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

Heather Stern star at starshine.org
Mon Jul 18 00:34:50 PDT 2005

> >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.  I thought you just didn't post much. 

Even when I was aboard, I didn't post all that much.  

It's not interesting - it's a symptom of a bad thing let to sit for too
long.  Not being able to be a good netizen on the list - because of the
policy to shoot anybody who made "now now that's not nice" noices - I
decided to take myself out of the target range, quietly, and entirely, and
let my presence be that of a good person socially at the true meetings.

This also negated the need for me to tell my good friends Chris and Marc
that I occasionally thought they could stand to pipe down too.

> The moderator you are referring to is no longer running the list.  Would
> you mind describing this in more detail - specifically, what change in
> circumstances would make you consider re-joining the list?
/me sighs.  

The nature of lists.  Either they have a topic - or they are a place.

If they have a topic, logically then the only way it stays that way, is some
people find a way to take aside, casually advise, quietly nudge, glare
mommy-like at, or boldly clang up a gold sign that says "Tie Required."  Or
whatever formality it is that's being insisted upon.  *How* that requirement 
is applied makes not just the list policies - but the decor, the feeling of 
why anyone would or wouldn't want to stay.  

If the topic is "hey $group members, talk about your $general_topic here" -
then without any bounds this very shortly becomes a free for all.  Spammers[1]
with more than 3 but less than 10 IQ points are welcomed as much as anyone,
because... uh... well, we can't quite say it's *off* topic...   Bringing in
the sheriff of the ol' Wild West isn't entirely a feature - it brings peace
at a price - iron and freedom.  How to keep the saloon a place where the
folks keep a-chatting when the Tall Stranger enters is a hard problem - most
easily solved by setting things up so we don't have to be hardasses in the
first place.

I think until we as SVLUG's core - volunteers@ or officers@ or whatever -
have our sh* in one sock, I'm a little inclined to hold to the status quo
(which is not being on the list).   Let me work on the wiki bits, and use
get some energy into our group.  Then I can slip into the list as quietly as
I left it, and won't feel put on the spot about why I left - or stay.

[1] Spam as in "but I, I don't like spam" not necessarily in whether the
    topic is advertisements per se, or even snake oil.

> The newer version of Mailman we are now using has a separate ability
> for moderator and administrator passwords.  The moderator can
> approve/reject posts, but not affect list settings.  Perhaps we should
> use that feature to grant that privilege to at least some of the
> volunteers outside of just Paul and me?


> I think we should reinstate that list.  Perhaps we can start with
> people describing what they'd like to be called, as Chris did in his
> latest message to this list.
#include rant/symantics.h
	We cannot have behavior in the form, "the president is all,
	the pres makes all the rules" as well as good use of titles.  
        A title is a role, a trust, it means we're given responsibility for 

	The means credit for the good, blame for the bad, and the power to
	stop things before they get bad or worse - or invent good things, 
	make them happen.

I'm *hoping* for the make it happen variety.  I am making myself a part
whether I bear a title or not, because, well, that's how I am.  I didn't
make up the title for myself when it was given last time.  If we use the
titles we used before I want them to mean the same as they used to.  

*If* that's the case, then it seems I should be the Web Design Coordinator,
and would be reasonable for the lead catherder of our budding webteam to be
Web Content Coordinator.  'Cuz all this gui themey stuff I'm up to is
definitely web design.

BTW Rick and I bumped into Ms.Wendall at the installfest, and she'll check
her schedule, there's a pretty good chance she can join us for the
volunteers meeting on Tuesday.

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

<yoda voice>
Defensiveness, fear, sorrow, all lead to the dark side.

Never his eye on *where he was*.  On what he *was doing*.  Always his eyes
up to the sky.  To the future.

If all involved can sufficiently set aside their defensiveness to not
*continue* to snipe, I'll feel a lot better about how things are improving.

But I think the Magna Carta applies;  yes, we're human.  With or without
titles, whatever rules we come up with should be the same for all parties.
Even the Prez and Veep.

