Monday, December 13, 2010

Assignment: Apologize to someone you have wronged

This past Friday, on our walk back from lunch, Miguel told me about the latest assignment given to him by his teacher and mentor, Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. The assignment was to pick someone you have wronged and apologize to them.

For those who don't know, Benjamin Zander is the author of the book, The Art of Possibility, a book which I have been reading the past week or so. The idea of this book is to change your perspective on life by teaching you to see things in a positive light and thus present you with a world of possibility where you can accomplish anything you set your mind to because you are no longer held back by negative thinking (fear of failure, criticism from others, and most importantly, criticism from yourself).

To continue on with my story, as I was laying in bed last night after having read a few more chapters in The Art of Possibility, I was reminded of Miguel's assignment and I began to wonder: if I was given this assignment, who would I apologize to?

I thought of 1 person in particular and a community of users and decided to apologize to them all.

Lennart Poettering

Some of you might recall a series of rants about PulseAudio that I wrote a couple of years back. While it was not my intention to insult Lennart personally, it is obvious that I did. I had let my anger and frustration rule my actions and ended up attacking PulseAudio in ways I should not have. I should have, instead, been more respectful, more understanding and more patient. Attacking someone's project often results in that person feeling personally attacked. I should know this as well or better than anyone because I'm one of the authors of the most widely attacked projects in the Free Software community: Evolution, Mono, and Moonlight.

These days PulseAudio has been working well for me and that is a testament to how hard working Lennart and the other PulseAudio developers are.

Thank you, Lennart, for your hard work on Pulse Audio and please accept my sincerest apology for attacking your project and in so doing, insulting you. I was wrong. I should have, instead, come to you (or the bug tracker) and explained the problems I was experiencing in a polite and respectful manner rather than unleashing my frustrations on the project.

I hope we can meet in person at a future Linux or GNOME conference where I can give you a hug (and who knows, maybe even a beer).

Evolution Users

In the course of the 6+ years that I worked on Evolution, there were a number of occasions where I took criticisms in bug reports and the mailing-list as personal insults and lost my temper, attacking back. At one point, Nat Friedman reminded me that I should not take criticism of Evolution so personally and that the reason users criticized Evolution was because they cared.

In the early part of 2007 I moved over to the Mono team, giving me a fresh start. I decided that I was going to be a new me and really take Nat Freidman's words to heart. I'm happy to report that not only have I been successful in not taking criticism as personally and seeing criticism of projects I work on in a new, more positive light, but I have also been a much happier person because of it.

For those Evolution users out there who I have mistreated, I am truly sorry and I hope that my actions over the past 3 years has demonstrated my sincerity.


Anonymous said...

This is a great initiative. Thanks for saying these things in public.

Stifu said...

So Miguel knows Benjamin Zender personally? I didn't know.

I got that book too, read it, it was alright (some parts better than others). I don't really feel like I'm a new or better person after having read it (despite what the hype reviews seemed to say, in the first few pages), but it was still a nice read. On a side note, I feel like my girlfriend needs to practice the teachings of this book much more than I do, so I made her read it. :D

I'm certainly biased due to my hobbies, but it DOES feel like most of what the book says can be perfectly applied to open source projects, almost as if it was specifically about open source. I guess others may feel the same regarding their own hobbies and interests.

I feel like I understand Miguel better now, as much of what he says seems to reference this book. It certainly did influence him. And the Mono team and project also certainly did "light a spark" with me. :)

Dale E. Moore said...

I know it's hard to do this, especially in public! Good for you!

Luke Hutchison said...

Thank you, I was one of those Evo users, and I stopped filing bug reports after our interaction. But I appreciate the apology, apology accepted.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Luke: Thank you for accepting my apology.

Luke Hutchison said...

I want to also apologize for being one of those overzealous "user knows best" bug reporters :/ Yes, it was because I cared about the project. However I have learned a lot about civility in online communities since then. And I don't know who could possibly care more than the developers. Sorry, and thanks for all your work on Evolution and other GNOME technologies.

Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Luke: I've experienced both sides of the coin (see PulseAudio) and so I have come to appreciate the truth of Nat's wisdom and god knows I have also learned a lot about civility in online medium over the past 10 years working on such big projects and yet have plenty more self-improvements I can make.

Apology accepted and appreciated. Thank you and thank you once again for your forgiveness.

Anonymous said...

By doing this you are setting an example for everyone. Appreciations from my heart :) Have a wonderful journey!!

Lennart said...

jeffrey, apology accepted. i had forgotten about it anyway. really no reason to feel bad. this is the open source community after all, the tone often tends to be quite rough, and i guess in some way it sometimes is a honour to be insulted from specific people, for example when Linus tells one that one is full of it. ;-)

btw, the name is spelt Poettering. with "oe", as in "Goethe".


Jeffrey Stedfast said...

Lennart: I am delighted to hear that you accept my apology. Sorry about the mis-spelling ;-)

Cheers and keep up the good work on PulseAudio.

Anshul said...

In Jainism (my religion which is a loooooong time fork of Hinduism) we have an annual ritual of asking for forgiveness for any actions/words/deeds that may have been caused by us to anyone. Pleasantly surprised to see the same spirit elsewhere as well :)

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