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In open source projects, why do software patches have to be accepted by a developer? Couldn't contributors just release their own patches and allow people to add the patch if they choose to. I'm wondering why there are so many Ubuntu programs that could use such obvious work but aren't updated.

For instance, lots of people want Rhythmbox to be more attractive. Why can't the people who design themes on DeviantArt turn those into code and let users download those themes themselves, even if the developers at Rhythmbox won't accept different themes?

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Any of these explanation are satisfactory? –  Manish Sinha Apr 15 '12 at 15:10
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2 Answers

You don't have to wait on the developers to accept a patch.

Just download the program's source code, apply whatever patch you have or found, and compile it.

For example, GNU Screen didn't support vertical splits for a long time, so many people downloaded Screen and applied somebody else's patch to add vertical-split support.

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In open source projects, why do software patches have to be accepted by a developer?

This is because distros contain only one version of one piece of software. If your patch is accepted by the developer, he/she will release it which will make it's way to the end user.

Couldn't contributors just release their own patches and allow people to 
add the patch if they choose to

It is possible, but in this case the people need to understand how to apply patches. It is usually a very tricky and geeky way to apply code patches. The user needs to get the source code of the software, apply patch, build it and install it. Most of the non-techie users just install the already built software. Most of them won't go through the hassles of patching their software.

For instance, lots of people want Rhythmbox to be more attractive. 
Why can't the people who design themes on DeviantArt turn those into 
code and let users download those themes themselves, even if the developers 
at Rhythmbox won't accept different themes?

You are talking mostly about themes. Many softwares have plugin system which allow the application behavior to be tweaked to suit the user's need. A plugin can make Rhythmbox looks more attractive. Not all the aspects of the application can be tweaked. Only those aspects of an application can be tweaked this way (plugins/themes) which are explicitly supported by the application developer.

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