We need contributors

Have to say, I totally agree with the sentiments expressed by Troy. KDE, like many other open-source projects, doesn't really need users at all, whether they are poisonous or not. What we need are contributors: that's the life-blood of our community, what keeps KDE growing and evolving. To the extent that users can and do become contributors, I will grant that we need a userbase as a pool of potential future contributors. But I am simply baffled by any argument that we "need" to have a large number of people that never do more than use KDE. Why do we need them?

I don't really understand Rafael's argument, because all of the people he describes in his post are highly valuable contributors to the KDE project. Of course we need such contributors; we all agree on that. When I say we don't need users, I am talking by definition about people who do not contribute to KDE: they do not report bugs, they do not write documentation, they do not translate, they do not promote...they simply use our software.

Now, I have nothing against users, although this post probably sounds pretty harsh. Other than the vocal poisonous minority gnashing their teeth on the dot and elsewhere, they do us no harm. I'm happy to see lots of people using our software, and I hope they find it useful and enjoyable. But in terms of what we *need* for the continued vitality of the project?

We need contributors, not users. We need contributors like Microsoft and Apple need customers.


> they do not promote...they simply use our software.

I think this is wrong. Every happy user of a software will be promoting it. He won't write articles or design t-shirts.
But his family and friends will know that he is using KDE happily and maybe this will make them also want to try it. IMO this is promotion (small scale).

Personally, I also want users.
Why else am I working on free software ? If nobody would use it, I wouldn't do it. I don't spend my spare time on something which is directly for the trash can (because it has no users).
It's a good feeling if you know that the stuff you are doing is actually used by people. It was a great and surprising feeling when I actually saw for the first time that somebody living next door had downloaded and used the tool I had written. I don't want to miss that.


P.S. can we please stop calling our users poisonous ?

By Alexander Neundorf at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 23:31

I have an immense amount of respect for the KDE developers, but I have to call you out on this one - you are flat wrong, and you should change your mentality around users ASAP for the good of your own project. Not to single you out Jason - I understand this is a running thread.

For starters, users, by their sheer numbers, are your biggest contributors. If you truly believe that people who do not write code, document, make translations for or file bug reports about KDE are not contributing or promoting it, then it's time to revisit Marketing 101. The KDE user base is the most powerful KDE promotion machine. Users running KDE not only attract other users but new developers, translators, and all the rest.

Why do you think Apple and Microsoft have such an easy time adding some of the industry's top talents to their dev teams? Well, the obvious answer is "money" (money generated from selling software to - you guessed it - users!) but the deeper answer is that many talented people are naturally attracted to contribute to a project where the benefits of their contributions can be celebrated by as many people as possible. Generally, it's more exciting and more rewarding.

Now lets set aside that bigger=better magic and think smaller. Why would I, a developer, care enough to contribute to the KWhatever project on sourceforge, some random app with 5 developers and zero "users"? Well, so far I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to join up and help KWhatever along in their pursuit. But hey, maybe I actually use KWhatever at home or at the office. Maybe KWhatever does something I want fairly well, but is missing a feature I really need or it's not in my local language or it's missing good documentation. Well guess what - now I am inclined to contribute. But wait a minute I AM A USER!! It's not that crazy to think that you would convert a (very small) percentage of your do-nothing users into contributors. I would suggest that likely each and every KDE developer started out as a user.

Furthermore, developing with users in mind is generally going to help you create a better product. Better user interfaces, that's for sure. Conversely, gearing your operations to attract more developers is going to quickly lead you down the wrong path.

What do you need for the continued validity of the project? I suppose the answer is somewhat subjective, but if enough time passes for KDE without significantly expanding its user base, people will start calling it a dead project and developers will leave. I don't personally think that's going to happen - but the sort of backwards thinking in this post will significantly limit KDE's success rate. Assuming that for a free desktop, success equals installed desktops. If you have a different definition, please share.

By twerq at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 23:46

It's all about the users and to be free to decide to "contribute" or to don't. Well, in my eyes everybody who uses free software does already contribute. Be it by supporting indirectly those hardware-vendors that are well supported cause of there free drivers or be it by browsing with a free browser and increasing that way the influence FOSS and free+open standards have on web-designers. You start contributing the moment you use something, it's that easy.

