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- Quality Contributions

Software quality can be such an overloaded term. Talk to a new software developer and the ideas might be related to commercially developed products they have experienced in the past. After a few years or working in the wrong teams, that bar might begin to resemble a game of limbo, where a minimum bar from the customer-side is the goal.

Hacktoberfest 2020

2020 has been a good year, right? Yeah, I know, a global pandemic, many people losing their jobs. You would think people writing software for-free, with all that comes with that would want free help.

DigitalOcean runs a competition with free t-shirts every year, for people who get a certain number of contributions to Open Source during the month of October. The idea is simple. Incentivise people "in a fun way", to contribute.

So what is the problem

A lot of software developers do not like the contributions they have received through the program. Many of which they do not feel they need or want.

While it is true that there are people seeking to add unnecessary words, such as "awesome" to bodies of code, I can think of many times when the right single word, would have helped me or those I help with coding.

Reading and Refactoring

Many OpenSource projects have policies against refactoring, and / or unreadable code. This leads to stagnant, hard to read code, which is difficult for people to make meaningful contributions to without a lot of up-front investment.

Unless a coder can prove and extinguish bugs, they are out of luck getting into these ecosystems, which often have quite non-standard testing.

WordPress is a famous example of this. I would argue PHPMyAdmin is another. Most older C and C++ codebases are also a problem. VCVRack for example, while a great piece of software specifically does not take patches. The VCVRack primary build system did not work, or only worked for the author last I checked, so there is no point in it being OpenSource.

My thoughts

The problem is not that people are contributing things, you do not deem worthy. In many cases I might agree with you about commits with the sole intent of getting free t-shirts. My agreement in those cases, does not make it an immutable truth of the universe.

It is so hard to write good software, and what we do is write software. I think the larger issue is in what we do allow, how we approach code that gets merged.

If you have never written bad code, you are an idiot or a liar. So perhaps get off your high horse or stop pretending to be OpenSource.