I participate in a range of different open source projects. Of course I spend more time on some of them and only a very little time in most of them, but I’m currently listed as member of 18 projects on sourceforge and 16 on ohloh and I can easily figure out a bunch more than aren’t listed on either of those sites.
I’m just the kind of guy who tend to actually get the code and write up a patch for problems, and in fact also in many cases I’ll write an fresh application and publish it openly for the world (not that my typical programs get any particularly large audience but still). I’m not saying everyone has to be like this, I’m just describing me here.
It seems this is a troublesome concept for people to grasp.
I get a large amount of private mail where people talk about “your project” (as in a single one that I am supposed to understand which one they’re referring to) and just about all open source-related interview/questionnaire things I’ve filled in tend to assume My One Single Project. In the first case I can often guess which one they refer to by the phrasing of the mail, and in the second case I tend to answer for the project I’m involved the most in.
So I get this feed of private emails on projects I participate in, but I don’t like private emails about open source projects when people request and expect free support and help. If they want free support, I expect the people to post the questions publicly and open to allow others to reply and read both the question and the subsequent answer online, right there at the time they’re asked but also much later when searching for help on the same subject as then the answers will be around in mailing list archives etc.
These days I have a blanket reply form that I bounce back when I get private support mails and I will admit that most people respect that after having been told about the situation. Every now and then of course I get a violent refusal for sympathy and instead I get to learn I’m an arrogant bastard. This is also related to the fact that:
We (Haxx) run and offer commercial support around curl and libcurl, and for that purpose we have a dedicated support email address. Mail there if you’re willing to pay for support. That’s actually quite clearly spelled out everywhere where that address is displayed, but yet people seem to find that a good place to mail random questions and bug reports. Just today I got a very upset mail response after I mentioned the “paid support” part of the deal there expecting us (me?) to instantly fix bugs regardless since I’ve been told about them per email…
All in all, I’m not really complaining since I’m generally getting along fine with everyone and stuff around this.
Just everyone try to keep things apart: the projects, the people and the companies. They’re sometimes intertwined but sometimes not.