On why I left the Watir project

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”

~ C. Joybell C.

A number of people have asked me about why I left the Watir Project last year, and up until now I haven’t been comfortable explaining why. But that was then and this is now.

There were two reasons why I left the Watir Project. The first is because of a particular member of the Watir team who likes to call himself the ‘Project Director’. I co-organized a conference in Austin with this person last year, for which I organized a Minesweeper Contest which was advertised as part of the conference. I wrote a presentation on my robot which I developed with a colleague here in Brisbane, I even had some entries from other attendees. I rehearsed the presentation here in Brisbane and myself and my colleagues were excited for me to be presenting this is Austin.

Whilst I made it clear numerous times that I wanted to present this, the co-organizer provided me no opportunity to do so. He ‘directed’ the schedule, and when it came to the end of the conference and there wasn’t any time left, he said it was my fault for not proposing it as an ‘open space’ topic even though it was an long advertised component of the conference, and he gave me no opportunity whatsoever to present it.

I was so embarrassed I still haven’t told anybody here in Australia that I didn’t actually present my Minesweeper Robot in Austin. When people asked me how it went, I had to lie and tell them it went well because I was so embarrassed. All because of one person controlling the agenda.

I hate being on bad terms with someone, it’s just not who I am, so I made an effort to recently contact this person to discuss and see whether a year in time has made him willing to talk about the situation and how we can move forward. He rudely dismissed me and didn’t want to talk to me so I take that as he hasn’t. That’s why I am finally comfortable writing this post.

Letting things go

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

~ Ann Landers

The second reason I left Watir was that I believe things have a time and place, and when that time and place is up, it’s time to let go. Like your favorite pair of jeans you wear until they are faded to almost white and have holes in the crutch, it’s time to let them go.

The same applies for open source projects. You can’t keep contributing to an open source project forever. New, more enthusiastic, people come along and it’s hard but you need to let go and let them take over the reigns. You must. That’s how you can avoid having an open source ‘Project Director’ who hasn’t sent a project related email or written a blog post or line of code for almost a year.

I’ve let the Watir project go, I’ve let this person go, and I am a much happier person for it.

As a bonus, I presented my Minesweeper presentation locally here in Brisbane and it was very well received. Austin missed out.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is an Excellence Wrangler for Automattic.

8 thoughts on “On why I left the Watir project”

  1. Now who is going to be in charge of Watir? you are so good at this, and made a great project, I hope your new plans bee as huge as watir!!!!


  2. Wow, this is so unfortunate, I for once had learnt so much from your blogs and appreciated the HUGE contribution you have made to this project over the years. I’m sure you will do well whichever new project you choose to work on :)


  3. Their loss Alister – we really appreciated the opportunity to see the work and passion that you put into this project. It was a wonderful presentation, and I hope you haven’t shelved it – I’d like to get it out there for others to see the power of automation!


  4. Just a thought on aside. I have been personally involved in ISV sort of business and surprised to see so many individuals and teams in “open source” projects been full time employees of big companies. Big company do business for $ not for a pleasure. The first sign that should stop you to treat “open project” as real community is when one person can set a direction, delivery time and 100 member just turn as a one and start coding with almost no public discussion. Do not let your soul to be attached to that kind of “open” project it is a business for $. If they see no $ there is no chance for you. The open source becomes a tool to impress client and get more sales.


  5. Alister, that is really sad to hear. Didn’t know that there’s such ugly things happening in the Watir community. It’s a really shame. Anyway, thanks for everything you did in our community – i really appreciate it personally. Good luck with your other ventures too :)


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