[Volunteers] Undisclosed banned discussion topics (was: yum extender)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Jul 11 17:43:36 PDT 2005

Quoting William R Ward (bill at svlug.org):

> If you would like to suggest some changes I think it would be entirely
> appropriate for you to post such ideas here or on the officers list.
> While it's true that you shouldn't be setting policy, there's no
> reason you can't suggest a policy change or submit an edit for officer
> approval.

OK, sure.  I'll help out if I can.  

I assume you mean SVLUG's _elected_ officers.  We've had appointed
officers since the very beginning, and, when I mentioned that fact to you
in private mail in mid-March, you seemed very surprised to hear it --
and also you and Paul continue to restrict the term "officers" to just
the two of you.

You and Paul obviously do want to encourage more volunteer
participation, so you might start right there:  In general, one of the
things that LUGs do to keep people involved is give them recognition.
One no-cost way of doing that is to let them have titles, which is
basically why SVLUG _has_ appointive officers.  Believe it or not, LUGs
tell me (as maintainer of the LUG HOWTO for the LDP) that this works.

(I should hasten to add that I _personally_ don't need care whether I'm 
called an appointive officer or not:  As you'll see from some of my
comments in the LUG HOWTO, my personal preference is for very loose
just-get-it-done anarchical arrangements, and don't much care what
people are called.)

Incidentally, I know you two would _like_ to attract more volunteer
involvement, but you might want to consider that most of your changes
have, in fact, involved centralising all decisions and actions, through
you two.  I'm sure you didn't intend to do that, but it's been sort of a
running pattern.  Suddenly restricting the term "officers", against all
prior SVLUG practice, to just yourselves is just one example.

> My goal is to not scare people off the svlug lists with unwanted
> traffic about topics that have nothing to do with why they joined the
> list.  That's less likely to happen on the volunteers list.

Let me remind you of my perspective:  On at least two occasions (the two
I cited), you (in my view) maligned me personally, in error, in public
on svlug@ , and then immediately either "killed the thread" (forbade me
or anyone else from commenting) or ordered me to move any commentary to
a small, totally private forum, access to which is controlled by you and
Paul Reed.

That is extremely uncool:  Being VP of a LUG is not supposed to be open
licence to take personal, public shots at other volunteers with impunity.
Claiming after the fact that you're acting for the public benefit
doesn't make it any better.

I'm not going to hold a grudge, but I'm concerned about that becoming a
pattern.  It should not; it's simply not right.

If you honestly feel you have to terminate threads for various reasons,
fine, but taking public swipes at people (e.g., highly questionable
and derogatory claims about what such people have recently posted) 
_at the same time_ as you prohibt them from replying is a habit that's
going to seriously tick people off -- and I don't mean just me.

> Thank you.  Most mail software would have automatically done that; I
> guess yours doesn't.

Bill, that's actually _not_ how Reply-To works.  I believe I can
explain (and I'm honestly not trying to be critical of you or anyone
else personally in saying this, but rather just trying to explain the
technology).  Let's say you send:

  From: bill at wards.net
  To: svlug at lists.svlug.org
  Reply-To: volunteers at lists.svlug.org

Replying MUAs that honour the header in accordance with RFC822 (sections
4.4.3 - 4.3.4) would do this for reply-to-sender (in this example,
somebody at example.com being a subscriber to svlug at lists.svlug.org):

  From: somebody at example.com
  To: volunteers at lists.svlug.org

Replying MUAs that honour the header in accordance with RFC822 would do
this for a reply-to-all reply:

  From: somebody at example.com
  To: volunteers at lists.svlug.org, svlug at lists.svlug.org

That is, as I was saying in my earlier message, the RFC-specified
purpose of the Reply-To header is to specify an alternate address at which
the _sender_ can be reached, for purposes of any replies.  In the above
example, "bill at wards.net" would be saying, "Please don't regard my
return address as bill at wards.net for any replies:  Please use
volunteers at lists.svlug.org in its place."

Basically, I (for example) might set my own Reply-To to "rick at deirdre.net" 
(my alternate mailbox) if I knew that linuxmafia.com was likely to be
out of service in the near future, and wanted to temporarily specify
where to send replies intended to reach me, instead.

Anyhow, you were soliciting suggestions for "policy changes" (presumably
concerning mailing lists).

Existing general list policy is stated here:

Policy for the jobs list is here:

Mailing lists are described, and some policy touched on very lightly (but,
thankfully, almost entirely referring people to the general policy and
jobs policy pages for details), here: 

Little bits of policy are stated on the individual Mailman listinfo pages:

Suggestion 1:  Move all list-policy verbiage to list-policy.shtml and
job-policy.shtml .

Suggestion 2:  job-policy.shtml is probably just about right, but we 
might consider deleting everything from "But I heard... and now... Why
has the policy changed?" on down (because it's been long enough that 
the circa-2001 policy change is no longer news).

Suggestion 3:  list-policy.shtml has way too damn much material.  It needs to 
be drastically cut.  Far too much of it is obvious common sense.  If
posters don't have that already, they're not going to get it from a
policy page.

Much of it concerns netiquette:  Here's a perhaps unpalatable fact, Bill:
Netiquette doesn't teach itself, and policy Web pages don't teach it,
either.  People do, by politely, considerately, kindly, sparsely,
infrequently citing it when applicable -- _in_ the forums in question,
contemporaneously with the matters that make it relevant.  The people
who say it should be mentioned only in private mail are misguided.
(That is not to say in any way that people should be beaten up over
netiquette, but _banning any mention of netiquette_ that someone might
possibly take offence at as an "indirect criticism" is ridiculous, Bill.)