By Sebastian Sauer at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 03:21

Hi Jason,

I am very disappointed by this attitude. I have been a avid KDE fan all along making very little contribution except to promote it to few other friends ( more users!). With the advent of KDE 4 I have now started making bug reports. The change has been slow.

What better example than Firefox to illustrate the power of users ? It was the mass effect that has made such a change in the way most web developers now try to design standards based websites. If it was just a few thousand devolopers using Firefox do you think Firefox would have had any impact ?

I understand that inspite of such a great effort by you guys there has been some unjustifiable bashing. But hey that's what happens when you promote a radical new idea even if it happens to be very good. Patience bears fruit.


By ponkarthik at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 05:15

//edit: Your clarification sounds much more like something I would have expected.
Sorry, but I have to register for a comment ...
I had been KDE User for years and I am very disappointed when reading this attitude. I am reporting bugs from time to time and spending some money each year on KDE projects that made (after my opinion) a good work. I try to encourage other people to try and use KDE, but I am not feeling like a "contributor". I am also not sure, if it makes sense after all to create a border between these groups of USERS. At least you are saying that old woman next door is not a welcome user, because she is just using it? If this is the new attitude of KDE, I am not anymore on the train.

What's currently up with some developers? There are lot of people that are not happy with the current direction. Not only in the dot, but also in general linux distribution forums. Most times it is not just the "big picture" they are not happy with, but small details. For example, a lot of people are complaing about not beeing able to move widgets in the panel. Or to have editing files to change the order of the favorites in the kickstart panel. Setting all this users on the same level as some trolls is the best way to get rid of lots of users... and at least for me (and hopefull most other KDE developers) they are part of the community.

It something like saying: "I hate children, but it would be nice, if they would pay someday for me!". This question is not by age, but after experience level. Bug triages might make out of users contributors. A pledge will bring money from users that never make any contribution at all. Don't think that contributors are falling from heaven weaking up one day saying "I will help KDE!". Most of the uses them for a while before ... how to you think they will react when reading such an post? Become more active? Won't bet ...

By phobeus at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 07:48

If you actively participate by reporting bugs from time to time and even spending money on certain KDE projects then there is no doubt that you are indeed a contributor.

In order to contribute, it's not necessary to invest large amounts of time and become an expert in some area, or even blog on KDE. Small contributions by a large number of different people just as well make a difference.

So no, don't label yourself as "only" a user just because you're not being involved with KDE's development process itself - we do certainly need people like you. Nobody is expected to do more than they feel is suited.

By jakob petsovits at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 09:06

"There are lot of people that are not happy with the current direction. Not only in the dot, but also in general linux distribution forums. Most times it is not just the "big picture" they are not happy with, but small details. For example, a lot of people are complaing about not beeing able to move widgets in the panel. Or to have editing files to change the order of the favorites in the kickstart panel."

Do you mean people are unhappy with the direction of KDE 4 in general, the big picture, or are they mainly unhappy with the small details?

From what I can see many people miss small details and missing features and regressions vs KDE 3.5.9. What is 'up' with some contributors at the moment is that there is a small but vocal group of non-contributors who take this set of small details and interpret it as evidence that KDE 4 is seriously going in the wrong direction, even inventing explanations ("Plasma is taking away our icons and forcing us to work differently" "KDE only cares about eye candy and wacky features now"). This interpretation is false but the effort of countering it repeatedly and the demoralising effect it has have upset some contributors. They are not against all users, just the scaremongers and the-sky-is-falling types.

By Will Stephenson at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 13:06

There's one last way that simply using KDE helps it: sponsorship. If KDE wasn't being used by a lot of people, would TT have opened Qt? NO! If KDE wasn't being used by a lot of people, would any company sponsor it's development? NO!

By theriddle at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 15:13

there's an interesting either/or going on in this thread: passive users versus contributors.

everyone in this thread has valid points thus far, imho: without contributors it doesn't matter how many users there are. period. the flip side is that a user base helps to accrue contributors.

so one really wants *both*, but the reason is that it provides the ultimate value to the project: contributors. so, again, we come back to contributors being the value here, and then back to users being a source of them (by many avenues: recruitment, market demand, word of mouth promotion, etc)

so it's not really a question about "users *or* developers". the question is: "what happens when people start chasing away contributors?" in the case of KDE, and the free software desktop in generally actually, the word "start" is misleading: it's been happening for many, many years. ever wonder why, for example, the founding individual behind KDE doesn't work on KDE (only Qt) now? i can give quite a (sad) roll call of such individuals.