> >I can bring up the Reply-To-Considered-Harmful thread from another group's 
> >adolescence.  If, and *only* if, someone insists.
> I know, I know... I would never configure a mail server to do that on
> all posts, but I find it helpful to occasionally use Reply-To on
> certain messages.  I wish there was a "Followup-To" that worked on
> mailing lists.  In the absense of that, the best we can do is
> "Reply-To."

The Exec summary (literally - I'm the Executive Officer over there):
This is our current behavior and we deliberately leave it unstated on the
list policies page, because it expresses the nature of the group as a whole, 
not laws to be held to beyond their use.
  * USS Augusta Ada does not set reply to.  
  * USS Augusta Ada does not remove reply to settings.
  * People who set reply to and actually care if the results are stuck to,
    should also bother to mention the preferred state of the reply mail in
    the body text. 
	- some of us ignore headers
	- some of us barely know how to set them
	- some of us feel list mail belongs on the list proper
   	- others love to make side chatter. 
  * We *are* all friends here, keep it that way and nobody gets hurt ;P	

> >We could have a timeline of when it was or wasn't a certain way...
> Good idea.


> >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.

That there's any netiquette to care about, *is* a policy already.

What you really mean is the difference between constraints (required to
be or not be in, otherwise it's against spec) and features (desirable
traits but either can't be or not desired to be enforced).  What I like
to call desirements analysis.

Tryign to solve social problems by applying a technical club is tricky. 

> >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.
> I think most people on this list have no idea what you mean by
> $PROBLEM.  I know I have no clue.  So it's not a very helpful example.
> Care to give a more specific one?  Feel free to change irrelevant
> details such as names, to protect the guilty or whatever.

$PROBLEM is the combined firstname.lastname of a person whose behavior can
best be described as childish and at worst can be dubbed to have a
persecution complex.   Anytime a certain firm or its products are mentioned
you have let the pin out or mr.handgrenade inside $PROBLEM's mind, and he
goes completely or incompletely off his rocker.   The worst thing is that
he's not actually lacking in grammar (usually) - just in good judgement, so
for awhile sometimes, new people sympathize with him, until they realize that
there's no way to tell this guy that his particular Vietnam is long over or
never existed for the rest of us.  Occasionally some other peeve of his will
set him off too, I seem to recall outsourcing can really get him going.

The only way to get this guy not to be a problem, is to not be caught alone
with him in conversation.  The more people on a topic, the saner he seems to
be, and the more open spaces, the more he cares about appearances.  I think.
It's actually possible that he isn't capable of caring, and he's really
broken, in which case he's actually very sad, because there's no possible 
way to get him the kind of help that would make him stop going off *kaboom*.

Sorry I asked yet? Or do you recognize him?

If I specify what list this person is on, he'd be instantly recognizable.
If he ever somehow heard that I pointed him out, by a few different means
I'd never hear the end of it.  Thus the generic form... $PROBLEM.

> >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.
> Again, I think SVLUG is a much higher-profile group and so is more
> likely to attract trouble.

You are missing a critically important point.

We created these policies with the facet in mind that anyone in the whole of
starfleet might ask to join.   People who trip over the flyer in a coffee
shop, at a netlounge we run, or merely google across BALE may ask to join
(and have).  We have found that the chosen policy is scalable.   Being more
draconian about it is actually less scalable - it makes a few more things
we'd have to carefully test whenever we upgrade the list software.

Our list survived its adolescence and all our users are good people.  Even
the ones who quite pointedly disagree.  Disagreements are *normal* in our
discussions and sometimes even fun... mainly because they are about the
multiple facets of the topic at hand, and not about whether we like or
dislike each other.

> >> >ILUG has easily five or more times...
> >> That's interesting.  Perhaps their members have more tolerance for
> >> this kind of thing.

And the reason for that is an initial policy of letting hot topics have
their steam and roll back out again, rather than getting all prissy about it
any time there's the barest hint of controversy.  Outlaw brash nature on an
*irish* mailing list?   haha!  Pull the other leg there, this one's too

> >> 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.

/me shuts off the bullshit detector a few times before it finally

Either they are n0000bs who don't know what policies we have in mind in our
fine establishment/patio cafe/open park/virtual LUG meeting, --or-- the are
not newbies, and may have opinions about how things oughta be run.

