Tend to the Trolls or just ignore them?

I just couldn't focus tonight so I went surfing for recent blog entries and web pages talking about the WiX toolset. Usually, I can search for wix and find some interesting things that either need to be fixed or documented better or sometimes a success story. Unfortunately, tonight I tripped across a troll post.

Now the conventional wisdom is that the only way to deal with a troll is to ignore it. "Do not feed the trolls" and all that. However, I've been thinking about this issue for a while and I thought I would float the question out there to see what all of you think.

First a little background then the question. The blog entry at the top of the search list tonight went something just like this:

The other day I was reading a blog where Rob Mensching was very proud that WiX installs tend to be Red instead of Blue:

"Blam! Right out of the gate I knew I was looking at a package built by WiX. How? Look at the red. All the other installation vendors out there like blue."

Well, I suppose that's better then the way I used to know that a package was built using WiX. You know..... No Dialogs At All!

Before I start let me note that the issues I raise below are minor and completely dismissible by themselves. The question to ask yourself is if these sorts issues are relatively constant do you simply ignore them all or do you look through the mild (or not so mild) inflammatory remarks and debate the underlying issue?

With that context in mind, let me enumerate the issues that I find misleading, inflammatory and interesting (yes, interesting) from the snippet of the blog above:

  1. If you read my original blog entry, nowhere in it will you see that I state that I am proud that installation packages built by the WiX toolset are often red. In fact, I'm not particularly proud about the graphics in the WiX toolset. I think the graphics provided in the default WixUI are actually pretty ugly. I have asked a few times if someone with more artistic skill than me was interested in donating better graphics to the project (I personally hacked out that red bitmap from the blue one that was part of the Orca install almost 9 years ago). I picked red (9 years ago!) for the exact reason I stated in my blog entry "All the other installation vendors out there like blue." Red provided a quick indicator that you were probably looking at a WiX built package.

    So my first issue is that the snippet above completely misrepresents what I believe.

    A little bit of me wonders whether someone reading that blog entry would begin to believe that I think the default WixUI somehow sets the standard for what a beautiful looking install package should aspire to.
  2. The second part is a backhanded criticism of the WiX toolset that links to an old blog post which suggests WiX is incorrect and inferior for allowing installation packages to be built without a UI. The blog author is entitled to his opinion that all installation packages should have a UI. However, the author chooses to use divisive language to attack the WiX toolset (i.e. "WiX is too primitive of a toolset to possibly assist the developer in authoring a decent UI experience" [ed. emphasis mine]) and me (i.e. "I suppose if you only go by one persons definition of bad"). Unfortunately, that word choice naturally puts people that are associated with the WiX toolset on the defensive (particularly, those of us that volunteer on the toolset).

    So my second issue is that ignoring an individual due to "troll-like" behaviors means that is not possible to rebuke incorrect statements made by that individual.

    In this case, the invalid statements were that the WiX toolset does nothing to assist developers with UI, there are actually a few defaults to choose from but they are all red. <smile/>

    Ironically, if you read through the comments in that old blog post you'll see the exact point when I realized I came to believe I was dealing with a troll and completely quit responding. You can also see how I started a bit defensive in my first comment and tried to regain my composure in the subsequent comment.
  3. Now the part that I find interesting is that underneath all of this is what could be a very fascinating debate about the role of UI in an installation package. There are things the WiX toolset does poorly (for example, the default graphics are pretty ugly and creating custom UI by hand is tedious) but there are a couple things in WiX that might be interesting (such as the "advanced" WixUI structure). Plus the simple discussion about whether every single installation package requires UI or not could be interesting.

    So, finally, I am wondering if I should just ignore the inflammatory remarks and always discuss/debate on the salient points (if any).

The above is a dissection of a very specific and small set of events around my work on the WiX toolset in an attempt to appropriately frame the general question, "Is it better to tend to the trolls or should we just ignore them?"

I welcome your comments. I'd be especially interested in other's interactions with what you believed to be troll-like behavior, how you handled it and how that worked out.

FireGiant provides dedicated support for the WiX toolset. Ever wish you could get your WiX questions answered immediately with the technical detail that you find in the blog posts here? You can with FireGiant!

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