How to poop on your project's contributors

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GCC 4.3.4 was released recently. Here's the announcement:

GCC 4.3.4 is a bug-fix release containing fixes for regressions and serious bugs in GCC 4.3.3. This release is available from the FTP servers listed at: http://www.gnu.org/order/ftp.html

...

As always, a vast number of people contributed to this GCC release -- far too many to thank individually!

"Too many to thank individually?" How many is "too many"? Would the list of GCC contributors have caused multi-megabyte email messages to swamp the mail servers across the Internet?

What this message really says is "I do not want to take the time to thank people individually. Your contributions are not worth a few minutes of my time." What a fantastic way to poop on your contributors. They would have been better off just not mentioning the contributors at all, rather than saying "You're not worth enumerating."

When someone contributes to your project, the least you can do, quite literally, is to include his or her name in a list of credits. Here are the acknowledgements from WWW::Mechanize.

Thanks to the numerous people who have helped out on WWW::Mechanize in one way or another, including Kirrily Robert for the original WWW::Automate, Gisle Aas, Jeremy Ary, Hilary Holz, Rafael Kitover, Norbert Buchmuller, Dave Page, David Sainty, H.Merijn Brand, Matt Lawrence, Michael Schwern, Adriano Ferreira, Miyagawa, Peteris Krumins, Rafael Kitover, David Steinbrunner, Kevin Falcone, Mike O'Regan, Mark Stosberg, Uri Guttman, Peter Scott, Phillipe Bruhat, Ian Langworth, John Beppu, Gavin Estey, Jim Brandt, Ask Bjoern Hansen, Greg Davies, Ed Silva, Mark-Jason Dominus, Autrijus Tang, Mark Fowler, Stuart Children, Max Maischein, Meng Wong, Prakash Kailasa, Abigail, Jan Pazdziora, Dominique Quatravaux, Scott Lanning, Rob Casey, Leland Johnson, Joshua Gatcomb, Julien Beasley, Abe Timmerman, Peter Stevens, Pete Krawczyk, Tad McClellan, and the late great Iain Truskett.

That's everyone who has contributed such that I was able to get their name (e.g. not an anonymous bug in RT).

And whenever I update a change log, which I release as part of release announcements, I put the person's name in there, too, as in this from ack:

Added new switch --column to display the column of the first hit on the row. Thanks to Eric Van Dewoestine.

One of my favorite Miss Manners letters went like this:

Dear Miss Manners, when is a thank you note not required?

Gentle Reader, when no gift is received.

All project coordinators would do well to remember the lesson.

Addendum: Pete Krawczyk took me task this morning, rightly, for not mentioning that GCC does have a huge contributor list, and they do publish it: http://gcc.gnu.org/onlinedocs/gcc/Contributors.html. My frustration is not in the lack of collection of names, but in the face slap of "There are too many of you too mention." If you get 100 wedding presents, you don't say "That's too many thank you notes to write, so I'm just going to handwave them." I optimize my projects for making sure that everyone's contribution is mentioned at the very least in the Changelog so that people can see their contributions acknowledged in a visible time at the time of release.

2 Comments

the least you can do, quite literally, is to include his or her name in a list of credits.

They did, and it is indeed a long list: http://gcc.gnu.org/onlinedocs/gcc/Contributors.html

GCC is also not a fair project to use for this. A release contains thousands of patches and commits - the 4.3.3 and 4.3.4 tags have almost 7,000 commits between them. Just because a public acknowledgement was not made with the release note does not mean that a "thank you" was not sent.

Just the list of bugs is pretty extensive, with a lot of assignees: http://gcc.gnu.org/bugzilla/buglist.cgi?bug_status=RESOLVED&resolution=FIXED&target_milestone=4.3.4

And the CVS is publicly visible at: http://gcc.gnu.org/viewcvs/

I understand about GCC being huge. I'm more irked than anything at the "Too many to mention." They could optimize for thanking the contributors if they chose to.

I guess that's the big point: Project coordinators would be wise to optimize for thanking contributors. It's a waste of an opportunity if you don't.

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