I'm Brett Slatkin and this is where I write about programming and related topics. You can contact me here or view my projects.

20 April 2014

Maintaining open source projects is hard

I gave dpxdt, my perceptual diff tool, some much needed love today. Feels good to be gaining momentum again. After my final commit of the night I searched around for "perceptual diffs" as I do. I came across a similar tool called Diffux that was released by Causes back in February. Somehow I totally missed it! In their announcement post they wrote this:

Before deciding to build Diffux, we scanned the open source market for some alternatives. Dpxdt looked promising, so we gave it a spin. It got the job done, but the project looked abandoned (6 month old PRs hadn’t received any attention, last commit was in August 2013) and we couldn’t get the test suite to run locally. Plus, Dpxdt is written in Python, and we are no Python experts. So there was a bit of a hurdle in debugging and adding functionality.

This is the kind of thing that bums me out. I wish they had sent me an email or something.

For a year I wrote a lot of code. I added features and fixed bugs. I merged contributions from others. I made it easy to deploy to production. And it debuted at Velocity. But what Causes wrote is true. I didn't enhance the project for 6 months after last summer. What can I say? I've been busy. I'd like to blame GitHub for never sending me notification emails. But that's lame.

The truth is I am completely responsible for not making forward progress. I can't be mad. I just wish I had done a better job of maintaining the project.

This is one of the frustrating parts of open source. It's hard to team up with others across perceived boundaries. Yet another example I saw recently is Chef vs. SaltStack. What's the difference? They both do automation. Sure, they have different customers and different architectures. But the obvious difference is Chef is for Ruby people and SaltStack is for Python people. That's all there is to it sometimes.

Anyways, I'm happy to see more perceptual diff tools out there! I look forward to when we all take it for granted.
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