Letter to a disgruntled module user

From time to time there's a bit of a sour post in an issue queue or blog post that makes it clear that there are misunderstandings about how the Drupal community works, and in this case it was a disgruntled post regarding lack of support for a particular module. It got my blood a-boil, and this was my response after I calmed down a bit:

Mr. Anonymous,

Perhaps it's the language gap, but your posts are coming across pretty harsh. Or, maybe you're just figuring out how parts of the Drupal space actually works and you're frustrated by it. That's understandable - it's tough realizing that Drupal isn't actually run by a team of tireless developers with infinite patience and no bills to pay - and I don't mind bearing the brunt of your frustration if I can help you and other folks in your shoes come to terms with a more accurate perspective.

From a user's point of view, in the ideal world every developer would have the time and desire to regularly pummel their issue queues into submission (like some people). In the developer's world, things look a little different. Most of us have enough going on that we have to prioritize what gets done, and that depends on a huge number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Can the module / community work be integrated into client work? (i.e. killing two birds with one stone)
  • What kind of time is there beyond client work (i.e. bill-paying work) is there to work on other projects?
  • Out of the numerous projects that you have on your plate, which ones are the most important strategically in getting you closer to your longer-term goals?
  • How many people will be affected by your work?
  • Who are the people will be affected by your work?
  • How educational or exciting is the work going to be?

I may be speaking just for myself, but I'm not positively influenced by how upset a single community user gets about poor support. That sort of reaction means that the user probably has some other pressures in their life impacting their overall happiness and they aren't going to get an awful lot happier through you responding to their demands. So posts like yours above beget the opposite reaction to what you were probably hoping for. I'm actually less enthusiastic about tackling the issues you mentioned, not out of spite, but just because I can't help but get a little bummed out.

Each module on Drupal.org has a backstory, and some of those stories involve a developer who actually is tireless and is doing this work only because of a pure desire to make Drupal better and push their own skills, and it's this focus that allows them to put a strong focus on supporting the module, regardless of who asks or what they're getting paid.

There are other situations where a developer creates a module because they are asked to do so for a client - as with this particular module. What I was actually asked for was a particular feature, and upon my suggestion the client generously agreed to sponsor the extra time that would be required to make the feature modular and share it on Drupal.org - i.e. they understood the value of sharing. I wouldn't have built this module without the financial support because I don't have enough use cases to justify the time required. So my motives are around making the client happy while sharing as much of the work as I can with others.

Now here's the next part of the equation, which is where you come in. You found a good use case for the module - which is great, but doesn't mean that it changes how or when I can work on it. Because the code is open source and free to use, however, you now have the ability to actually go in and fix those problems you've found, or find someone who has the skill set to do so. You're free! You're not beholden to my currently limited ability to offer support, you can actually take action and get something done. And I'd say that in contrast to what you suggested Drupal was all about, that this is a lot closer. It's people doing what they can, when they can, as they need to, and sharing it all.

Good luck!


Well-written, sir. I don't think I could have put it that nicely. ;-)

Great response! The next time this comes up for me I may just have to post this URL to the issue queue!

That's exactly why I posted it here, so I could do the same thing. :) Cheers, Ben!

Nice post! I'm a huge fan of issue sponsorship as a way to get things done for clients and benefit the community. We've done it a number of times, and had nothing but awesome experiences with maintainers!

I think we should have this post available as some default reply :-)

I'll definitely be linking to this the next time someone who doesn't know how Open Source works craps into my issue queue.

Chris, you're just one awesomely kind dude! Too bad we (as humans) worry about social consequences and can't just be blunt as all heck with a "I'm busy, go fix it yourself." ... "if you please" (the kind part ;). This is definitely one to point people too from the issue queues! Thanks for writing it up!

Well, one thing about you, Matt, is that you're super efficient and the one-sentence thing would probably worked just as well (considering the response it got ;) ).

Nice article, thanks for sharing.