OSS development

January 31, 2006 at 8:19 am | Posted in GIMP, Ramblings | Leave a comment

Recently I found the following comment on a GIMP forum.

If you have any thoughts about using the Image Map tool in GIMP to create an image map, my advice is: don’t bother. It’s FULL OF BUGS! I created ONE area for an image (admittedly with quite a few points), saved it, and when I reopened it the area was totally messed up! Points were moved to strange locations, lines overlapped. It’s also extremely cumbersome and slow to use. Clicking on a line to add a point is practically impossible (it took me over 20 tries one time to click the line just right). In sum, it’s a total waste of time.

Now, why would I bother with this? Well, I created the Imagemap plug-in back in 1998 and it has been part of the GIMP distribution since release 1.2. Since the very first release I have recieved mail that can be classified in four different categories:

1. I love your program, thanks.
2. Can you implement this new feature? Oh, and I love your program, thanks.
3. I think I’ve found a bug in your program. Can you fix it? Oh, and by the way, I love your program.
4. Hi, I’m from Google HRM. We love your program and we would like to hire you.
Ok, I’ve made up that last one. But all in all I’ve never had a negative reaction. So lets look now at the comment of the obviously dissatisfied user. He has found a bug, so what were the options for this poor guy?

1. He could have silently switched to another program and live on happily with whatever program he has choosen.
2. He could have looked at the About dialog in the plug-in where my e-mail address is shown, and send me mail along the lines of one of the above four categories I’ve mentioned🙂
3. He could have looked at the source code (it is OSS, remember?), fix the bug and send me a patch.
4. He could have filed a bug in Bugzilla.
5. He could try a later version of GIMP to see if this bug is already fixed
6. He could write a comment in a GIMP forum on how much the plug-in sucks.

He choose option 6. Does this help him? Does this help anyone else? Obviously not, since it doesn’t solve any of the bugs. It only helps in letting him get of some steam.How about option 1, would that be any good? This is probably the option most users choose. If it doesn’t work, just try something else. This is too bad, because the whole idea of OSS development is based on continuous improvement of the code by people using it, looking at it, contributing to it, etc. But at least this option doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings and it doesn’t produce negative advertisement. Option 2 is ok. He (she?) could have send me an e-mail explaining what was wrong in the plug-in. I would have listened to him and fix the problem, especially when the line “and I love your program” would show up somewhere in his mail ;)Option 3 is even better. It’s the same as option 2 but it saves me the work of fixing the problem. And it would be another great contribution to OSS from an individual, instead of letting a limited group of people do all the work.

Option 4 is nice if you are not a programmer yourself. Just file the bug(s) and someone will solve it if it’s urgent enough. A small improvement here is to first see if this bug has already been entered or even been solved. If this disgruntled person has taken the trouble to do so, he would soon have discovered that one of the bugs he mentioned has already been solved a couple of months ago.

Option 5 would have helped him. As mentioned in the previous option this bug was already solved in most recent versions of GIMP.

Ok, after analyzing these possibilities, can we still understand why he choose option 6? Could he have opted for example to solving the problem himself by fixing the code? I looked up his profile on the forum and found out that he has programmed since the days when punchards were common. Hm. So this guy at least claims that he can program. And since he is a programmer, he also knows that programs contain bugs. Most probably he has created a few himself during his career. So it’s quite difficult to understand why he choose to write such a negative comment in the forum. For now I will just assume he had a bad day.

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