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Re: We can halve volume by not allowing nondevelopers to post

I agree with Ian's points here, but I have an alternative suggestion. It
is a practice that I have used in the past to some effect, and it is
possible that my reduced level of posting (I didn't even make the list!)
can be seen as a root cause of the current high levels of traffic ;-)

The solution is quite simple: Post replies to "off topic" postings via
private e-mail. Do not cc your replies to anyone but the poster. If the
poster has more than one address on the mail, be sure to reply to all of
the supplied addresses.

Taking a debate into private e-mail automatically removes the prime fuel
of the "flame war", which is public recognition.

More to the point, with only a few active "monitors" such discussions
get squelched pretty soon. If all developers who read the list
practiced such tactics, the clueless would get the message very quickly.

Keeping an open list free of chaff takes work, and is not always
successful. Taking such dreck into private conversations with several
developers, increases the submitter's work load, and spreads the "damage"
over a few developers, instead of everyone subscirbed to the list.

Encouraging such practice on the user list would probably help divert some
of the "flame wars" that go on there as well.

What do you think?

On Fri, 19 Mar 1999, Ian Jackson wrote:

> Several people have suggested solutions like creating debian-discuss
> for nontechnical discussions, or moving some threads to -policy, or
> the like.
> These things are not the answer to the problem.  I stated the problem
> as `volume on -devel', but really the problem is that there are too
> many messages in the fora that we'd like most Debian developers to
> subscribe to.
> At the moment many developers don't read -devel, or read it only very
> quickly, because it's too large.  Splitting it won't help: instead,
> there will be just two lists in the situation where -devel is now:
> too much traffic to be worth reading.  Splitting is only helpful if
> significantly different groups of people would want to subscribe to
> the two lists.
> It may be that creating a new (pair of) list(s) for discussion of
> problems in packages in unstable or frozen would be useful; the
> traffic there is something that many people wouldn't need or want to
> read.
> Trying to move things out of -devel to -policy (other than things that
> -policy is currently trying to do) will just make it hard to use
> -policy for what it's currently good at.
> It's also not clear to me that there is a very high level of off-topic
> posting.  -devel has always been traditionally the "developers' forum"
> - not the one "for development", and has always contained political,
> organisational and other material.
> However, there is an awful lot of posting, and posting begets more
> postings.  Particularly, emotive issues like the one about
> `censorship' induce people to post whenever they have the smallest
> thing to say and each article begets more responses.
> Now, on to my Subject line:
> Thanks to whoever it was who counted postings.
> Reducing the traffic in -devel by a quarter to a third by excluding
> nondeveloper postings would IMO be a clearly good thing.
> However, I think the effect would be even more dramatic, because of
> the effect that one posting generates more postings.  If nondevelopers
> didn't post, we wouldn't have developers following up to them because
> they felt impelled to disagree.
> Suppose we assume that every developer followup to a nondeveloper's
> posting would not have been posted if the precursor hadn't been
> posted, what kind of numbers do we come up with for the reducition in
> volume ?  It would be interesting to count the number of postings that
> were from nondevelopers _or followups directly to articles by
> nondevelopers_.
> For a rough calculation, if we neglect original articles, and assume
> there is no correlation in developerness between follower-up and
> followee-up, we find that (1-438/1596)^2 = 52.6% of postings remain.
> Thus, neglecting third-level effect, where nondeveloper postings
> cause a chain of followups two or more deep, we could HALVE the volume
> in -devel merely by closing it to nondeveloper postings !
> This, together with the unstable/frozen lists, might put -devel back
> where nearly everyone could read it.
> Ian.
> -- 
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