The kindness of strangers

Dear Kettle fans,

There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t find myself amazed by the number of contributions and help that the Pentaho Data Integration project receives in all kinds of forms.  There are people contributing anything from small patches to complete steps, folks helping out others on the forum, writing documentation, writing books, translating PDI, etc.  Without any question, this has been a truly amazing experience, not just for me but for the whole Kettle project.

It’s because of that overwhelmingly positive experience that I’ve always tried to be accessible and in contact with my community in all sorts of possible ways.  And because of that positive vibe I have refrained from commenting on the negative flip side to that story for the longest time.

The problem is really that lately things have been changing.  It’s probably caused in general by an increasing attention to open source and specifically by an increase in popularity of Kettle.  In any case, certain types of people do the following:

  • Send me personal email
  • IM me on skype/Yahoo!/MSN/AIM/…
  • Send me all sorts of messages and questions through the forums
  • Ask questions on this blog

Usually it’s a combination of any of the above.  Any time now I expect folks to be sending me direct twitter messages.  The questions are always the same:

I have an urgent Pentaho porblem.  I am incapable of using the forum for some stupid reason and so you have to help me, preferable now or within the next 15 minutes!!!!

This way, the meaning of “The kindness of strangers” becomes more and more like the one from the Nick Cave song.

I’ve just finished reading Linus‘ book “Just for fun” (Thanks again Domingo!) and his approach to the problem of staying in reach for people to contribute code and at the same time allowing yourself to have a life and a job is simple : if it ain’t fun, don’t do it.  Well, the barrage of this sort of questions has stopped being fun for me a long time ago.

As such, I’m going to try this approach: any question that could or should be asked on the forum is from now on silently ignored and deleted from my mailbox.  Any person that is not part of my “community” and that needlessly contacts me over IM gets blocked indefinitely.  And yes, that goes for twitter as well.  Off-topic questions on this blog go to the spam folder as well.  I will simply refuse to spend time on non-interesting topics.

I thought about creating a standard response e-mail, but any sort of replying is simply an encouragement to certain types of people and will only make matter worse. (been there, done that)

I’m sure everyone understands that this is the only way to free up time to work on the real problems at hand.  Thank you for your understanding in any case.

Until next time,


9 thoughts on “The kindness of strangers”

  1. Matt,

    I’ve noticed more and more the same thing on the forums… The expectation that there will be an expert to help out 24×7.

    “Please help, it’s urgent” is one that keeps popping to mind. My usual thought in response to that is “Well, if it’s that urgent, buy a support contract!”

    Thanks again for the help that you have shown me on the forums, and for posting helpful tips here on your blog. I hope that by making the changes you mention will make working with the Kettle community fun again.

    Enjoy it.

  2. Hi Matt,

    Sometimes I have the same feeling with the comments on my blog. People think that you _must_ help them solving impossible/or not documented questions, why?. Go ahead with your new policy, it is the right one. Just one comment: add these rules at your blog comments form, IM, or wherever appears your e-mail… So everyone will be notified 🙂 (maybe it could reduce spam messages)

    PDI community is one of the best that I know, but you should ask questions in the right way. Why you should spend 30 minutes answering questions that were created in no more than 1 minute, without any analysis and effort behind.

    Tanks for your community contribution,

  3. Hi Matt!

    Yeah, I understand completely.

    I think it’s incredible how much time you’ve spent on providing high quality support on the forums, next to all the other things you do, like blogging, tech tips, tutorial videos.

    Hats off to you – don’t let the bastards grind you down.

    Kind regards,

  4. Hi Matt,

    I agree that the PDI forum is by far one of the best out there!

    And no one can say that you, and some of the others that have commented here, havn’t helped me out immensely!

    And for that I thank you and the others…

    Now as for the standard response I nominate “NO SOUP FOR YOU” !

    Let them chew on that for a while.


    Keep on… keeping on…


  5. Community support works, and works well for what it was intended. To parrot earlier comments, PDI’s community is one of the best at it.

    There is added value in a higher level of support than what the community can or will provide over the long term. That higher level of support could include things like 15 minute response time, 24×7, priority code changes for bugs, additional features, etc. What some smart person someday will do is figure out how to create a win-win situation, where that person can get paid for providing that level of support, and the user can get the support he requires.

    We need to find someone to do this, maybe that Matt guy that is so helpful in the forums. He could join up with or create a company, let’s call it Pentaho for the sake of argument, that can provide that level of support, additional features, etc. That would really be a win-win for everyone.

    An idea this good, I can’t imagine someone hasn’t thought of it.

  6. I appreciate that you advocate my wellbeing and employability jettm. However, if it’s all the same to you, I would rather stay on the side of the pure open source zealots. You never now what this hypothetical company (Pentaho you call it) is up to.

  7. Hello Matt,

    Let me start off by congratulating you for such a great book “Pentaho Kettle Solutions” which I purchased in Amazon. It has been of great use to me. I have been using PDI for about 1.5 years now, but recently I have a problem where should I post this? Sorry but I do not know how to post or log in into

    Or should I post directly to pentaho?


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