try to help with this myself; but I think
we would benefit from a "community effort" and a discussion on what the
best way to improve this is.

> All the best,
> Tom


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