GitHub Maintainer Rule #1:
Always Say You’re Sorry!

You will be flooded with hostile and arrogant bug reports and stupid feature requests. Count to 10. Then say you’re sorry!

This may sound very counterintuitive. But it is by far the most effective.

Remember this:

The person writing this is a teenager sitting in a dark, dark room, hiding behind his computer. His parents are watching TV in the living room. He has never written a serious piece of software in his life, he may never do. He is frustrated, he cannot get the simplest thing to work. It fails to compile, it fails to run. So he has to take his frustrations out on someone.

He wants to pick a bar fight. On GitHub:

“When I press the RUN button I expected the Tetris game to start. But it doesn’t. I can hear the disk spinning, but no Tetris!?!! What piece of shit software is this, really!!? Is it tested — AT ALL??”

“I’m really sorry that my software didn’t meet your expectations! I will try to make this more clear in the README, but: This piece of software isn’t a game – it is a free disk fragmenter, a very fast one at that, if I may say so. I will close this issue now, but don’t hesitate to add more comments if you feel this isn’t resolved to your satisfaction.

This wasn’t what he expected. He doesn’t know how to respond to this. He may come back a little bit apologetic, but he’ll most likely just stay away.

If you had shouted at him, you would have ended up in a mindless conversation with no end in sight.

This doesn’t really cost you anything, but pays off handsomely: Always say you’re sorry!

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

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