““Am I being an asshole?” In other words, am I pointing out problems or am I finding solutions?”
One of the things I’ve noticed working on large and small OSS teams is that people who excel at finding solutions thrive in both. The ones who thrive on only identifying problems seemingly only function in large organisations.
In a small team, everyone needs to contribute to the many solutions that need resolving. There’s a clear line of sight to what’s being delivered. I’ve tended to find that the pure problem-finders feel uncomfortable to be the only ones not clearly delivering.
But there’s absolutely a role for identifying problems or for asking the question that completely re-frames the problem. One of the best I’ve seen is a CEO of a publicly listed company. He had virtually no knowledge of OSS, but could listen to half an hour of technical, round-in-circles discussions, then interject with a summary or question that re-framed and simplified the solution. The team then had a clear direction to implement. The CEO didn’t find the solution directly, but he was an instrumental component in the team reaching a solution.
The question to pose though is whether the question asker is being an OSShole or an agent provocateur*.
* BTW, I use this term within the context of being a change agent, someone who contributes to finding a solution, as opposed to the literal sense, which is to incite others into performing illegal acts.