Recently, I was called out on an open-source project for having inadequate documentation on how to issue commands against an API. My initial reaction was, to say the least, quite childish.
"Absolutely not. No way. My documentation is totally perfect! Anyone who couldn’t figure this out is just stupid. Come on! Read the code! Code is its own documentation!", I thought somewhat angrily as I read the Github issue.
I realized though, that I’m the one who really needs to take some time to step back. Someone asking me for help about something they don’t understand is nothing to get upset about. It’s someone reaching out on the internet to build something, just like me!
You see, I built the library that was brand spanking new to this anonymous person on the internet. I had knowledge bias, and that bias was alienating someone from being involved with my library. Hell, I’m quite aware of knowledge bias, and it still jumped up and bit me.
I think this gets worse when you have software engineers who are laboriously crafting over something to make it perfect. We’re struggling for hours to build something that will be awesome, amazing and pretty much the best damn thing there is. (Well, until someone else builds it better) We are trying so hard to push forward that we forget, there are people still trying to figure which way is up.
So, the question is, “What do I do now?”
I wrote some damn documentation. I swallowed my pride and added more docs. I even went above and beyond a bit, just to prove to myself that I’m not that kind of an engineer, hell, not that kind of person. I can safely say though, my project benefited from someone being upset about documentation. That’s the amazing experience of open-source.
I’m not ashamed that it happened, but I am a bit upset that I fell into that trap.
Knowledge bias, can bite us all.