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

Heather Stern star at starshine.org
Tue Jul 12 14:21:08 PDT 2005

On Tue, Jul 12, 2005 at 12:25:30AM -0700, William R Ward wrote:
> (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.)

The comments I add below are my personal opinion and do not reflect the
rather unknown status I have among a "web team" at the moment (do I have the
power to edit pages?  will someone shoot their mouth off at me if I do?  I
haven't even poked someone in the ribs about his stale CVS lock).  They also
do not reflect any status that I happen to have with SVLUG's parent entity.
> 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.

Wehn something gets published for open reading, it sets policy, in the eyes
of readers.  Confusing people by changing it every 10 minutes while officers
tussle over the gory details is not a good thing, and I thought it was why a 
list such as this one exists.

> >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.

I think it's a bad idea for two people to feel they have to do all the work.
I think it's an even worse idea for them to hog whatever counts as credit
when several do it.  Credit can be given without titles;  in volunteer 
groups (which in my case are far more than linux-y ones) titles reflect
> 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.
In the past years listmaster was given final say on list policy, with not
always nice results, because in cases of variance, his preference was to
ban people from the list.  At some point enough people left that it was
fundamentally a different list. 

I count among those who left.  I got tired of having the announce list
policy jacked around on me too, and felt that I could serve SVLUG better 
behind the scenes.

> [...]
> >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?

In the finer past, all elected officers and appointed officers had two
things - a voice on officers@ and the listadmin password to a few lists so
that in theory we could all help scrape spam out of them.

In practice the number of people who enforced list policies in the forms of
approving jobs to be forwarded and said spam-slamming were pretty quickly
down to 3 out of a much larger batch.  I was one of them and not as often as
I would have liked.

officers@ was where we discussed what policies actually were, and
administrivia like signage for meeting space or upcoming events.  It was
also a place where the membership at large could tell us about things that
they felt affected svlug's image - ideas for flyers, someone's being a meany
on the list, can I tell $other_group about (yes of course you can).. 

If only two people are allowed on it, and only two people hand down policy 
like kings of old, it's pretty dumb for it to be a list.  However, if the 
term "officers" denatures the fact that even the elected two are volunteers, 
maybe it's better gone.

> 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@?
Well, there used to be a list of that, on a page that described how to
volunteer.   In the era when that page was kept up to date,  I had been
one of an appointed triumvirate - the Web Content Coordinator, one of the
other gals (Amy Abascal) being the Design Coordinator, and Lisa Corsetti
(aka flygirl) being the CGI Coordinator.   Also, these things were really a
catherding rather than do-it-ourselves roles... the major design
coordination was the result of a couple meetings of about 10 people, and the
CGI coordination was of 3 people - for a little while, before the fellow who
wanted to do stock tickers got bored without producing results.  The Web
Team was mostly my bag, supported by initially 6 people or so, but at times
they flaked and at other times the helpful ones could not get accounts
however much I begged.   Other volunteer Corrdinators had different teams -
or carried the load that should be a team themselves.  I can only speak of

If that sort of support is what my title was worth, I can honestly say I
don't care about the title.  But I was proud of it when that began.  This
is the sort of pride a good volunteer desrves to carry.

"webmaster" in those days was a task, not a role, and it was our ongoing
internal joke that the groupname was "webslave" - it's something that needs
doing, whether enjoyed or not.  But we got more work done when it was fun.

> >> 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.
> >
> >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.
If this is normal on our public list I'm embarrassed.

> 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:
> [...]
I can bring up the Reply-To-Considered-Harmful thread from another group's 
adolescence.  If, and *only* if, someone insists.

> 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:
> >http://www.svlug.org/policies/list-policy.shtml
> >
> >Policy for the jobs list is here:
> >http://www.svlug.org/policies/job-policy.shtml
> >
> >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: 
> >http://www.svlug.org/maillists/
> >
> >Little bits of policy are stated on the individual Mailman listinfo pages:
> >http://lists.svlug.org/lists/listinfo/svlug
> >http://lists.svlug.org/lists/listinfo/jobs
> >http://lists.svlug.org/lists/listinfo/svlug-announce
> >
> >
> >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.
We could have a timeline of when it was or wasn't a certain way...

> >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.

The very reason that the svlug netiquette page exists was because it was
becoming the offtopic post of the week, in the days when I was still
actually on the svlug main list.  I wasn't the webteam member who put it 
together.  I did edit it later.

Explicitly so that people could point to it (making it a shared knowledge of
SVLUG) rather than have to repeat it (privately especially making it feel
most personal to someone who's new but desperately needed to be told).  We
had flamages to the officers, complaining about people who tried to gently
take people aside that way. 

> >(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.)
Rediculous or not, less people took offense at being pointed to a page than
to being chatted with in private on the same material.

> 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"?
If you want to open yourself to the attitude of a $PROBLEM we have at
another list, that such action is taken as not just personal but malicious
if it doesn't suit $PROBLEM's tastes, go right ahead.  Which is why we
spread it to the generic nature of the webspace in the first place.

Rick knows exactly which $PROBLEM I mean and if you're lucky, the svlug
main list does not.

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

My Star Trek/24th century LUG list policies can be found at 
If you think it's vague, there's a reason for that.  We don't think it's 
right to micro manage people's personal mail.  We have had our flamewars,
pride shattered, and troubles.  We've also dealt with it.  I think we're a
more fractious group at about 30 people total than SVLUG had at its heyday
of the many hundreds.  Even the fellow who stomped off for a while remains
friendly.  We cannot have done half bad.

> >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 you are a newbie and you enter a silent room where the regulars will say
nothing because the barman glares at them if they start an interesting
conversation, what you have is censorship, not a friendly place to hang out.
Purely my opinion.

> If people who are regular SVLUG members and not officers jump in with
> corrections then they may feel unwelcome and leave. 

I'd say it depends entirely on how things are discussed or corrected.

Silence certainly isn't a group activity.  If people can say things, but
only inconsequential things, then the resulting list is of no consequence, 
and gets relegated to the folder-of-misc-chat-lists (gosh I should remember
to look at that now and then) rather than something someone can consider
themselves part of.

It's true that svlug shouldn't be a grumpy old coots bitch session.  But the
other way leads to madness also.

> 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.

With the chance of giving them a who died and made $listadmin god complex.
Seen it happen, got the t-shirt, tweaked the netiquette page to match.
> >Off-hand, here's what I see as essential for list-policy.shtml, and no
> >more:
> >
> >
> >---<snip>---
> >
> >
> >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.
> >NOTES:  
> >
> >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.
> >---<snip>---
> >
> >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.

The same list archives that vary on the policy of whether they can be seen
or not?   Um, no.  Either they are labelled as to when they came from, or
they are labelled as to who they came from, or they are explicitly
unlabelled.  None of this business of letting a $PROBLEM tell us why we can
or cannot have what policy.
> >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
> >page.
> That sounds reasonable enough.
I don't actually think that Marc's let's ban them attitude was reasonable.
People should get warnings.  If that warning should be delivered by an
officer, fine.  

> >(I doubt that anyone gives a tinker's damn whether you "announce" such
> >things.)
> 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.
Well, the last several times that policy was changed we announced that it
had, and mentioned the URL.  So if they wanted to ignore the changes that
was their business.

> >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."

The best of ways is to give part of the answer, enough that a not-so-newbie
would know the rest of it, and then mention the wiki/lg article/tldp or
whatever page as a resource, possibly one among several.

I think netiquette suggestions would be helpful if they give good examples,
not just bad ones.

  . | .   Heather Stern                  |         star at starshine.org
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