I've had to lower my expectations of the Open Source GIS user community. Now that I have your attention, I'll explain. The OSGIS user community by and large is composed of a great bunch of folks. Its the few that have soured my outlook a bit. I repeatedly see posts to mailing lists blasting one application or the other (usually not to the project's own list but another). The software stinks, doesn't work right, the developers are stupid, its not as good as X, Y, or Z, and so forth.
It takes little effort to criticize and a lot to contribute. Perhaps that is why some people find flaming criticism the preferred route. Sure OSGIS software isn't perfect, thats not what I'm implying. My point is rather than flame it be constructive.
Are you guilty? Here are 5 ways to determine if you are:
I didn't read any of the documentation
I fired off an email to a list or posted on the forum that the software is junk
I personally insulted the developers for the coding style, choice of language, GUI design, or fashion sense
I never asked for help before deciding to ridicule the software
I feel quite proud of my ability to dismiss out of hand the efforts of developers that have worked long and hard to produce something completely usable by others
For the record, I'm not feeling picked on by anybody. I've seen this type of behavior towards a number of projects. Its a disturbing phenomena that seems to recur quite often. Perhaps its coming from folks new to the Open Source realm.
We in the OSGIS developer community crave feedback. We want to help and we want to make our software better, stronger, faster and so on.
If you are one of the guilty ones, consider this -- OSGIS developers are easily accessible via email lists and IRC. You can actually talk to the developers and guess what -- they are helpful. So take advantage of the resources available to you from both the community and developers and become a good OSGIS citizen. If you decide its not for you then thats fine too.
I take a pragmatic approach to all things IT -- if it works for you then use it. I'm not going to criticize you (well in jest maybe) for your choices. If you get the impression that I'm not a zealot when it comes to Open Source you are right. If you want to use closed systems and commercial software, good for you. If you are going to participate in OSGIS, even on a trial basis, ask good questions, provide good feedback, and most of all -- contribute!