But we volunteers, or one of you listadmin types, are who's setting policy,
not said opinionated newb.  We set their expectations.  Not the other way.

If we have *good* reasons for our policies, our habits, and our responses -
the rest will take care of itself.  To believe anything else is to carry
more of the world on your shoulders than you deserve as a burden.  Really.

> >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'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.  People
> go there to hang out and talk, not to organize the bar.  There's a
> little office upstairs with "volunteers" on the door where they can do
> that kind of stuff.

Either declare what's on topic - or keep your nose out of what our random
SVLUG folk choose for topics.  You cannot have it both ways.

Yes, some people at bars really do talk about the artwork and the
furniture. and the wise coffee house just sells them coffee, not opinions.
Professional bartenders (I do know some) often have a degree in psychiatry;
the finer places require it.

*I* am proposing that you just sell them coffee.  I think we've been too hot
a trigger on the bouncing anyway.

> >> 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.
> Volunteers list archives are visible to list subscribers only, as an
> antispam measure.  Since anyone can subscribe, that's not a big
> obstacle.  I think the svlug archives are public, but I'm not sure.

/me pokes the button on the wall.  Darnit, I really must get this detector
fixed.  It keeps saying things like hiding @signs behind signup policies
count as antispam.  #include who-rules-my-inbox-anyway-me-or-the-spammer.h

I can give you a nice little script that turns people's email addresses into
graphical artwork, and you can thank our buddy Ben at LG for feeling the
need for it.  

NOW... let me try this in plainer words...

I do not consider private spaces to count as documentation of *anything*.
Don't try that line on me again.   Don't ask me what it made me think
either, as I've said before we're all friends here, and I prefer to keep it
that way :)

> >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.  
> Agreed.

Now all we need is to defend our officers against the adhominem attitude
of poor ol persecuted Mr.$PROBLEM.

> >> 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.
> Good idea.

You'd think I'd been in lists and newsgroups for a few years or somethin ;P

> >I think netiquette suggestions would be helpful if they give good examples,
> >not just bad ones.
> Netiquette suggestions tend to lead to netiquette threads, which tend
> to make the list not as interesting for most people.

One more ride on the clue train and then I'll give up as it may be a lost
cause :(

*Most* people who can be defined as $PROBLEM do not flunk netiquette because 
they read Emily Post and then decided that the bitch can't rule their life.  

They lack netiquette because they are elephants in the china shop, excited
kids bouncing around on the first day of summer, or any of dozens of
reasons, most of which are not actually wicked.   And some people just have
the social IQ of a coconut laden swallow, either African or European, but
having left the brain behind to improve the weight ratio.  A bit of classic
foot in mouth disease may occur occasionally even among the normally clued.

And the more we said about it the less they read.

They need to be talked to.  We *cannot* escape that.  What we're deciding is
*how* we prefer to talk to such doofs, so that they remain among us, and get 
a chance to make friends and trip haplessly over their linux problems and
generally speaking get to continue to hang out with us, in preference to
having all our stuff read out like Mom Writes The Ten Commandments.  Mainly
because if we *don't* set a policy, then the current riding policy is "the
steam cooker" - leave it alone until it's so bad you have to bow to
pressure, everybody gets steamed, and someone has to ban the twerp.  Makes
us look lazy - and then like dragons - and then bunches of people waste time
ranting on how it coulda been done better 
#include 25-megapulses-of-netiquette-thread-good-lord-not-again.h.  Bad x3.

I think we can manage to avoid that this time around :)  Bearing in mind
that from the average SVLUG member's view, "we need to talk to them" is "we"
the collective of SVLUG, not "we" Prez and Veep nor even "we" the officers
of SVLUG, though the latter had been the norm at sometime in the distant
past.   And could be so again, if we write the policy well and leave it
lying around in a reasonably obvious and visible location for our members.

Feh. I talk too much.  If you glazed over while reading this, you grok why
the bullet points need to be short and neat.  Examples can be on secondary

  . | .   Heather Stern                  |         star at starshine.org
--->*<--- Starshine Technical Services - * - consulting at starshine.org
  ' | `   Sysadmin Support and Training  |        (800) 938-4078 v.m.
                                                  (408) 374-7623 land
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