when there's a *choice* forced upon the project between people (users or contributors!) and the health of the contributing community, then one needs to choose, something KDE (and much of the free software desktop) has *not* been doing, to the detriment of the contributing community.

and the choice is really just about users who are indeed poisonous. Alex asks for people to stop referring to others as being poisonous, well .. the vast majority aren't, but some are and they are (and have been for years) laying waste to those who contribute.

so while discussing all this, please keep in mind that it isn't about all users or all contributors .. it's about all people who have less than "nothing" to add, it's about those who actively work at the destruction of the contributing community. usually they do so unwittingly, without understanding and often with hopes of actually improving things. which is why reasoning with such people is really not useful. the rest of the community needs to route around such people, cut them out of the discussion entirely if need be, so that we can get back to doing what we want to:

enjoy interacting with others, both contributors and "just" users.

the principle to keep in mind, however, is what i think this blog entry was trying to get at: that which erodes the contributing community is not in the best interest of anyone, including those who are not direct contributors.

By Aaron J. Seigo at Sat, 06/28/2008 - 17:40

There are many, many problems with KDE 4. The major problem is that it is a radical departure from the standard desktop that people have gotten use to. Actually KDE 4 uses an OLD idea first developed by Microsoft during Windows 3.0, 3.1, and 3.11 Windows For Workgroups (Windows 3.11 WFW) and that idea is the concept of Windows within Windows . Regardless of what you want to call it -- be it "containers", "windows" or some other word of your choosing -- the Plasma idea is highly dependent upon the Windows within Windows concept. People were not keen about it when M$ introduced it in Windows 3.0, 3.1, and 3.11 WFW and was one of the reasons why M$ went with the "New Desktop" look in Win '95 and all subsequent versions. People have gotten use to the concept of a "Desktop". KDE 4 MAY be a giant leap forward, but right now it is still very much a work in progress which was and has been over promoted, over hyped, yet under performed.. and in the process upset many, many USERS . I have no idea why the KDE devels can't make it so those who want a plain ol' vanilla Desktop upon which they can then put app icons from which they can then launch said apps can't have that plain ol' Desktop. Why does EVERYTHING have to be in a "container .. including the "Ol' Skool" look?!? Supposedly that is the ol' school Desktop, but it too is within a cursed "container' that can then be shrunk down to an icon... on the Desktop!!!

  • Then you have the problem of bloat and speed: what gives?? Then there is the issue of the damn thing crashing and hanging up... and the list of problems go on and on... and then you wonder why USERS are pissed?!?
  • And while you might have no input into the various distros include in their releases, you have a bunch of arrogant S.O.B.s such as those at Fedora who provide ONLY KDE 4 in Fedora 9 and -- so I hear will be the case -- in its next release of Fedora 10. Your own devels don't help in promoting KDE with what many call insulting remarks. The USER should be LISTENED to, unfortunately your devles pay no heed to what KDE USERS want or desire. I for one can't see any reason why KDE 4 can't start with a plain Ol' DESKTOP a la KDE 3.5.x to which the cursed "containers" can then be added if so desired. In this idea you are building upon what USERS KNOW rather than throwing out everything and replacing it with some thing they do NOT know. My view is that KDE devels have put the cart before the horse, and all that will come out of it is a whole lot of bad feelings, people going back to "Windows" or MacOS, or switching to a more familiar distro and/or different GUI.
  • I think now would be a very, very good time a STOP and LISTEN to your critics (ie the USERS who are less than happy with KDE 4). If you expect USERS to use KDE then you need to somehow find a way to bridge the ill will that has been generated with the over hyping and over promotion of what was really a beta release. Second, you need to find some way to accommodate USERS who want a plain Ol' vanilla Desktop sans "containers" -- why this is not an option I have no idea. Third, it might be a nice gesture to write the Fedora Project Leader and "request" that they include KDE 3.5.9 in their next release of Fedora 10. People need time to experiment with KDE 4 before they will adopt it and/or want to use it.
  • The way that the release and inclusion of KDE 4 in various distros has been handled is an outrage to many, many users. I am absolutely sure that KDE 4 will be widely adopted -- and imitated over and over -- but the way it has been introduced... well lets say you got what was coming to you, now you need to find various ways to repair the self inflicted damage.

    By swbobcat at Wed, 07/02/2008 - 04:02