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Lessons learned

Lessons learned

From runing an Open Source Project for more than a decade

Dirk Deimeke

August 19, 2017

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  1. Lessons Learned From Running an Open Source Project for more

    than a decade. Dirk Deimeke August, 19th 2017 Taskwarrior Academy @ FrOSCon
  2. Taskwarrior Philosophy • Openness • Low Friction • No Penalty

    • Methodology Agnostic • Toolkit • Extension Friendly • Community • Focus taskwarrior.org/docs/philosophy.html
  3. What Have We Learned From This Open Source Project? Here

    is the collected wisdom that we have gained from running the Taskwarrior project for more than a decade. It has been rewarding, enjoyable, and sometimes frustrating. We learned a lot about users and Open Source expectations.
  4. Developer – Sysadmin – Documentatalist – Graphic designer – Website

    maintainer / creator – Evangelist – Donator (money / resources) – Something else?
  5. Start an open source project if you want to learn

    all you can about software design, development, planning, testing, documenting, and delivery; enjoy technical challenges, administrative challenges, compromise, and will be satisfied hoping that someone out there is benefitting from your work.
  6. Do not start an open source project if you need

    praise, warmth and love from your fellow human beings.
  7. If you could draw a boundary between that which is

    already supported, and that which is not, you would find that all the activity, discussion and drama occurs at that boundary.
  8. People will get excited about something a project doesn’t yet

    support. Deliver it, and they will get excited about the next thing.
  9. If you demo two features, and talk about twenty more,

    users still only know about the two. Visual demonstrations have far greater impact.
  10. Every change will ruin someone’s day. They will be sure

    to tell you about it. The same change will improve someone’s day. You will not hear of this.
  11. People will disguise feature requests as bugs, which means either

    they consider difference of opinion a defect, or believe that calling it a flaw will force implementation, but hopefully they just forgot to set the issue type to enhancement.
  12. Some people find it very difficult to articulate what they

    want. It’s worth being patient and finding out what they need.
  13. What you keep out of a project is just as

    important as what you allow in to a project.
  14. Many new users will submit feature requests, just to show

    that they are knowledgeable and clever. They don’t really want that feature, it’s a form of positive feedback.
  15. Beware of suggestions from users who have used your software

    for only a day or so. Be equally aware of suggestions from users who have used your software for a long, long time.
  16. People will threaten to not use open source software because

    it lacks a feature, thereby mistaking themselves for paying customers.
  17. Many believe that if a change is small, it deserves

    to be in the project, regardless of whether it makes sense for it to be there.
  18. Users will go to the effort of seeking you out

    online, to directly ask you a question that is answered two clicks from the front page of a website.
  19. A looping, animated GIF will be watched over and over,

    scrutinized and understood. A paragraph of text will be ignored.
  20. Man pages are too densely crammed with information, and too

    lengthy, for most modern humans to ingest.
  21. People will pick a fight with you about all your

    incidental choices. Your issue tracker, your branching strategy, your version numbers, the text editor you use, and so on.
  22. You can choose the most permissive software license, and people

    will still argue with you about your choice.
  23. SEO consultants are not very good at searching the web,

    and learning that you operate an open source, non-profit project. It says a lot.
  24. No one has ever complained about an algorithm choice, code

    structure, or code comments, but dozens have told us that our use of whitespace is wrong. Complaints have not been about the code, but the gaps between code. Prioritize the complaints.
  25. We hard-coded XTerm color control sequences, bypassing termcap. That was

    more than ten years ago. No one has noticed. Sometimes, what looks like an expedient shortcut is perfectly good.
  26. We had a very long and detailed tutorial page on

    the site for years. To go through and read it all would have taken at least an hour. At the very bottom, was a video of a band playing the Mexican Hat Dance using only hand-fart noises. No one ever mentioned this. Keep your tutorials short.
  27. It is good if the members of your team share

    the same sense of humor. If not, be careful writing messages with an ironic tone.
  28. A development-class machine is no indication of the kind of

    hardware and software your users are running. Dependencies and tools are often far behind the latest versions.
  29. Have a recognizable logo. Do not make the logo yourself,

    if you are not a designer. If you have no budget, ask a designer to judge your work.
  30. Offering gratis stickers is great, having SWAG – Souvenirs, Wearables

    And Gifts – users can choose from is even better.
  31. People love to make mashups of two things, or add

    an extension to a thing. Very few contributors want to work on the thing.
  32. Create a website containing the philosophy behind your project to

    help people understand what your project is about.
  33. Calm down, take a deep breath and look back at

    what you achieved. Details, mistakes, compromises, incomplete plans and unfulfilled wishes are only visible from inside the project. Be proud, and make new plans.
  34. That’s all! Dirk Deimeke, Taskwarrior-Team, 2017, CC-BY [email protected] d5e.org –

    speakerdeck.com/ddeimeke Download the PDF from Speakerdeck for clickable links. https://taskwarrior.org/docs/advice.html