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Jehan Pagès recently published his interview with GIMP maintainer, mitch. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a fun interview with a very colorful person. I highly recommend checking it out!

Mitch at LGM
Mitch at LGM/London last year.

Some of the responses in various places online were pretty normal for GIMP news (eg: full of vitriol), but there was one comment that questioned the inclusiveness of the project that I took exception with personally.

Yes I’m biased. I’m part of the project, and these are people I’m around daily (on IRC at least). Before I could be biased, though, I had to have an experience to build that bias with, and that’s what I want to talk about here.

The Few, The Weird, The GIMP Team

Jehan mentions this in the opening to his interview and it’s worth repeating:

Some people think there’s a huge company behind GIMP. This is not the case. GIMP has always been developed by a handful of random people scattered around the world. Most of them are volunteers and none of them work on it full-time.

I feel that often people don’t seem to realize just how few people there are working on GIMP most of the time. Seriously. For instance, here are the ones that were able to make it out to LGM/London:

GIMPers at LGM/London montage
GIMPers in London!
Clockwise from top-left: Michael, Ville, Simon, Øyvind, João, Liam, and Jehan.

This is not very many people to be working on a project as large as GIMP (even considering the other occasional contributors)!

It wasn’t that long ago that I showed up on the IRC channel myself and lurked around for a bit. If you spend some time there you might begin to realize a couple of things that I also learned:

  1. These are real, actual people behind the project. People just like you or me.
  2. Each of these people really care about the project that they’re choosing to spend their time on.

The first point is important because sometimes people tend to forget that there are human beings at the other end of a rant or tirade. Technically, this is a good point to remember for just about all interactions online, but it’s particularly important here because of the second thing: they care.

This means that even if they make decisions that might upset you (or your workflow) - chances are that they’ve made those decisions with the best interest of the project in mind. This means that when someone takes the time to answer you on IRC, the mailing list, or even other forums somewhere, they are doing it because they genuinely want to help others be able to use GIMP.

Think about that for a moment. These are people who choose to spend their free time helping others in some way to be able to use a Free Software project. I have watched some members spend quite a bit of time trying to help people sort out problems that could probably have been resolved by reading the manual or following one of the tutorials.

Note that this doesn’t just pertain to the actual GIMP team members. There are plenty of folks from various forums and other online communities that also go out of their way to help.

Getting Weirder

So when I first started hanging around to get to know folks, my personal experience was not one of exclusion, but rather the opposite. I was just starting to get my feet wet with building and updating some small parts of the website. They had someone now to help work on a part of the project, and as mitch mentions in his interview, the general attitude* is:

If you do it right, then you’ll be in charge of the part you are doing right. It always works like that. mitch

When I first started getting bold enough to make changes and updates to the (old) website, there was talk of getting out the chains and collars so I couldn’t get away.

Does this sound like a project that is not inclusive?

* If you do it right. They reserve the right to ridicule you if you don’t, of course. :)

Addendum

There are more ways to contribute and help a project like GIMP than being able to code. I highly encourage everyone to see if they can find a little bit of time to help in one of the many, many other ways such as

Drop by the IRC channel and say hi!


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