Here's 100% of the mailing list policy for CABAL's mailing list.  Ready?

   Per list policy, our (subscriber-accessible) membership roster and
   public message archives display unobscured posting addresses. If you're
   trying to hide your e-mail address from spammers, avoid this list.

   While we appreciate the need for jobs postings, they easily overwhelm
   this small mailing list: So, you must submit them via e-mail to the
   listadmin, who'll decide whether to post them. Reasons why the answer
   has been "no" in the past have included their having already been
   posted to other local LUG mailing lists. (We get tired of seeing the
   same posts everywhere.)

That's the whole shootin' match.  CABAL doesn't have problems with
Reply-To wars, netiquette wars, you're-mean-to-newbies wars,
you're-an-elitist-because-you-won't-help-me-with-Windows wars:  Spammers 
get ejected; everything else exists as a happy semi-anarchy.  Members
who complain to the listadmin about another poster get told "I'll be
glad to help you figure out how to add [person foo] to your killfile."
Trolls don't stick around because they get no traction.

The same is true of other LUG lists I'm on with no more formal policy,
equally or more fractious membership, and _much greater_ levels of 
list traffic, e.g., in particular, Irish Linux User Group's
ilug at linux.ie list (http://www.linux.ie/mailman/listinfo/ilug/) and
Linux Users of Victoria's luv-main at luv.asn.au list

ILUG has easily five or more times as much traffic as svlug@, routinely, 
and they have none of SVLUG's control-freak list intervention -- or any
need or desire for it.

Off-hand, here's what I see as essential for list-policy.shtml, and no



1. Do not post job offers to the main SVLUG mailing list; see the jobs
policy [link].  Send your offer (if appropriate) to the jobs mailing list.

Do not post entire documents. Please send a URL.  Exceptions:

    * Small attachments, ~2k or less.
    * Vcards are frowned upon but tolerated.
    * PGP / GnuPG signatures as MIME attachments.


SVLUG mailing lists do not "munge" (force) the Reply-To header.  If
that's an unfamiliar term or you're accustomed to munging, please be
aware that you should use your mail program's reply-to-all command, if
you wish to respond back onto the mailing list:  Using your mailer's
"Reply" (aka reply-to-sender) command will, by contrast, result in an
off-list private-mail response.

Have an opinion about Reply-To?  Please consult our sister group LUV's
FAQ items "Why isn't the Reply-To header set on the LUV lists?" and "How
do I stop getting two copies when people reply to my posts?", first
(http://www.luv.asn.au/faq)  We'd prefer that posters address the topic
only if they have something _new_ to add.


If you really believe that some formal mailing list _rules_ beyond those
are necessary and desirable -- which very long experience elsewhere 
suggests is not the case -- then _please_ put them on the Web site in
the full light of day, rather than inventing them off the top of your head,
jabbing people with them, and then never documenting them on the policy
pages so that people know they exist.  

And I'd actually prefer that the elected officer who declared each such
"rule" have to have his name listed next to it, in part so that, if
you enact a dumb one, posterity will know.

Past declared-but-then-never-documented list "rules" have included:

1.  If you post "snide remarks", you may be summarily and permanently banned.  
(Marc Merlin, http://lists.svlug.org/archives//svlug/2001-August/037015.html)

2.  If you post for any purpose other than to help him/her, you may be 
summarily and permanently banned (Marc Merlin, ibid.).

3.  If you post "off-topic e-mails", you may be summarily and
permanently banned (Marc Merlin, ibid.).

3.  If you criticise, in any way, any _idea_ posted by a fellow list member,
even if your posting completely lacks any criticism of the other person
personally, then you may be summarily and permanently banned (Marc
Merlin, http://lists.svlug.org/archives/svlug/2001-September/037596.html).

In theory, these "rules" are still in force, and can be applied at any
time by any "officer" (elected or appointed) at any time without notice:
Immediately prior president Don Marti confirmed this to me in writing, a
year ago:  http://linuxmafia.com/bale/don

If they are now still in force, they should be appended to the policy

(I doubt that anyone gives a tinker's damn whether you "announce" such

Suggestion 4:  Start an svlug at lists.svlug.org FAQ, maybe collaboratively
via wiki.  Paul has heard this notion from me, so, Paul, please pardon
the repetition:

People use the term "mailing list FAQ" to mean either of two
fundamentally different things:

  1.  A document that professes to pronounce the final word on its 
  subject matter, more or less by one or more persons' decree.

  2.  A document that summarises what (sometimes diverse) responses you
  would likely have gotten from the usual suspects, had you posted your 
  question to the mailing list.

I am of course suggesting the second type of document.

Back around 1998, for a few years running, I kept offering to SVLUG's
then-leadership to maintain such a FAQ, either on SVLUG's Web server or
elsewhere, to summarise frequently-given answers to frequently-asked
questions -- hoping, with luck, to reduce the amount of repetition.  
All I asked as a condition was that SVLUG link to the document if I went
to that trouble.  I was consistently turned down.  

This was in the days before collaborative wiki-and-similar Web sites.
Happily, these days, the technology exists to make it a broadly based
and open project, rather than just the work of an individual.

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