False Entitlement: Disconnect between FOSS producers and consumers

In Why we need Social Coding there is mention of “False Entitlement” that exist by people that depend on free software. However there is a disconnect on both ends, where developers of free software do not set expectations correctly, and - in the case of misunderstandings - could also do a better job communicating. There are often frustrations on both sides.

On the Fediverse this is seen too in discussions, and often well-intentioned devs are named “fossbro” or worse. Part of Social Coding is to get process and communication such that this toxicity is avoided.

This is a placeholder for a comprehensive explanation of the Challenge to overcome.

Good input to this topic are:

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Various social phenomena are related to ‘entitlement mismatch’ that are detrimental to the FOSS ecosystem as a whole. They are weakening factors of inclusion and diversity, and sense of unity in community.

  • On the Fediverse (and beyond) there’s this meme of the stereotypical “Fossbro”.

    • The stereotype is of people, usually privileged white males, that push technical solutions mostly, jump in other threads and point out ‘impurities’ wrt FOSS approach. They say things like “just self-host this”, which is beyond non-technical folks to do.

    • It is an angry stereotype, mostly used unfairly. Though there are people whom would fit the label, most often it is a mismatch in communication style and maybe social skills that lead to people getting slammed the label (mostly indirectly, without name-calling and on separate threads).

    • It is highly demotivating for those who feel attacked by it.

  • Aggressive or passive-aggressive communication style, once people have determined for themselves that cultural or ethical convention and implicit rules aren’t adhered to properly.

  • Cases where people are justifiably frustrated or angry, because a software truly excludes them from participation.

    • In this category there’s a broad range of Accessibility (a11y) issues.

    • Good example of indignation is a discussion on Codeberg’s (using Gitea) accessibility, where a Captcha cannot be passed by people with vision impairments. A Community issue exists, but wasn’t addressed for well over a year (likely due to sheer amount of other work).

    • Note: This is not ‘entitlement mismatch’, but more a mismatch of expectations. Where a FOSS team really wants to address the flaws, but hasn’t found time to do so yet. Not being hampered by accessiblity issues themself makes it easy to overlook the importance of addressing them properly.

    • Nonetheless angry responses can lead to a lot of toxicity, and weigh heavily on those who feel responsible, as this response by a Codeberg maintainer indicates.

Codeberg accessiblity issues were reason to type this comment. First addressed in forge federation chat, and followed up on Codeberg and in a toot.