Authors vs. Contributors

I’ve been giving some thought over the weekend to ‘Authors’ vs. ‘Contributors’ as credits in module documentation.

For reasons I can’t remember but can almost justify still I’ve been submitting modules to (the) CPAN with myself listed as the Author and any subsequent patches are credited as a Contributor.

As a Dist::Zilla user I’ve been thinking that it would be nice to have dist.ini accept ‘contributors = Jane Doe’ data in much the same way it does with authors.

My investigations into a plugin for Dist::Zilla hit a roadblock when I realised that I’d need to either fudge things horribly or fork dzil, submit a patch and pray they accept it.

Since this is more work that just writing a plugin I took the time to stop and think.

  • Is there any difference between an Author and the Contributors?
  • Am I placing too much self-importance on myself as the creator of a distribution?
  • Should Contributors be listed as Authors?

I’ve not been able to perform an exhaustive search of (the) CPAN but there are a couple of distrubutions that use Contributors:

If it’s good enough for the ‘big three’ does that mean it’s inherently okay for me to use?

Should I embark on a branched piece of work to add ‘contributors’ to Dist::Zilla?

11 Comments

You might also think about whether there is a difference between author and maintainer.

I would ask the question 'What is the point?'. If its driven by as you say '..placing too much self-importance on myself as the creator of a distribution' then sure go ahead. However its probably then fair to break it down and say contributors deserve their glory too and start adding a feature list beside contributor's names. Once you start going down this route and unless you have conscious line to drawn then you become obsessive about the pedantic details of who did what.

That is what git log is for.

Also if this is what you're after then maybe consider a software patent.

I like to see it as these people have used it and added some code and maybe useful for me to contact in terms of understanding the idea behind the module and how it can be reused or hopefully extended to make into something more awesome. Sum of the parts and all that. That's what I take from the Open Source community and why its a good idea.

Don't fret too much about forking and submitting pull requests for Dist::Zilla. RJBS seems very open to good ideas. Heck, I had a plugin of mine absorbed into the core without even asking for it.

My philosophy is to share credit liberally. There's plenty to go around. An author is a contributor and vice versa.

Maintainership is different. Someone must guide the project for the long term. If the demarcation of that responsibility must exist, make it explicit.

RJBS is very open, but he's also very busy :(
I've been waiting for my two pull requests to dzil for almost a year now...

My off-the-cuff thoughts:

  • "authors" would be people that get listed in META.* metadata vs "contributors" making contributions, but not being on the hook for contact about the module (which is the definition in the CPAN::Meta::Spec)
  • In some licenses, e.g. Apache 2.0, the term "contributor" has specific meaning, whereas "author" would really mean "licensor" in such a license.

Ultimately, I think it's a fine idea to acknowledge contributors. I tend to do it directly in the Changes file on a per-patch or per-bug-fix basis.

It wouldn't be hard to write a dzil plugin and corresponding Pod::Weaver plugin to drop in a contributors section.

"My philosophy is to share credit liberally. There's plenty to go around. An author is a contributor and vice versa.

Maintainership is different. Someone must guide the project for the long term. If the demarcation of that responsibility must exist, make it explicit."

I guess this summarises what I meant in a much more elegant and concise fashion.

For Padre we have a section called
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS where we list The Padre development team in ABC order and a separate section for translators.


Though I am not sure why do we still have them separated.


In the about box they put a separate "Created by Gábor Szabó" and I did not argue with them but this is a special case as this is an application that has an about box.

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user-pic I blog about Perl.