The asses of OSS

“My code is so bad it makes people’s eyes bleed”

Elliot Bentley
replace-cats

Community sticks up for developer whose open source code was publicly mocked on Twitter.

The developer community has been moved by the story of Heather
Arthur, an engineer at Mozilla moved to tears when she discovered
her open
source code was being publicly mocked on Twitter
.

Arthur discovered that her code was being criticised by a number of
high-profile developers including prominent members of the Ruby
community. Comments included “Ever wanted to make sed or grep
worse?” and “I cannot even make this stuff up”.

The repository they were referring to was Replace, a command line
utility for performing search-and-replace within files. Most of the
JavaScript-based application’s code was written over two years
ago.

“I had a lot of fun writing it and have gotten a ton of use out
of it, and several people have expressed that they have too,” wrote
Arthur. “I’d put it up on Github, so that others could potentially
use it or use the code.”

The sudden criticism from several high-profile developers came as a
surprise, said Arthur, and they failed to apologise even when she
contacted them to ask what was so wrong with her code.

When her blog post was submitted to Hacker
News
, there was an immediate outcry of support for Arthur and a
backlash towards those quoted in her blog post. Even Paul Graham,
co-founder of Y Combinator, weighed in on the subject, commenting:
“Maybe before we spend a lot of time complaining about how federal
prosecutors are unsympathetic assholes, we should start by
examining our own community.”

Written apologies were quickly produced by two of the critics,
Corey
Haines
and Steve
Klabnik
. “There are constructive ways to talk about code, but I
did not use them,” wrote Haines. “I will be thinking more strongly
about these ways and how to use them in the future.”

However, David Cramer, who has over 25,000 Twitter followers,
defended his original
tweet
, arguing that it was “nothing
extremely offensive, but nothing nice”
.

Not all outcomes of the episode have been negative. In a ticket
requesting a feature, one GitHub user wrote: “Lovely util. Without
all the drama I would’ve never come across it.” The repository has
also gained over 200 ‘stars’ from other GitHub users.

At the time of writing, Arthur had yet to comment further on the
matter, but she still deserves the final word:

I evangelize open source whenever I meet new coders or go to
meetups. I tell them to make something that they would find useful
and put it out there. Can you imagine if one of these new open
sourcerers took my advice and got this response, without the
support I had. Can you imagine?

Teaser picture by Cameron
McEfee

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