Forum OpenACS Q&A: Response to OpenACS situation -- IMPORTANT

Posted by Jerry Asher on
This is a difficult letter to write. Not because of the other stuff that's going on simultaneously, but mainly because it deals with the human side of relationships, development, project management, and teamwork, which I fear is often devalued amongst us developers.

Ben is being very courageous in this posting, and he deserves a serious, honest reply. I'd like to emphasize this. This is an open forum that anyone can read, significant others, friends, employers, partners, etc. Ben is being exceptionally courageous and open. I know that I would think twice, three times, or more before posting his request.

I've been in contact with Ben through email trying to work through the stuff of this project the past few days. I don't know Ben very well, but I tried to explain to him my perspective of how I have tried to contact him and work with him on a variety of projects, from OpenACS to OpenNSD. Along the way, I tried to document some of the contacts I have made with him, and the timelines of his responses, suggesting that I have experienced delays and non-responses often enough to lead me to believe that he has been overloaded, and has led me to believe that working with Ben has at times been difficult. (My intent, of course, was to demonstrate to Ben my belief that I have tried to work, to the best of my ability within his preferred frameworks, to be a team player, and to keep project and community first.)

Now I know that my perception of this difficulty is just not the perception I get from listening to Ben, nor is it the perception I have of him in seeing the majority of his actions in the community. This is a perception I have of Ben from working with him via email. Discussing issues, asking for actions that he is the one with responsibility to take, and so on.

I know two more things. One, this is not the perception he has of himself, and two, belonging to several email lists that concern themselves with issues that Ben is involved with, I have been the recipients of emails from others that suggest that others have experienced similar delays and non responses, and just may have also developed the perception that Ben has been overloaded, or is sometimes difficult to work with due to time lags of responses.

I believe that my correspondences with Ben has led to this posting of Ben's, because this is what I wrote to Ben a day or two ago:

Today I read:
When I managed OpenACS 3.x, I repeatedly ignored the first email I received from new potential contributors. I would wait until the second reminder email, and then add them to SourceForge and respond with instructions
I never knew until now. Boy do I feel dumb for just thinking you it was oversight or overload. Now I understand you were being rude and that was by design, and I needed to write once more.

Gosh, it's been frustrating the number of times I've emailed you and had the message vanish into the ozone


Do consider changing your policy with respect to not answering emails. I perceive it as rude, and a poor management technique, and I suspect it's cost you and the OpenACS some valuable contributions and goodwill.

So first, overall, I think Ben is doing a wonderful job. I believe he is a tremendous developer, leader and spokesman and responsible for all the success of the OpenACS today. In no way shape or form do I want to diminish his leadership role in this community. Second, I honestly don't believe the community is in crisis. I'm not trying to take over anything, and I don't know anyone who is. But I respect and acknowledge Ben's belief otherwise.

I would like Ben to get as accurate a portrait of himself as he would like.

I believe that Ben is looking for what others might refer to as a 360 degree evaluation. Or at least, he's being very open and looking to enlighten himself as to how others perceive him. Asking for feedback. That's incredibly courageous these days, so I urge you, if you any feedback that you feel may be valuable for Ben along these lines (or others), please do send it along to him. Anonymously if you prefer.

Ben assures me (and I believe him) that: "1. I don't bite, 2. I don't hold grudges (really, I don't), 3. the more information I have the more I can improve, [and] Without additional information and perspectives, I have no path for improvement."

Thank you,