420 - A rant on “it’s not complicated”

The other day on an open-source mailing list I subscribe to, someone was asking whether people thought that an idea for a feature they had was a good one. The way it was written was nice enough, but the final paragraph contained this:

If I could write a line of code, I’d write this myself. Unfortunately, I can’t, so someone else will have to do it :). It shouldn’t be very complicated, though.

This sort of “I can’t code, but why doesn’t someone just try it for me” quasi-apologetic quote appears fairly often on mailing lists, and is quite irritating. Mostly people apologise for not being able to code, which is fair enough, and not too irksome. It’s usually un-needed, however, as it’s often easy to tell whether someone can code or not from their email.

This one, however, got me more than a little annoyed: if the person writing the email can’t write a line of code, then how the hell can they know how complicated it will be? If it’s as easy as they are saying, why don’t they do it and send patches to relevant projects?

In addition, if you could write code then you’d do it, why not use it as an opportunity to learn to write code? It’s not that hard. Even if your initial patches are not very polished, a developer, quite rightly in my view, will devote far more of their time if they can see you have spent some of your time.

In this particular case, it was obvious the person making the request had not spent much time, because a moments thought led to several possible problems with their approach, not least of which was that it would require several projects to collaborate closely for no real benefit to each project. The lack of time made the closing remarks feel all the more insulting.

Feature requests per se I do not have a problem with, from either coder or non-coders. However, the way they are made sometimes leaves something to be desired. So, please, treat the developer with respect — especially: if you can’t code, then don’t make presumptions about how difficult things will be because there’s no way you can know how complicated they are! It just makes it look like you are saying “if you don’t find this simple, then you are obviously stupid”.

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