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

William R Ward bill at svlug.org
Tue Jul 12 00:25:30 PDT 2005

(Note: All the text I write below in this email is my personal opinion
and I am not speaking as the VP of SVLUG, or on behalf of Paul.)

Rick Moen writes:
>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,[...]

I'll let Paul comment on the idea of elected vs. appointed officers.
I think that there may be a mismatch of vocabulary that we should be
able to resolve.

Please note that Paul is the President of SVLUG and the final word on
policy.  I may be a "hearbeat away" but I try not to set policy.  Paul
has given me some discretion in the area of mailing list administration
but that is all.

>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.

That's an interesting point.  So, who are the appointed officers,
then?  I don't think we have an official roster anywhere.  I know some
of them but probably not all, so I won't post any names because I
don't want to risk offending someone by leaving them off.  If we're
going to have "appointed officers" then what are their rights and
privileges?  Do they belong on the officers@ list, and why or why not?
Assuming "no" (which is I believe Paul's position on the matter), is
the volunteers@ list enough or should there be another tier between
officers@ and volunteers@?

>> 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.
>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.

I appreciate that feedback and I will try to handle it more tactfully
in the future.

>> 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:

It's not how it is supposed to work, I'll grant you that.  All I was
doing was the same thing some mailing lists do when they "munge" the
reply-to address.  The idea being to make replies automatically go to
the volunteers list instead of svlug at .  I tested it with my mail
reader and it did what I expected; apparently yours didn't behave the
same way.  I agree it's a nonstandard usage, but it's like leaving out
a </td> tag in HTML - it works, even if it isn't pretty.

>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 .

I completely agree.  Any other pages referenced above could just link
to those pages.

>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).

I agree.

>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.

I agree.

>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.)

I feel that netiquette violations should be pointed out by a list
administrator or moderator, not by J. Random Subscriber.  Perhaps that
should be one of the "appointed officers"?

>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.

I think SVLUG is somewhat higher profile than CABAL, and has in the
past had some of those kinds of "wars" which I think is why we have
the rules we have.  I agree that a purging of the extra rules is in
order, but I wouldn't cut it down to the extreme that you propose.

>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.

That's interesting.  Perhaps their members have more tolerance for
this kind of thing.

Let me try to explain my concern.  I am very concerned about scaring
off newbies.  If someone is just starting out with Linux there's a
much greater chance they won't know our netiquette rules, and might be
expecting things like reply-to munging, etc.

If people who are regular SVLUG members and not officers jump in with
corrections then they may feel unwelcome and leave.  For one thing,
who's to say it's just one person doing it?  If several people do,
they may feel ganged up on.  If the person(s) doing it aren't
"officers" (for whatever definition we end up using), then they may
just feel it's just one person's opinion and argue the contrary,
leading to unpleasantness that can drive some people off the list.
Either way, people may decide to give up on the group.  Without new
people constantly coming in, the group can wither and die.

On the other hand if an "officer" (and only one officer) sends it,
preferably privately, they only get the message once, and it comes
from the authority on the matter so they don't have to wonder if it's
just one person's opinion.

>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.

All that is good.

>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.

This is good too.  It should probably also link to the "considered
harmful" pages that usually get quoted when this topic comes up.

I think we need a little more, but I'd have to give some more thought
to determine just what.  Or we could strip things down as you have
suggested, and add things back on an as-needed basis.

>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.  

That is an entirely reasonable request.

>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.

I disagree.  The mailing list archives should be sufficient
documentation of that.

>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

Please note that all of the above refers to the Marc & Don
administration, so I don't think it's fair to use that as a criticism
of the current leadership of SVLUG.

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

That sounds reasonable enough.

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

If the policy changes, an announcement to the list is in order.  The
odds that long-time readers would notice any changes to the policy
page are slim.

>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.

Good idea.

>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.

I say some repetition is OK.  Newbies may ask the same questions all
the time, but they don't like hearing "go read the FAQ."


William R. Ward - Vice President, Silicon Valley Linux Users Group
bill at svlug.org - http://www.svlug.org - (650) 279-9904

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