Subject: Re: Finishing work
From: "La Monte H.P. Yarroll" <>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 10:08:32 -0500

Jamie Lokier wrote:

>Michael R. Bernstein wrote:
>>>From: Tom Lord <>
>>>as a *hacker*, i've often been 
>>>disappointed when my big, richly complicated but totally nifty
>>>ideas don't make me much money /while at the same time/, some
>>>dork will take a very simple hacking idea, spend all of their
>>>time on packaging and marketing, and Win Big.
>>>Those lucky dorks know something about what's important in markets
>>>that my hacker-self doesn't.   What, though?
>>Hackers generally consider finishing work and polish to be part of 'packaging' but
end users don't.
>>The finishing work and polish that goes into creating a smooth
>>experience (especially a smooth *installation and configuration*
>>experience) is relatively boring to developers, and so frequently
>>doesn't get done at all.
>These days we have package maintainers as well as developers.
>Package maintainers do precisely that work.
>Why, then, doesn't the combination of developers + package maintainers
>result in "Winning Big"?
I speak as a heavy consumer of the work of package maintainers.  I
work for a company which produces many custom Linux distributions.

I think the social dynamics for package maintainers are very
different from package developers.  A very large proportion of
package maintainers do it professionally.  But to make a living
maintaining packages, you have to do it wholesale--it is rarely
profitable to put a lot of energy into any given package.

There are not strong incentives for package maintainers to push
changes upstream.  It is vastly easier to throw in a patch which
works around some random impediment than to craft something
acceptable to the package maintainer, get it accepted, and then
incorporate the resulting revised package into a distribution.

In short, package maintainers are not really providing the kind
of polish brought up by Tom Lord.

"Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proven it correct,
not tried it."  -Donald Knuth