I was dismayed when I read Justin Dorfman’s “Why I’m proud to be a non-code open source contributor and you should be too” this morning. It’s mostly a great article. Dorfman makes valid points about the value of contributing to open source projects beyond code. Open source needs — and should encourage — these kinds of contributions.
Which brings me to my issue with the article. Dorfman anonymously quotes a well-respected open source leader:
If you find yourself about to use the phrase “non-code contributors” you should stop and use entirely different language.
He calls that a “horrible idea” and suggests that it discourages the kinds of contributions we need. But this take is disengenuous at best. I happen to know the post he’s referring to and it continues:
Defining people by what they are not is not a valid pathway to inclusion. Want to attract designers? Say so. Want to attract technical writers or community managers? Say so.
Far from suggesting that people should be quiet about non-code contributions, the post is calling on project leaders to stop othering those contributors and explicitly value them. The author is saying that lumping everything that’s not code as “not code” diminishes it. It’s just a shame that the article misrepresents a post when it could just agree with what was actually written instead.