Some time ago, I read Jos’ “meta” blog post. Jos argues that contributors to free software projects should blog more regularly. In my own “meta blog” post, I will confirm everything that Jos writes and share a few of my own thoughts on why blogging is important for everyone who is part of a free software community.
Reading blogs about interesting stuff is great
I greatly enjoy reading posts about many topics, no matter if the content is very technical, like how quaternions can help to represent rotations in an efficient and stable way, or if it is about small changes in a dialog that make it much more pleasant to use (just to quote two examples of blog posts which I found particularly interesting and inspiring during the last year). It’s always a pleasure to read what contributors who are passionate about improving software write about their ideas.
I’m pretty sure that there are many KDE contributors who are working on very interesting things, but who do not blog yet. Please consider writing about your work whenever there is something that might be of interest to others. If you like what you are doing, there is a good chance that I and many other readers of Planet KDE will also like it, and appreciate it if you write about it!
Writing about your work is important to you
Jos says that writing down what one is working on can help to put ideas in order, think more thoroughly about these ideas, and find out about things that one could do better. However, I think that blogging helps the writer also in other ways, which are equally important: blogging is a great way to improve the communication with users, and to strengthen the motivation to continue working on the project.
Responding to dissatisfaction is important, but…
Much of the communication between contributors and users is driven by things that one or more users are unhappy with. Anyone who is seriously involved with a software project gets lots of emails about new bug reports, notifications for forum discussions about problems that users find when using the software, and other messages whose origin is something negative.
Taking bug reports and user problems seriously, and working hard on resolving these issues is very important, of course. However, if responding to incoming messages about bugs and other problems becomes the only way in which you communicate with users, this can be very frustrating in the long term.
On the other hand, if you write a blog post, you decide what you write about, and you probably write about something that you enjoy, and that many others will appreciate! Blogging on a regular basis can thus be an important factor in improving your own long-term satisfaction and motivation.
An opportunity to get positive feedback
Everyone who works on any free software project which is widely used gets truckloads of feedback without asking for it. Unfortunately, this feedback is almost exclusively negative. The mildest form of negative feedback is a bug report which describes a real problem in an application or library clearly, such that it can be reproduced easily. Such reports are always welcome, of course! However, everyone who follows the development of any application or library closely knows that feedback which is less constructive and less helpful is more frequent.
I’m not saying that this kind of negative feedback is always unjustified, of course. If something goes wrong, then it needs to be discussed. It’s the blatant imbalance between negative and positive feedback that can be harmful to the motivation of anyone who spends a part of their spare time contributing to a free software project.
Even contributors who work on improvements whose usefulness is beyond dispute get positive feedback only rarely unless they blog about their work. This is another important reason why every contributor should consider starting their own blog. Tell others about the cool stuff you do, and give them an opportunity to say that they like it!
What everyone can do
If you read a blog post which is about something that you appreciate greatly, but which has few or no positive comments yet, please consider leaving one. Keep in mind that people who are unhappy about something are much less likely to hesitate!
Considering that I did not leave any comments for the blog posts which I quoted here, even though I enjoyed them a lot, it seems that I am also too hesitatant to give positive feedback. I will try to change that and ask myself once a week:“Did I provide positive feedback to anyone during the last week? If not, recall the most interesting and inspiring blog posts of the week and do it right now!”
I hope that this can be a small contribution to the health of our community, and to the motivation of KDE contributors to work on great projects and tell us about them. Will you join me in this effort?