Memory Lane

I talk a lot about how projects like OpenNMS really depend on the community. Well, we were chatting on the IRC channel (#opennms on freenode) today about classics from the past, and through the magic that is gmane we were able to dig up some of the more classic posts.

First off, at OpenNMS we really try to be nice, and I think we succeed compared to some other lists. I don’t think anyone ever really gets flamed, although we may reply with humour. For example, last month I replied to the following:

From: Tarus Balog
Subject: Re: [opennms-discuss] customize opennms web console
Date: 2006-11-09 18:01:35 GMT

> Hi all, does any know how to customize opennms web console ?

Oooh! I do, I do.


Okay, that was a bit snarky, but what kind of question is that? It’s like I’d asked “does anyone know how to program in Java?”. Having done this for a long time now I read it as “Hey, let me interrupt here and due to my laziness can someone stop what they are doing and create a long tutorial on modifying that there web-thingy?”

Sometimes questions like that just hit me wrong. Had it been phrased “Hello. Sorry to bother, but I’ve looked all over and I can’t seem to find any documentation on the OpenNMS webUI. I understand how web pages work, although I haven’t worked with Tomcat before, so if someone could point me in the right direction I would appreciate it.” I would have crafted a slightly more useful answer. Seems like I’m not the only one, here is the infamous “masochistic coding slaves” post:

From: David Hustace
Subject: Re: [opennms-discuss] screwed *.jav in 1.2.7-1, 1.2.8-1 sources
Date: 2006-06-22 16:47:52 GMT

On Jun 22, 2006, at 8:07 AM, Eugene M. Zheganin wrote:

> Btw does anyone know how to change the locations of rrdtool in a
> precompiled package ?


Firstly, you incorrectly fire a volley in saying we f’d up the java files.
Secondly, you protest the authors to be “not nice” because you, again
incorrectly, say we hard coded RRD paths in the JARs.
Thirdly, you ask for help with how to change these locations,
apparently, without taking the time to read any documentation or the
list archives.

Do you think we’re your masochistic coding slaves? No.

Do we have a clue what version or platform you’re running? No.

Are we nice? Yes.

To get any value out of open source requires a certain minimal investment in time to climb the learning curve. Open source projects often don’t have the luxury of commercial products when it comes to things like documentation since the developers would rather be working on making the application more powerful. However, some people seem to equate open source with “free” as in beer, and they want someone to hold their hand from the start. One thing that really irks me are when I get “unsubscribe” posts to the mailing lists.

It is not a one-click process to subscribe to a Sourceforge list. You have to find the list, enter in your e-mail address, and then respond to the e-mail in order to get activated. At least once you are told how to unsubscribe, and we now place the unsubscribe link at the bottom of every post, highlighted:

To *unsubscribe* or change your subscription options, see the bottom of this page:

We had to do that in response to posts like this:

From: Tarus Balog
Subject: Re: [opennms-discuss] Unsubscription
Date: 2005-01-07 15:43:20 GMT

On Jan 6, 2005, at 10:05 PM, Vineesh wrote:

> I want to unsubscribe to the list for that wat i hav to do?.

Here is a step-by-step process on how to get unsubscribed from any Sourceforge mailing list.

You will need the following:

o Rum
o Creme of Coconut
o Pineapple Juice
o Ice, crushed is best
o Pineapple wedge & cherry garnish
o a Glass
o a Straw
o a Blender

1) Pour 4 oz. of Creme of Coconut into the blender
2) Pour 4 ounces of Pineapple Juice into the blender
3) Add 3 ounces of Rum (leave off if your religion or personal
preferences disagree with alchohol)
4) Add about 2 cups of crushed ice
5) Blend till smooth
6) Garnish with a cherry and wedge of pineapple
7) Pour into the glass, add a straw and the garnish
8) Drink the tasty beverage
9) Relax, and notice the text at the bottom of *every post* to the mailing list:

10) Decide to visit that page
11) Notice the text at the bottom of that page:

To change your subscription (… or unsubscribe from opennms-discuss), enter your subscription email address:

12) Enter “vinu” in the little box and press “Edit Options”
13) Drink more of the tasty beverage
14) Enter in your password and hit “unsubscribe”, and then finish the tasty beverage.

If you don’t remember or know your password, add the following steps

15) Press “Email My Password To Me”
16) Drink more of the tasty beverage
17) Read your e-mail and retrieve your password
18) Go to step 14.

And you’re all done!

Again, not try to be mean, but when you get a couple of these a week it starts to become a real pain. And don’t get me started on “Out of the Office” messages …

Finally, an old classic was found – the infamous “It Does Not Work” post. I’ll let it speak for itself:

From: Tarus Balog
Subject: Re: [opennms-discuss] Why even call it stable?
Date: 2004-03-29 21:09:49 GMT

On Mar 28, 2004, at 9:33 PM, Matt Beach wrote:

> First of all no matter how you install it. IT Doesnt work! Please
> someone show me where it has worked one the first time. I have
> installed it with RMS, Source and all of the above. IT DOES NOT WORK..

Imagine, if you will, a bleary-eyed coder, pushing 40 and sitting alone in the office after everyone has left for the day. His gut is slowly expanding over his waistband as his sits, day after day, immobile, except for his hands at the keyboard and his eyes on the LCD screen.

Nonsensical phrases are occasionally muttered from his lips; “I must get 1.1.3 out”, “update the blog”, and “fix Magnus’ capsd bug”, contrasted only by the voices in his head speaking “why bother?” and “get a real job”. “I have a real job” he weakly protests, “and I *did* write release notes, I swear it, I *did*”.

Then a third thought enters the chaos of his mind. He is not sure where it came from, but it was definitely down deeper than the limbic, and most likely hidden in the depths of the reptilian brain. It is an evil thought, a fiendish thought. Words began to give the notion shape, and the potential for action grew.

“I’ll create a an open-source project … that does not work,” he laughed to himself. It would take cunning, and craft. It’s open source, so people can look at the code, so the code *must* look like it would work. Heh, perhaps Java, yes, that’s the ticket, we’ll make it in Java – no one could figure that out.

And thus the work began. Slowly at first, but the project took shape. Create a web site – not a professional looking one, no – it has to look like a real open-source site. Create fake users, use hotmail accounts so people will think you are legit. And code, lots and lots of code.

But code that just … doesn’t … work.

Make several ways to install it, all that don’t work. Make release notes, FAQs and how-tos … that lead to nowhere. And create a fake community to lure in the unsuspecting, the innocent, those doomed to try and try again to install a product that DOES NOT WORK!



P.S. I think I am really starting to lose it here (grin)

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