I’m facing a hard problem right now in my free software life. It all goes back to an observation Dave Mason made some long time ago that I always have remembered – “I don’t want to be a hacker.” Being a hacker takes a huge amount of time and energy, is profoundly alluring, but is fundamentally different than being a free software contributor. I want to be a free software contributor. But lately, in order to do that, I need to be a hacker, which I really don’t want to do.
I have a limited amount of time for GNOME. It’s a lot of time, often an hour or more a day, but it is not expandable. Right now, there’s a great deal of important work that needs to be done in preparing for the GNOME 2.4 release, especially working out some issues associated with building the docs, and understanding some issues involving the help browser and its relationship with Scrollkeeper. All of that is predicated on my being able to build the 2.3.x stuff. Which I can’t do. In a perfect world, I just fire up the build scripts and let them run. But both of them stop short, at different places under different conditions, I spend the limited amount of time I have trying to fix get them fixed and working, I fail, and then I’ve used up the time I have for the day. And I accomplish effectively zero.
The result, of course, is that you’ve got to be a hacker in order to contribute in the way I need to. And I don’t want to be a hacker.