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In praise of the half-baked tarball

I do agree with Björn here, but when I last wrote about it, someone commented something good that I hadn’t thought of: distros can take up the curating mantle, selecting and packaging the most accessible, internationalized software while leaving the more half-baked un-thought-through whim-releases in their “compile if you dare” repos.

Re-reading what Eloquence wrote that time, it’s not even “curating” or banning things from distros and storefronts; just tagging them up so that people can have structured semantic info on accessibility, language issues, bakedness, maintenance etc. Yes, that’s a perfect solution to this. Completely agree.

I believe that devs don’t owe you anything and every piece of FOSS is a precious, unearned gift, but devs aren’t owed to be featured in distros either. Not that that’s anything we ask for, we just hack something up that we ourselves need and figure “might as well release it”. (And by “distros” here, I know that there are hacky, half-baked, experimental distros too. That’s kind of besides the core point that commenter was trying to say.)

I lucked in to realizing something early on about moldy half-baked tarballs (or repo, these days) that can maybe sorta compile if you throw sed and grep and chewing gum and wire hangers at them: they’re optional. They’re an opportunity we may use, not something we’re forced to use. If this had been the world of Windows 95 that I was coming from, we wouldn’t even see these half-finished work-in-progress packages, they’d be totally hidden from us, kept from us in some inaccessible campanile cupboard. This hacky stuff is our chance to get in on the ground floor and test and patch and report and help. If we want to.

Now, devs, that’s not a license to you to treat bug reports—and UX issues and a11y issues and i18n issues and doc confusion are bugs too–with meanness or contempt. You do not have to fix the bug reports, feel free to mark everything “wontfix” or say “I have zero time right now, send patches if you wanna” or just not even reply at all, but don’t be rude or mean, and especially not if the users aren’t rude or acting entitled. Corporate dev shops pay big money for the kind of feedback these “whining” users are sending you for free.