10. Developer Relations

If you are working directly on your own code or on code which is already well established as your responsibility, then there is probably little need to check with other committers before jumping in with a commit. If you see a bug in an area of the system which is clearly orphaned (and there are a few such areas, to our shame), the same applies. If, however, you are about to modify something which is clearly being actively maintained by someone else (and it is only by watching the repository-committers mailing list that you can really get a feel for just what is and is not) then consider sending the change to them instead, just as you would have before becoming a committer. For ports, you should contact the listed MAINTAINER in the Makefile. For other parts of the repository, if you are unsure who the active maintainer might be, it may help to scan the revision history to see who has committed changes in the past. An example script that lists each person who has committed to a given file along with the number of commits each person has made can be found at on freefall at ~eadler/bin/whodid. If your queries go unanswered or the committer otherwise indicates a lack of interest in the area affected, go ahead and commit it.


Avoid sending private emails to maintainers. Other people might be interested in the conversation, not just the final output.

If you are unsure about a commit for any reason at all, have it reviewed by -hackers before committing. Better to have it flamed then and there rather than when it is part of the repository. If you do happen to commit something which results in controversy erupting, you may also wish to consider backing the change out again until the matter is settled. Remember – with a version control system we can always change it back.

Do not impugn the intentions of someone you disagree with. If they see a different solution to a problem than you, or even a different problem, it is not because they are stupid, because they have questionable parentage, or because they are trying to destroy your hard work, personal image, or FreeBSD, but simply because they have a different outlook on the world. Different is good.

Disagree honestly. Argue your position from its merits, be honest about any shortcomings it may have, and be open to seeing their solution, or even their vision of the problem, with an open mind.

Accept correction. We are all fallible. When you have made a mistake, apologize and get on with life. Do not beat up yourself, and certainly do not beat up others for your mistake. Do not waste time on embarrassment or recrimination, just fix the problem and move on.

Ask for help. Seek out (and give) peer reviews. One of the ways open source software is supposed to excel is in the number of eyeballs applied to it; this does not apply if nobody will review code.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
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