Entitled users burn out maintainers. While my massive burning out wasn’t directly related, it didn’t help either. For a lot of other maintainers, it has been a primary source of burnout. This is an unfortunate reality of our time. There are a ton of stories from maintainers out there -see this for a recent example. Not going to rehash that.

However, I’ve recently found myself on the ‘other side’ of this coin. I exhibited the following symptoms

  • Whining about lack of documentation. I discover useful nuggets from helpful people on chat and by reading through the code, but don’t actually contribute those to docs.
  • Complain about technology choices, without a lot of actual experience in the domain.
  • When technology choices that I favor were made, not actually put my effort into it. I acknowledge that I don’t have to do this - I have little time too. But with whatever time I have, I wish I would do this than whine.
  • Hit-and-run engagement, where I only show up every few months whenever I am trying to solve a particular problem, complain / do things, then run away. Things seem to get more to my liking each time I come back, but I still seem to be complaining anyway. I also acknowledge that this is ok - I am burnt out too. But this does mean I can’t expect to find working with this code base easy. It also means that the team of people actually working on it only interact with me when I’m in this mode, which I don’t like either.
  • Wade into emotionally charged situations based on events that have already happened in the project that I wasn’t part of, trample around slightly, and then withdraw on recognizing I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to fully understand what was happening. This makes the situation worse for everyone, including myself.
  • There’s probably more behavior here that I don’t recognize.

In a lot of ways, I think my frustrations and criticisms are valid. However, there’s very constructive ways to engage, and then there’s just useless whining that burns other people out. I would like to think I’ve generally picked the constructive way in most projects. But that has blinded me in my behavior in a few projects.

I’m going to try and change my behavior to match what I’d like a frustrated user to do in open source projects where I’m the maintainer.

  • I’ll contribute documentation (either as blog posts, issues, or doc PRs) when I find solutions to problems that I am frustrated by
  • If I favor other technology choices, I’d provide constructive criticism of why, and then STFU. Or, I’ll actually work on making the change. I will not continue to whine.
  • When I recognize an emotionally charged situation, I will limit myself to actions I can fully emotionally engage in. This is a limitation of my own emotional bandwidth, fueled by burnout and other things. I’m simply recognizing the limitation, and trying to not make anything worse.
  • I do have a right to whine, and I’ll do so in private to people not otherwise engaged in the project.
  • I will generally ask myself ‘how would I like a user to behave if I was the maintainer?’ and try to act in that way

To be clear, these are the things I want to change about myself based on my situation. This isn’t a prescriptive list for other people to follow.

To the wonderful hardworking people who are maintainers of any popular open source projects - thank you for putting up with me.