Mind Your Manners

I’m sure you’ve read from one place or another about etiquette on the Web and this little rant is no exception. I will say, however there will be a slight bit of jaywalking to discuss manners in relation to Github. There will be no code discussion or talk about the coolest thing out there. It’s just a bit of chat on the subject of manners and manners my Dear Watson go a long way.

“You can catch more bees with honey then you can with vinegar”
– Some drunkard at the bar

Lets layout the typical Scenario A vs. Scenario B rundown, so you can see for yourself. Before we can begin a few terms to define …


Possesses only a slight bit of Github experience (basic push,pull,merge,pull requests,branching) and eager to contribute in a positive manner. This is the person that will be submitting a PR

Repo Master

The stud of Github. This is the developer that has the usual 3 gazillion plus followers and enough street credentials to make it around the block and back.

Our leading Contributor discovers a really great repo to fork and begins the process of cloning locally to his/her machine. Now that there’s a local repo on Contributor’s machine he/she surely must give something back right? Ok, so contributor makes the awesome fixes and is ready to send it to the project fork so a Pull Request can be submitted. Assume we fast forward here and already submitted the Pull Request and await the reply of our Repo Master. Cue sunset, sunrise.

With that special cup of joe in hand you sign on to Github and are gitty as a school girl/boy to see your accepted PR but that frown turns upside down very quickly when you feel the tone of the following message from our feared Repo Master.

Scenario A

original messageContributor
Hey awesome Repo Master! I made some changes to your project and I hope you like. Please accept my Pull Request –or not, it’s totally up to you. You are the Repo Master for God sakes.

replyRepo Master
I can’t accept your pull request. Your PR contains a bunch of errors.


Right away the repo master forgot his/her pleases and thank–you’s. You surely know what those are because mommy dearest taught you about them from your early stages of a tiny zygote. What did the Repo Master forget to say in that reply? Can you already hear the change that should occur in your head? Let me state the obvious. Here is my version for comparison;

Scenario B

original messageContributor
Hey awesome Repo Master! I made some changes to your project and I hope you like. Please accept my Pull Request – or not, it’s totally up to you. You are the Repo Master for God sakes.

ENHANCED replyRepo Master
Hi Contributor! Thanks for sending me a pull request and taking the time to look over my project to make it better (probably a standard line that should always be pasted in all Github PR replies much like we do with digital signatures in email messages). Unfortunately your PR cannot be accepted at this time as some errors have been detected. Due to the nature of the errors I would suggest the following LINK to help you further etc. etc. Thanks again and please feel free to try and contribute again in the future 🙂 ←Smiley Face

Did you see the difference between the two replies from our Repo Master? In the latter he/she remembered to say “Hey, thanks for taking the time bro/dudette” and ended with a little ditty I like to call “Please come again.”

Keep in mind that contributors can be the assholes here too so it does go both ways, but as far as my experiences are concerned the former scenario happens more frequently then I’d like to admit which is why I’m writing this … Duh! I mean really, who wants to contribute to anything where manners are not enforced? I know I don’t want to deal with an asshole as much as the next person in line. I also know I would never hold the door open on a continuing basis for a consistently rude human being.

Surely there could be something wrong with me right? Wrong! I’ve looked through past messages of mine to see where I can fix this error I’m experiencing. A little soul searching and empowering myself to be a better person kinda thing yaddah yaddah yaddah. Each time I go back I still see the same tone from Repo Master over and over again.

The moral of the story kiddos is remember to say your pleases and thank–you’s –on both sides of the fence. Repo Masters work hard to create these awesome things to contribute to, but on the same side of the coin contributors also help to make these open source projects even awesome–r! Remember to always “Mind your Manners” whether you’re in the digital world or the real world. It still holds true that manners my Dear Watson … go a long way.


Web Development & Design, Technical Writing, Interaction Design, Open Source Maker & Contributor. Helping Create A Better Web. http://grayghostvisuals.com.

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