Coders Fly Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

They are all there, at the GitHub Mental: The ungrateful maintainer and the crazy contributor – and many other variations of open source psyche.

It is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And the Russian.

It is the sender and the receiver.

The sender is he or she who sends patches, often packaged as pull requests. The patches contain everything from minute spelling corrections to shiny new features.

The receiver, or the code maintainer, is the person who does the legwork, he or she who contribute most of the code, and the one who either rejects or accepts (by merging) code or spelling corrections from others.

And as in the real world – the open source-world isn’t really real – there are colours-of-the-rainbow-many kinds of people in the open source world.

The Sender

We already stated that the sender is a person in the outskirt of the project, who sometimes send in some small codesnippets or spelling corrections.

They who send stuff come from all over the world and from a variety of mental state.

The Ungrateful Eastern European

I call him – it’s mostly males – Eeastern European because I believe this is mostly a language issue.

Most of the conversation on code repositories like GitHub is in some variant of English, and this isn’t a top subject in Russian public school.

There are a few common characteristics:

He Who Submits Cryptic Bug Reports

“PDF.js worked fine in version 1.1, but fails in 1.2.”

“There isn’t a single JavsScript file in this project, what are you talking about?”

He Who Thinks His Project Is Much Better

This is the person who works for a software project that does something similar. Or he thinks it’s similar (again: this is almost always a he). Or, it isn’t very similar, but ranting about it in GitHub comments or other forums may get someone to notice it.

And it’s always about me being better than you! “My software has exactly this feature!” “My software does not have this exactly bug!”

And it gets worse if he rants about his commercial software packet. “My software is more expensive than your free shit, so it must be better!”

The Receiver

He Who Says “Thanks!”

Even Linus Torvalds fits into this category. On rare occastions. This is the person who understands that in the open source business, people live on applause!

Open source-developers are not like musicians. Musicians like applause, “but it’s not gonna pay my rent!”

And believe me, there’s a big difference between these comments on a pull request, both merged into master:

  1. “Merged as 24eefe7”
  2. “Merged as 24eefe7. This is great! Thanks.”

The first one is OK if there is an established relationship between sender and receiver, the sender has sent several pull requests before.

The second is maybe a little over-the-top for small spell fixes, but it does not cost much to add a “thanks” to the end. If you merge it, it must mean that it is of some value.

He Who Does Not Accept Pull Requests

This is Linus Torvalds. It must be added that this relates to pull requests on GitHub. He is fine with patches in mail or on bricks of stone. Read more here.

There are other projects, too, of course. And there are projects who do accept pull requests, but only on paper. In GitHub they are piled up in the open state forever, or closed, silently, unmerged.

He Who Bails the Ship

The founder of the open source project often starts out with heaps of energy. When the software packet is feature finished, and it is out in the open, used by people, the air has left the balloon – he or she wants to do something new and fresh. Doing support on GitHub and boring bug-fixing isn’t the glory of open source fun!

So, leave the ship – and let the others fiddle with their forks.

There Are Others

There are more archetypes in the open source world, I’m sure. But I have to draw the line, an it’s drawn – here.


This is a post in the Mental GitHub series. Posts in this series:



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