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

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Fri Jul 15 21:38:25 PDT 2005

on Wed, Jul 13, 2005 at 11:55:04AM -0700, William R Ward (bill at svlug.org) wrote:
> Heather Stern writes:
> > On Tue, Jul 12, 2005 at 12:25:30AM -0700, William R Ward wrote:

> > 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.
> That's interesting.  

Isn't it just?

> I thought you just didn't post much.  

This is one of the perverse properties of list disagreements.  There are
basically two sorts of responses:

  - People who leave lists in a huff (or state that they will).

  - People who silently remove themselves.

Some level of disagreement, heated at times, is a sign of a *healthy*
community.  It's when the ranks _stop_ grumbling that you've either got
a community cowed by leadership or bullies, or whose numbers have been
thinned by self-selecting out.

People respond differently to the same situations, that's life.  If you
run a list (or organization) you'll be faced by people who will take
their game and go home, if some condition comes to pass, often offset by
another group who'll do the same if it doesn't.

Look to the long-term interests and goals of the group as a whole in
determining your policies.

As for list topics and disagreeable responses, I'm of the view that it's
responses, and responders, who are inappropriate, not topics.  In a
healthy list, arbitrary topics can be discussed (or questions pointed at
an appropriate FAQ).  Those who respond with grandstanding, name
calling, ad hominems, or beating a topic to death should be advised,
then warned, and if conditions warrent, _only_ if absolutely necessary,

Keeping a sense of perspective --  it's a mailing list, it's a volunteer
organization, it's not the end of the world -- helps.

I'm inclined to agree with most of Rick's points:  that there have been
a number of arbitrary and unnecessary changes to lists and policies.
It's a sign, when seen in business management, of weak leadership
needing to assert itself by changing something, anything.  I hope this
isn't the case here.

I also agree strongly with the view that netiquette (and could we
include a link to RFC 1855 on the list policies?) is *best* addressed,
as it arises, on-list.  Most of the standard guidelines are established
as best practices for group discussions via email or Usenet, and have
several decades' operational experience behind them.  My experience is
that lists failing to sufficiently police netiquette guidelines, and
experiencing any significant volume, tend to rapidly descend into chaos
and clue flight.

> > > > 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.
> Whether that is what happened or not is a matter of opinion.  I
> disagree with Rick's characterization of what I did (obviously).

My perception would be roughly in line with Rick's commentary.

> > > > 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...
> Good idea.

Also more prominent promotion of the jobs list.  I'm starting to see
some clear signs of hotting up in the local jobs market, including
hiring of recruitment staff by several tech firms, which is probably a
welcome development to many.  I know that the relationship between techs
and recruiters is mixed at best, but with jobs@ we've at least got a
place to channel.

Speaking of policies, setting specs on allowed / preferred behavior
there in advance of issues would also probably be useful.  Usenet's jobs
groups became almost instantly unusable in the mid-1990s due to volume
(repetition) and spam issues.


> > 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. 
> There should probably be a stronger distinction made between
> netiquette and policy.  For example you won't get kicked off the list
> for top-posting or sending an attachment, but you would for ad-hominem
> attacks.


While we're at it, line wrap's another issue that's come up.  RFC 1855's
64 characters is IMO overkill, but 72 or so seems to be a widespread
recommendation.  < 80 at the least.
> > > > 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.
> Nobody's proposing silence.  

I believe Heather meant to draw attention to the bartender's behavior,
not the regular's eminantly predictable response.

So, barkeep....?

> I'm just saying that the bar shouldn't be dominated by discussions
> about how to remodel it, what the furniture should look like, what the
> dress code should be, and under what circumstances the bouncer should
> be forced to kick people out.  

I think that people in a bar should be able to talk about pretty much
anything they damned well please, so long as it's not "Fire!" or
incitement to riot.

If you want to promote discussions _other_ than remodeling, furniture,
bouncers, etc., take down the walls and give them room to wander.

Slashdot is another forum which is infamously notorious for its lack of
suffering for discussion of its self, IMO to its own loss.

Sure, if you're the manager, finding out that your taste in ferns,
bazooki music, and lack of cheese isn't universally shared can be a
downer.  I've a large stock of deaf ears and thick skins to sell at good

> > 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.
> Volunteers list archives are visible to list subscribers only, as an
> antispam measure.  

Um.  Give the Magic 8 Ball another shake.  That one's been used this


Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    The human race never solves any of its problems -- it only outlives them.
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