[horde] Re: response to your continued berating

Michael J Barber mbarber at barbersweb.net
Thu Dec 4 18:19:03 PST 2003

While, I am not the most competent admin I was able to get things up and
running.  So, while I do not want to bash those who are having problems, I must
say that anything but humble gratitude for those developing and helping is
inappropriate.  So, for what it is worth: THANKS!

I deal with people everyday who do not appreciate my help. But, the few who do
thank you, really make you feel like it is all worth while.

Thanks for the help, thanks for the software, and thanks for doing what I don't
know how to do.
Michael J Barber
SUNY Plattsburgh
CMS Computer Labs Technician
116D Feinberg Library
Plattsburgh, NY 12901

Quoting "Marcus I. Ryan" <marcus at horde.org>:

^^ Out of respect I won't copy the email to the list that prompted this, but
^^ as
^^ you can tell from the subject, it was not a friendly letter.
^^ Who realizes out there that there are people behind these user names and
^^ email
^^ addresses?  We have lives that are not part of the Horde project.  I work
^^ 40
^^ hours per week at one job, 20 or so hours a week at another job, and try
^^ to
^^ work on horde when time allows.  On top of that I have a wife who likes to
^^ see me now and then, and I have things I like to do besides program.
^^ I have spent hundreds of hours writing software for myself, and when I
^^ finally
^^ found a project that suited my skills and my needs I finally returned
^^ something to the community that gave me so much joy (most notably the
^^ Klutz
^^ module).
^^ Since then I've received little but insult from anyone in the community
^^ except
^^ for the core developers, the primary being an accusation of arrogance. 
^^ Most
^^ of it comes from a mismatch in expectations and the nature of people. 
^^ Many
^^ users come expecting some level of support; what level depends on the user.
^^ The developers expect a certain level of skill or knowledge on the part of
^^ the user - that is those who install horde (the people we generally
^^ server),
^^ not those using it on the end of someone else's installation.
^^ My frustration comes from the expectation of hand-holding support; that is
^^ support where the user says "I don't understand.  Can you just tell me
^^ exactly, letter for letter what I need to do?".  There are a number of
^^ major
^^ problems I see with this:
^^ (1) Visibility: We can't see your system.  We can't look at logs, read
^^ configuration files, check file permissions, etc., so we have to ask you
^^ to
^^ do that for us if we are to help.  If we have to ask for information
^^ before
^^ we can even think about a problem it adds time which usually adds
^^ frustration
^^ (see Time further down).
^^ (2) Practicality: Because of its complex nature, horde supports hundreds,
^^ if
^^ not thousands, of setups (e.g. at least 2 web servers on 3-4 major OSes
^^ with
^^ 8+ database backends, 3-4 major IMAP servers, dozens of FTP servers, at
^^ least
^^ 4 LDAP backends, and so on).  It could take hours to learn what someone's
^^ configuration is, let alone be able to tell them what their specific
^^ problem
^^ is.  On top of that, half the time we ask someone what a given log file
^^ says,
^^ we get "How do I look at that?".  I use PostgreSQL, not MySQL.  When
^^ someone
^^ asks that question for MySQL, is it my responsibility to know the answer? 
^^ I'd have to learn and become a competent admin on at least 4 major
^^ database
^^ systems to support all the horde users.  Let's not even talk about the
^^ complexities of SMTP servers, IMAP servers, etc.  We just can't know
^^ everything.
^^ (3) Attitude: We have given this software to the world to use for free. 
^^ We
^^ ask for no money, no advertising, etc.  Why is it, thus, our
^^ responsibility
^^ to further teach people how to use the software when it's been given free.
^^ Don't get me wrong, I don't mind helping, but often when I don't or I
^^ can't
^^ to someone's satisfaction I'm called arrogant at the nicest.  Arrogant? 
^^ Do
^^ these same people call their grandma a bitch because she gave them a pair
^^ of
^^ socks they didn't like?  They may never wear them, but common courtesy
^^ says
^^ that a bad gift is ignored, not thrown back at the giver.
^^ (4) Time: Many of the people who have complained needed what I consider
^^ extreme hand-holding.  "Type this in that file exactly."  Sometimes that
^^ is
^^ easy to do.  Sometimes it takes a significant time investment to do,
^^ because
^^ again it takes a LOT of questions to learn about which backends they use,
^^ what they want to achieve, etc., before we know what needs to be typed in
^^ what files.  As I pointed out I work 60 hours/week before I even get to
^^ putting time into this project.
^^ (5) Learning: Why is it my responsibility to take time to learn someone
^^ else's
^^ system and not their responsibility to learn how to work with another
^^ system
^^ they want to use?  If I learn theirs I know it long enough to tell them
^^ how
^^ to get past a single problem they have asked about, and I must learn
^^ hundreds
^^ of systems.  If they learn Horde, they know it for the rest of the time
^^ they
^^ use it; they can solve their own problems, and maybe help others.  On top
^^ of
^^ that, they only have to learn Horde (presumably they should already know
^^ their other systems).
^^ (6) Developers: One of my biggest complaints is that I suspect we miss out
^^ on
^^ good developers because they can stay silent and wait for things to
^^ happen,
^^ or patch their own systems without sharing, because as soon as they share,
^^ the expectations on them increase dramatically.  Frankly, if I had known
^^ when
^^ I started the kind of treatment I would receive for what I do here, I
^^ would
^^ have seriously reconsidered (and still do now and then...fortunately,
^^ Chuck
^^ and the other core developers do regularly express their appreciation.)
^^ Finally, tying several of these together, why do people think we haven't
^^ gotten Horde 3.0 released?  We have limited time, few developers, and more
^^ and more people want us to take even more time away from development to
^^ help
^^ them support their own systems.  If the users don't take some
^^ responsibility
^^ for their own education and support, the project will stagnate, or we will
^^ receive further insult.  We lose either way.
^^ I'd also like to point out that most of us aren't ESR and friends...we
^^ don't
^^ do this to fight for the great cause of Open Source.  We do it because we
^^ can, and when we're not being insulted, we enjoy it.  Knowing there are
^^ thousands of people using our software is a pretty cool feeling, but it
^^ takes
^^ a hell of a lot of that to make up for one user tell me I'm an arrogant
^^ prick.  As it is, I've spent nearly two hours fuming over it.  I could
^^ have
^^ been developing more features for horde, but someone had to push one of my
^^ buttons, and this is what it takes to unset it.
^^ The real problem is those that will absorb, accept, and understand this
^^ message enough to want to change their ways probably don't need to change
^^ them.  The rest will take it as further proof of my arrogance.
^^ I'm tired.
^^ * Disclaimer *
^^ Whether they agree with me or not, I'm not officially speaking for the
^^ project, I'm speaking for me.
^^ --
^^ Marcus I. Ryan, marcus at horde.org
^^ -----------------------------------------------------------------------
^^  "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it
^^  flips over, pinning you underneath.  At night, the ice weasels come."
^^                  -- Matt Groening
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