16 Oct 2003
(updated 16 Oct 2003 at 14:09 UTC) »
Maintaining free software for pay can be tough.
I guess I'm lucky that my employer
is willing to subsidize my pet
project by paying me to work on it. Then again, they depend on it
for a project
that they seem to think is pretty important.
On the one hand, there's all the stuff my fellow team members at work
need. Bug fixes and performance enhancements mostly. The code is
plenty mature, but we're in that last 10% that takes 90% of the time.
It has pretty much all the features they need, though there's a
trickle of new ones for them.
On the other hand, there's a boat load of stuff I see that would make
Vesta more attractive to others:
installable packages for popular distributions,
a make-based source distribution,
tools to help with merging branches,
the list is pretty long.
I'm basically fully occupied with the first category. It's difficult
for me to find much time to spend on features that won't directly
affect the effectiveness of my co-workers (not to mention justifying
spending time on such things).
Then again, the more people use Vesta, the better the chance is that
people outside my company contribute to its maintenance (bringing down
It's sort of a catch-22: working on the first category is higher
priority, but the second category is what will get more people using
and contributing to the project, reducing the amount of stuff in both
I'm thinking about this a lot becuase last month
a user outside my company advanced an idea on something in the second category,
I sort of said "Sounds great, but don't expect me to do it".
Rationally, I know I have limited time and I have to avoid committing
to implementing significant extensions. Emotionally, I really wish I
could devote a month or two to implementing the features this user
obviously needs. But I just can't see myself having the time to do
So I said what I said and went back to the umpteen different issues
I'm up to my elbows in. I can't help feeling like I made a big
mistake there. I'm desperate for more users (and, more to the point,
contributors), but at the end of the day I have so little energy left
to do what it takes to go get them. We've got the better mousetrap,
and, contrary to the saying but as is so often the case, the world