First I want to get it out in the open that I’m not a well-known FOSS developer. While I occasionally contribute to other projects I like, I frequently choose to build new tools instead. Historically, few of those tools see the light of day, and those that do can hardly be considered popular. Which is just to say I haven’t dealt with having thousands of users reaching out, a small fraction of which tend to be entitled jerks that believe you owe them something
With that out of the way, let’s talk FOSS.
Despite being the creator of a FOSS project, I don’t own it. While it’s true I can control what code goes into my repo, anyone and their dog is free to create a fork. The project itself is bigger than me, and is owned by the community.
I feel this raises a couple important points:
You are not entitled to my time or attention
The project belongs just as much to you as it does to me. I do want to hear about bugs and feature requests, but it’s not my job to implement them if I don’t agree with you or it isn’t something I want to work on. After all, you can do that yourself. And if I do agree with whatever bugfix or feature you’re adding, I’ll merge it into my source. If I don’t, you’re encouraged to fork the project.
Plus, in many cases when forks prove popular, they end up merged back into the original source. First having gone through a sort of litmus test to see if they warrant being included in the first place.
I have to earn your good-will
When you choose a piece of software, you are making an investment in it. Whether it’s the time to set it up, or to learn how to use it, you invest your time and attention. And if the software in question is closed and controlled by a single entity, you don’t have much room for recourse should the direction of the project change.
Meanwhile, if a project is FOSS and the direction/ethics of the project changes in a way that you’re not comfortable with, chances are you’re not the only one. Anyone in the community can step up and set a new direction, and the users can choose to follow them instead.
At the end of the day, if you use the software I build, it should be due to the trust you have in me and the reputation I’ve fostered. Not because you have no other choice.