This was an aborted piece I had sitting around, so I thought I'd post it up. It doesn't have a complete arc of an idea, but it's readable.
One of the common responses to people getting pissy about software is "It's Open Source, change it yourself" or "Open Source is about choice, find an alternative".
These are ignorant and insulting responses.
"It's Open Source, change it yourself."
No, you fix your broken software.
Modifying software requires at least two basic things. One is skill and the other is time. Regular users generally have neither.
A regular user sees the amount of time that a developer puts into their software and scratches their head wondering why they would spend so much effort without actually "finishing it" by making it configurable in "obvious" ways.
It's one thing to have a difference of opinion with respect to the default, but it's another thing entirely for there to be obvious alternative viewpoints and to have those alternates completely ignored as options.
When a difference of opinion exists between the developer(s) and any particular user, it's usually because one side or the other misunderstands something. The developer may not understand the userbase and its needs.
Most of the time the developer is making the software for themselves and the userbase becomes a kind of afterthought after their 80% completion point (or "working beta release" if you wish).
The user may misunderstand the target audience of the software and have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes the user does not know that there are more appropriate software alternatives, and other times there really are no other alternatives. Any way you look at it, there's a significant rift between these two sides.
Something else that's extremely common is that users do not understand the mindset of the developer. They don't understand the volunteering and altruism, the time and energy or the personal and sometimes financial sacrifices a developer puts into their software. A user sees a work and thinks "if I had that kind of skill, I would do this and that". In The Real World(tm) nobody ever completes anything they ever do. There is no concept of perfection except maybe in math, and that's only if you don't know your math.
"Open Source is about choice, find an alternative."
No, this software is the best out there and with a little more effort it can be even better.
I suppose there are two things that can be discussed here. One is a user who hasn't searched for alternatives and the other who has. Well duh.
So for the users who haven't searched for alternatives there are cases when we can and other cases when we cannot blame them. Sometimes it's damned hard to find alternatives to software. It's difficult for people to describe the problem they want to solve; just look at most bug reports. It's equally difficult for people to adequately translate their problem into search terms.
Sure, you may know about development hosts like SourceForge, or software databases like Freshmeat, but many users don't. They "know" Google. Maybe they know How To Ask Questions The Smart Way. Perhaps they have a local user group or a favourite forum. Maybe they have a "techie" friend. Or maybe they don't.
But all of that requires a significant amount of personal development for the user. They really do need to embrace the dark side to get those skills. But most users don't do that. Let's face it.. most users can't do that. They don't have what it takes even if they had the time.
Whereas the developer, and those who would answer the user inquiry in such a manner, have devoted some slice of their time towards technical things, the user has not. The user has specialized in other things, although it's quite possible the user has specialties which make them an expert at using that software, making their insight valuable.
But really, the best way to address user concerns like these is to help them with one or two alternatives. If you've tried other stuff, a simple link (and not just the name) and a thought are all it takes to push most users in the right direction. If something really pisses them off about a program, they will take the time to go try something else out.
Yes, for you and I it might take some small nuisance to have us spend an afternoon researching the problem and various pieces of software. Or maybe that's just me. But most users simply wouldn't do that, and they do need to be spoon-fed. The advantage of doing that is the moment they do find something they'll recommend it to other regular users. Hopefully they'll also become more willing to do a little bit more work next time. It's also probable that they'll start thinking about alternatives to more of their software.
That's what we want, people thinking about alternatives. Because more alternatives means a freer market and less monopolies. Alongside patents and copyrights, vendor lock-ins are one of the most progress-crippling things in our time.