“Patches accepted.” It’s one of the most offensive things you can say to people who genuinely want to help with your project.
Why you should reconsider using the phrase
Not everyone is a programmer. Even those of us who do know how to program might not meet your expectations, and we would likely waste hours (or sometimes even days) writing and formatting a patch exactly how you might like it. And even then, we might be rejected again and again.
Instead: You, an expert programmer, could spend a little bit of time to thoughtfully discuss an idea and possibly consider implementing it. All of us who are better at things other than programming could possibly help you out in other ways too.
The pain of perfect patches
Developers often assume everyone should write perfect code in their project’s language, to their coding style (tabs? spaces? how many spaces? K&R? KNF? how many comments? what types of comments?). Thinking that everyone will send you free code exactly how you like it is not only arrogant; it dismisses other contributions.
Software is much more than the code that goes into it
Contribution is more than just patches; design, documentation, marketing, translation, localization, security audits, testing, discussion, and advocacy all are crucial for software to be good software.
“Patches welcome” ends any kind of meaningful discussion for potential other contributors.
Simple solutions: words & phrases
The words we all use matter. There are often special meanings in phrases we choose.
“Contributions are appreciated” is much better phrase to say than “patches accepted”. It’s not only what you say, though — it’s also what you mean, and we all need to shift our mindsets too.
The differences can be summed up simply:
- Be inclusive — people can help out in many different ways.
- Be thankful — everyone’s time is valuable, and they could choose to spend theirs doing something else entirely. Instead, they decided to talk with you and spend a bit of their time on your project, to try to help.
- Community participation is not only about code.
Sometimes you simply can’t work on an idea or fix a bug in your project due to various constraints, such as lack of time, being sick, or even a lack of skill. That’s okay; everyone has moments like these. If you’re up-front with people, they will likely understand and may think of you and your project more highly with the explanation. (Every once in a while, someone else may even see that there’s help needed and jump in because of your pleasant conversation too.)
If initial conversations are handled correctly, it could be the start of a beautiful symbiotic relationship to make your software better.