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On News Hijacking

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 6 September 2012.
Planet PHP

My opinions are personal and do not reflect the opinions of any organization that I'm affiliated with.

What happens when you post an announcement in the open source world? People get excited, they repost and they talk about it. What will these people do should multiple announcements hit the open source world?

In my long experience running community projects, multiple news on the same topic dilute the reach of each and may cause confusion. When a news is immediately followed by another from a aocompetitora, I call this news hijacking, and being intentional or not doesn't lessen its effects on the community.

Why do I care?

First, this has affected me personally in the past. Organizations that pretend to be pro-community have intentionally hijacked my announcements, greatly affecting their reach. Also, people have organized conflicting events targeting the same audience as my conference. Worse: they hijacked my event's hashtag, causing confusion as to the official social event of the evening. This sucked.

Second, I have once unintentionally done this to php.net many years ago. My conference call for papers announcement came an hour after an important PHP release, causing the latter to be pushed down with my less important one.

Third, I have seen this happen to others and they confided that such hijacking has affected them as well. Community projects often don't have great financial means, and if they miss their chance with their network of followers, they may never get a second one.

Is this related to my recent comment on Twitter?

I know that people will ask me anyway, so I'll just be upfront. I know for a fact that Fabien Potencier (Symfony) follows Matthew Weier O'Phinney (Zend Framework). Only a few hours after ZF 2.0 was finally announced, Symfony announces 2.1.0. Perhaps a coincidence and these tweets were scheduled. But the fact remains: Fabien knew that the other announcement was out and went ahead anyway.

Had I been in his place, I would have simply waited a day before officially announcing Symfony 2.1.0. It doesn't matter which framework is more popular, which version is more important or whether it's an important enough thing to announce anyway. Knowingly announcing hours after the other is not cool, from my point of view.

If you don't see it as a problem, that's fine. Just remember that such actions have real effects and that other people are more sensitive to it due to their personal experiences.

Conclusion

I don't mean to tell people how to run their campaigns nor do I accuse of foul play in this specific case. I just want it to be easier and more pleasant to contribute to open source and participate in the community overall.

So please, everyone, put some space between the news and give others a chance to shine for just a day. It's such an easy thing to do. Just a day. You can post it tomorrow morning and the world will be a happier place. And I will retweet both of you if you do that.