The Contributor/User Ratio Varies by Platform

by chromatic

Inkscape developer (and fellow PDXer) Bryce Harrington mused about fixing critical bugs in Inkscape 0.46 to be in The paradox of FOSS projects supporting Windows.

Unlike the philosophical argument described in The Dubious Benefits of Porting FOSS to Windows, Bryce makes a more concrete, more pragmatic argument. In particular, the ratio of potential contributors to users on non-free platforms is measurably smaller than the same ratio on free platforms.

I've noticed this problem in some of my own projects. There are plenty of users willing to try a piece of software that may or may not work well on a non-free platform, but when it comes time to debug and fix these problems, their motivation goes away.

I'm sympathetic; it's not fun to try to build and debug software on Windows. I don't use it. I don't understand it. I'm not the person you want telling someone how to install any of the free compilers that somehow don't come bundled with Windows, just so that someone might be able to produce an interesting backtrace.

I'm not sure there's a good solution, at least without enfranchising users to become contributors -- and that seems to require Free platforms.


1 Comments

Mark Grimes
2008-03-11 17:22:06
One possible solution, rather than fully porting to Windows, porting to cygwin provides the dual benefit of an easier port (generally) and builtin, consistent compiler tools. Many cygwin users are able/willing to support the software they use, and you can probably bundle cygwin.dll and a few other libraries with the app into a native installer.


Just a thought...