In the last year I’ve gotten to know people who make some of the software I use. I love their work, and them for doing it. It makes my life, and the world, better for it. And as I get closer to their work, following mailing lists, bug trackers and internet noise, I realize just how hard it is to do what they do.
Software isn’t supposed to satisfy everyone, it is impossible, and that is an obvious conclusion, but you wouldn’t guess it from the reactions folks share when they are exposed to software. Another obvious, and perhaps even less occurring thought, is how it feels to create something and subsequently have it verbally torn apart publicly.
I know how it feels to rage on a missing feature. And to my great shame I’ve threatened to stop using software because some evil and faceless developer is attacking me personally (sorry folks who make Firefox for Android, I really do appreciate your work!). It puts me in a weird place where I can see why people say what they say (well, to a certain point), but also how casual violent and uncaring we can be in our criticism.
For my part, I am going to try to stop giving unhelpful criticism. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and if I can, I want to raise them up, so they can accomplish more for all of us; it is easy to do since I use free software. I am going to take my frustration and vent it to finding bug trackers, and giving real constructive feedback. And I am going to accept replies from developers and designers with a grain of salt, because they are likely being bombarded by less kind correspondence.
And as a bonus, I am going to suggest to others to do the same, so we have less folks swaying popular opinion with noxious attitudes, and more people helping all this software become the best it can be.