Once upon a time there was a publishing company. Let's call this company Stones (a name I just made up). This company decided to publish a book consisting of a number of chapters, each one written by a different author, about various aspects of a technical field.
Everything was going well, until some of the authors didn't complete their chapters on time. The people at Stones got very upset, and decided to look for new authors. Unfortunately, they didn't know anyone in this technical field, and didn't have any contacts in the developer community, so they went to a website (run by a rival publishing company) and farmed it for the names and email addresses of people in that field.
And so it came to pass that a number of developers received email asking them to write a chapter for Stones' book. The chapters that were required were not the sort of chapters that the developers were interested in writing about, since they mostly focussed on integrating this technical product with other products which were unpopular in this developer community, mostly because of their poor quality and/or restrictive licensing. What was worse, Stones wanted the developers to write these chapters in only two weeks!
Now it happened that many members of this development community were in regular contact with each other, as is common practise for communities. Many of the developers tended to congregate in one particular forum, where they would discuss any topic of mutual interest. And so, very shortly, they all discovered that many of them had received the same unsolicited commercial email from Stones.
The developers were incensed. How could a publisher expect people to write high quality technical literature in such a short time frame? Did the publisher not realise that these people had (often highly paid) day jobs which required their attention? Did they not have any clue whatsoever? The developers also discovered, by talking to people who had dealt with Stones in the past, that the publishing house was not known for their high editorial standards nor for particularly generous remuneration.
One developer wrote a letter to Stones' representative, pointing out the problems caused by the email. The developer mentioned the unreasonableness of the two week deadline, the unlikelihood of obtaining quality work, the incompatibility between the developer community and the proprietary software they wanted chapters written about, and the fact that their unsolicited bulk, commercial email could be considered as "Spam" by some people, and might be in violation of the publisher's ISP's acceptable use policy.
Another developer, who had written for Stones in the past, also wrote to them, expressing similar concerns and pointing out that the entire developer community was unimpressed, and that Stones ran a very great risk of harming their reputation among a group who could be very influential in recommending or criticizing the book, not to mention the fact that this developer community contained some of the most skilled and experienced people who might have been interested in writing for Stones, if not for the publisher's incredibly hamfisted way of trying to recruit them. This developer even went as far as saying that he was unhappy to be associated with a book and a publisher that obviously had so little understanding of the community and such little interest in producing quality material.
Two days and two nights passed, and the developers hoped that perhaps Stones would take their words to heart. Perhaps at the very least they would extend their deadlines, and phrase their emails in a manner which was less offensive to the developer community.
When the sun rose on the third day, a developer read his messages and discovered a letter from Stones. He raced into the forum to tell his friends. The developers were only slightly surprised to find that this letter was exactly the same as the ones that had been sent three days previously. The people at Stones had either ignored the advice they were given, or had actively sought to lower the quality of their book by turning away all the competent people in the field.
The moral of the story? There is no moral, nor a happy ending. However, a film version from several years in the future (which happened to fall through a hole in the space-time continuum) ended like this:
- The Stones publishing company continued to publish mediocre rush-jobs by inexperienced authors. Many of them ended up on remainder benches, and the rest were bought by the families of authors who liked seeing their relative's picture on the front cover
- The developer community continued to show tremendous loyalty to the rival publishing houses which had been responsive to their needs and understanding of their culture
- The first developer to complain to Stones continued for many years to bash her head against the brick walls of corporate stupidity, with sufficient small wins to avoid becoming terminally embittered
- The second developer to complain to Stones never wrote for them again, but instead went on to write a highly successful book about the internals of the technical product in question, which was published by one of Stones' rivals.