Waiting on Firefox Patch Reviews

Album Cover: Various Positions

"Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya."
Leonard Cohen / Hallelujah

Posted on April 08, 2004 11:05 AM in Browsers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

Henrik Gemal has written about the frustration of trying to get a review for a Firefox patch:

"...having made a patch and not getting any response is disappointing and discouraging. Am I too impatient?"

In response to his complaint, John Henry wrote:

"Most of the Firefox patches I have submitted have never gotten reviewed (in the 6+ months they've been in Bugzilla now), even one that fixes a known crash...I realize Ben is extremely swamped with work trying to get Firefox 0.9 out the door, but it would be nice if the other module peers could find some time for reviews. Or if Firefox doesn't really welcome outside patches, say so rather than having people waste their time contributing them."

This kind of relates to something I wrote back in February regarding Ben Goodger's general distrust in delegating work. In this case it seems that not enough power has been delegated to those who might be able to review patches and get them checked in.

I certainly feel for both Henrik and John, because I have seen several instances of patches dying on the vine, so to speak. Quite a few times I've seen things get to the point where patches will bitrot several times over, simply because no one has had or found the time to review the patch and get it checked in. I even submitted a patch once that was essentially an update of bitrotted code. My patch eventually bitrotted as well, having never been reviewed nor checked in.

I have a feeling that quite a few of those who decide they want to contribute to the Firefox browser end up leaving with a bad taste in their mouth. Along with very poor documentation for would-be themers and developers, the lack of higher-up support from those who have the power to review patches and check them in is one of the open source project's most visible weaknesses. I wouldn't consider this a complaint, mind you, but rather a fact of life that most contributors will need to accept until power is shared on broader levels – if that ever happens.

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