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Re: Concerns about community contributor support

From: Gustav Wikström
Subject: Re: Concerns about community contributor support
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2021 22:07:05 +0000

Hi Tim,

Another data point from me. I agree with your concerns, although they are 
difficult to solve! Since we're talking about voluntary work and non-paid work. 
And maintenance can take a lot of time and effort.

This is not the first time this topic comes up on the list. Both you and me 
took part of the discussion after the 9.4.2 release, that hinted at similar 
topics [1]. And since Bastien has been in the process of handing over the 
maintenance role to someone else for quite some time now, it's not strange that 
the issue will continue to resurface until that process is done.

What I take away from this thread is mainly one thing: Another hand raised, 
eager to take on community work! Since you mentioned that you're interested. 
The more the merrier! Open source is tough though. It's very much a 
meritocracy. But by doing stuff that is considered to be good, and good stuff 
will come back to you.

Org mode isn't "finished". And I for one hope the community can continue to 
surprise with new, nice functionality. Even though some are perfectly happy 
where it is right now. In my world this is dual property of stability and 
extensibility is enabled by refactoring into a stable, small(er), less 
entangled and functional core while also encouraging extension packages/modes. 
Like org-roam and the likes.

A suggestion from me, fwiw, and if you're serious about getting more involved 
in the community, is to see if Bastien has some time to discuss this 
maintenance transition, and to see if there is anywhere where you can fit into 
that picture. But start small. ;)

I'm very interested in hearing more on how the thoughts are going in that 
department - and if there are others who have similar thoughts as you in terms 
of maybe putting more time into the project. But maybe don't see how help out, 
and with what.

Personally I'm also still hoping for "Org mode maintainer/advocate/whatever" to 
be something that someone out there can be occupied full time with. The value 
of the ideas and the software surely is there to warrant it. The question is 
only how to make it interesting enough for people to help out with funding!

[1]: https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/emacs-orgmode/2020-12/msg00511.html

From: Emacs-orgmode <emacs-orgmode-bounces+gustav=whil.se@gnu.org> on behalf of 
Timothy <tecosaur@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, April 16, 2021 20:43
To: org-mode-email
Subject: Concerns about community contributor support

Dear all,

Over the last few months I have felt an increasing level of concern over
the lack of response to patches. This email is rather long, but please,
bear with me. The goal is to start a discussion on the problems this
creates, and consider short and long-term solutions.

When both community and maintainer response to new patches is lacking,
many first-time contributors are actively dissuaded from contributing
again. Furthermore, each patch represents a considerable time investment
--- particularly if it's from an individual who is new to the mailing
list / patch workflow. Org-mode is not "done" and still requires the
support of long-term contributors to keep improving, anything that
discourages them from contributing back to the community needs to be
carefully understood and resolved if we want to continue harmoniously.

Take for example Jay Bosamiya's patch from September last year [1]. It
appears to be his first submission to this mailing list, and yet there
has been absolutely no response to it. There are currently 24 other
patches listed on the updates.orgmode.org which have seen no response
from this community, some of which are from first-time contributors.
There are 36 other patches with at least two replies, but yet to be
resolved. Bastien's updates.orgmode.org is fantastic in helping prevent
contributions slip through the cracks, but it is also highlighting the
lack of community response to a significant number of patches.

This mailing list was my first experience with an email+patch based
contribution workflow. Thankfully, I received prompt and friendly
feedback and was guided through the adjustments needed so it could be
merged in a timely manner. Should my patch have been similarly ignored,
I would have been quite disheartened; it is not an overstatement to say
I would likely have written off this mailing list and not tried again.

Simply put, this is not good enough. This does a disservice to those
that have dedicated time and effort to try and better this project only
to be ignored. Not rejected, not even acknowledged, nothing.

It is imperative that this community improves our response to
contributions for the long-term health of this project. Do not take me
to be a doomsayer; I have faith that Org is going to keep on improving
regardless. However, failing to welcome and encourage contributors has a
deleterious effect on the health of the project.

I do not blame the maintainers in the slightest. As Bastien brought up
in a recent worg discussion, as time goes on we find ourselves taking on
more and more life responsibilities. Therefore it's in our best interest
to delegate some of the maintainer responsibilities to consistently
active, and supportive community members to "pass down the torch" so the
community and platform can continue to expand with grace and care.

What can the community do?

I don't know of any silver bullet, but I believe there are some steps
which could help, namely:
+ The development and publication of "reasonable expectations" which
  contributors should have when submitting a patch, and that the
  maintainers should strive to uphold (e.g. "expect a response within
  <some timeframe>").
+ A community effort/sprint to respond to those patches that have been
  seemingly abandoned
+ Onboarding of new maintainers, when reasonable and suitable candidates
  exist (I'd very willingly throw my hat in the ring for consideration).
  If it's too much work, spread it out as much as possible.

If any other ideas come to mind, please share them so we can discuss
them further.

Finally, it's not all bad.

While this discussion has called for some criticism, I don't want to
give the false impression that I think nothing is working and nobody is
supporting contributors. This is not the case at all, there are some
standout individuals one the mailing list who have been fantastic. Kudos
to you all.

My best to everyone,


[2] https://orgmode.org/list/87h7qi2l2m.fsf@gmail.com/

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