Low hanging fruit

October 4, 2008 at 7:19 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

This has to be the “Phrase of the Month” , or even “Phrase of the Year” in the Foss world. There has been much controversy generated from the use of this phrase in the “Omlette Post”. I did Google the term.

It basically means “an easily achievable goal”. Mr Atul Chitnis is not singular in using this phrase. I happened to stumble upon this link which has this line:

The GNOME Project provides a variety of means to contribute. These range from the low-hanging-fruits to tasks of increasing complexity.

Now, Mr Sankarshan has himself been actively involved in these so called “low-hanging-fruits” for a major part of his career. He obviously does not think its an insult in any way.

Then why does this term make people angry?

  1. The use of the word “low” tends a certain logical and auditory similarity to the term “low level” (as in low level work)
  2. The new format/theme for this years foss.in has driven some people away. It is natural to feel bad when you are no longer welcome in the same manner as you were before, at a place you love to be in. Kinda like your college hostels after you have left college.
  3. I dont think l10n contribution etc should be compared to anything that “hangs” (sounds wierd!!!)

The beauty of the term is also manifold. It depicts the foss development model as a tree… not a data-structure tree… but a real tree.. flourishing, with fruits.  I personally am not much of a contributor to upstream projects. Still, I will be brave and say that Mr Atul Chitnis IS WRONG in saying that l10n work is low hanging fruit, because i tried my hand at it, and did not do that well. But surprisingly I did manage to achieve something out of a pure coding task in the Tesseract OCR project. Infact in my opinion, building a l10n community is 10 times more difficult than adding a working module to the linux kernel. Which brings us to the question whether management tasks are more difficult than engineering tasks. I guess in a distributed open-source model, it indeed is.

Keeping the analogy of the tree in sight, lets re-arrange the distribution of fruits a little bit. Lets say only the external periphery of the tree (leaf nodes 🙂 ) bear fruits. That is, the ends of every branch is a fruit. Once a project has matured, and developed properly, its time to make it usable (read as translate and read as fruitify). Now this fruit may be low hanging, or high hanging. But it is a fruit, without which, there is no use for the tree. Well you may use it for shade, but then IISc Bangalore has enough shade for everyone.

By the way, “low hanging fruit” is also a term used in six-sigma-rating. It means:

Low Hanging Fruit are basically those improvements and innovations that can be suggested and implemented during the Measure phase (of a Six Sigma DMAIC project) when they become apparent. It is not necessary to wait for the Improve phase for the implementation as it would be an opportunity loss. Low Hanging Fruit contribution should not be considered when determining the process capability at the Control phase.

I did not really understand what it means, but it sounded cool, so pasted it!!

(PS: I havent done much gardening in this soil.)

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3 Comments

  1. Sankarshan said,

    Hmm…good find but wrong conclusion 🙂 The abstract does not equate ‘low hanging fruit’ with translation or localization does it ? Or, are you interested in a strawman argument ?

  2. Debaya said,

    Then what did you equate it to?

  3. Sankarshan said,

    Any task that can be done with whatever skills that are hand. The context of that phrase is very much evident in the context of the text “low hanging fruits” aka easily done tasks with whatever skills the GNOME fan/contributor currently possesses to tasks of increasing complexity wherein the GNOME fan/contributor has to invest more time and gather skill. So, for example, given your skill, Indic OCR could be a low hanging fruit for you 🙂

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