February 15th, 2011 by lucas
There’s a frequent pattern in the Debian community where someone would suggest an improvement to some package or service, and the person responsible for it would reply with “please send a patch”.
Of course, there are cases where it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a patch: when the task is expected to take hours, or when the result is of limited interest to everybody except the demander.
But often, it would be much more efficient for the person responsible for the service to take 5 or 10 minutes to make the change, than for the demander to spend half an hour learning how to contribute to this service, writing an untestable patch, and sending it back to the person responsible for the service for integration.
It is important to see this problem as the issue of maximizing the usefulness of the resources we have. Often, we are in a situation where we could either:
- spend 30 minutes on a service we don’t know, just to push one change
- spend 30 minutes making three or more changes that others would like to see in a service we know
It would be much better if, instead of saying “Please send a patch”, people would say “Are you interested in contributing a patch, or should I make the change myself?”. Remember that each time you ask someone to take some time to contribute a patch in an area where he is not an efficient contributor, you take some time away from him that could be used to contribute something in an area where he is efficient.