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Re: removal of svenl from the project

Having been invoked twice now in this thread, I feel compelled to comment.
I guess that seems to be a common enough weakness in this community, right?
In this case, I feel it's justified to reply to you because you really don't
seem to get why people have a problem with your behavior, and I think you
deserve a chance to understand those reasons and remedy that behavior.

I'm also posting it to the mailing list, because I think it's worthwhile to
reflect on how these points apply to each of us, in order to be more
responsible participants in this community.

I have no interest in discussing the expulsion process itself here.  But let
me be clear, Sven:  I enjoy working with most developers in Debian; for the
most part, I enjoy working with any developer who isn't totally incompetent.
But I don't enjoy working with you, because your competence does not
outweigh your consistent personalizing of disagreements.  Andres approached
me about supporting his request for expulsion before he sent the (public,
inappropriate) mail that started this stupid thread, and I was unwilling to
give him that support because I'm uncomfortable with arbitrary punishments
for unspecified crimes and because I believe that anyone capable of
mastering Debian packaging is also capable of learning to work together in a
community.  But it is in fact my belief that your behavior is sufficiently
destructive that if the choice was between taking the good with the bad, or
having you leave, I would honestly choose for you to leave.

I feel awful about writing that, because I know how it would feel if someone
wrote that about me.  But it's the truth, and I don't see any reason that it
*needs* to be true.  So if you really do want to work together with this
community (which I believe you do), please listen to and consider what I
have to say, instead of looking for ways to blame the behaviors I'm
describing on the people around you -- because telling me how much you think
*I* suck isn't going to persuade me of anything.

First of all, what is this?

On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 07:21:09PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 07:33:35PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 07:51:18PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 08:04:50PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 08:08:27PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 08:51:43PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 10:32:40PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 10:40:39PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
On Thu, Mar 16, 2006 at 12:15:49AM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:

Do you understand that this mailing list is *not* the venue in which
decisions on developer expulsions take place?  Do you understand that you
don't actually have to reply to *every single message* on a subject to make
your point -- especially when you've made that same point, in the same
forum, only a little while before?  (Maybe there are some people on these
mailing lists who have Alzheimer's disease, but we shouldn't assume this is
the common case!)

Do you understand that the fact that you *do* reply to every single message
in a thread is something that makes people not want to deal with you?
Nobody wants to try to have a discussion with somebody who is going to
insist on having the last word.  It's easier to ignore you and put up with
occasional sniping from you about how we're not listening than it is to try
to have a conversation with you on an issue that you feel strongly about.
This is bad for Debian; it means you miss out on feedback from a lot of your
peers, and it means a lot of developers avoid joining teams where they would
be working with you.

Others have made similar comments in this thread; I'm not the only one who
thinks this posting pattern is a problem.  Do you actually think that this
is an effective means of winning an argument?  It isn't, unless you count
"everyone else walks away in disgust" as winning.  If you haven't done so
already, please consider which of the posting patterns in this blog entry


> What Andres is reproaching me, is that i was too vocal in my disput with jonas
> (and some previous disputes also with some others), and there he is right. I
> was at a level of frustration which made me so irrational i used some (too)
> strong words speaking to jonas and later vorlon. I notice though that jonas
> called me names too previously, but i am trully baffled about the issue with
> vorlon, since, maybe due to english not being my native tongue, it was
> interpreted as badly, i meant that as mostly in a joking tone, altough i
> failed to add a smiley or something (he was speaking about me and jonas, i
> asked him a question about it and he left, so i said something like "bah,
> coward", which i really really was not thinking could offend someone, and if
> so i apologize for it).

For the benefit of those not on #debian-kernel, here's the full sequence of

- I left the channel last week because it had been taken over by the inane
  bickering between Sven and Jonas.  Since I already had a front row seat to
  this on debian-ctte, I didn't need to see more of the same on IRC.
- I re-joined the channel yesterday after the TC bug had been resolved.
- I asked whether I had missed anything, and was informed that Sven and
  Jonas were now arguing over *proper changelog crediting* of the TC fix.
- I made a smartass comment about the possibility of the changelog issue
  also being reassigned to the TC, and a subsequent need to request
  reimbursement from SPI for some artillery.
- Sven made the accusatory comment that Andres quoted in his original mail.
- I took this as a sign that the #debian-kernel channel S/N ratio had not
  improved, and left unceremoniously.

I was not offended to know that Sven called me a coward, whether in jest or
not; I think it's healthy for us to all have friends in the community that
we can vent to when we're frustrated about dealing with other developers,
and make comments to that we wouldn't make to those other developers' faces.
I only regret that Sven misjudged how sympathetic the audience was that he
made this comment to.

But Sven, I really can't understand how you would think your *first* comment
could be taken as a joke, when it suggests exactly the same sort of
polarizing, with-me-or-against-me personalization that seems to happen so
often in discussions with you.  After just getting done with the frustration
of trying to mediate the yaird issue between you and Jonas as part of the
TC, during which you were *repeatedly* asked to refrain from personal
attacks, the last thing I wanted was to get pulled into the middle of
another personal dispute between you two over something as *minor* as credit
in a changelog entry.

The personal attacks being sent to debian-ctte were such a distraction from
the technical discussion that it even led Ian Jackson to suggest ruling
against you only on the grounds that you were being uncooperative! Do you
understand that this is *not* an uncommon sentiment, and that being
confrontational and combative does bias people against you no matter how
correct your technical arguments may be?

Do you realize that the only reason I was personally able to overcome this
bias in the TC discussion was that a) I felt a duty to do so as a member of
the technical committee, and b) I was aware of Jonas's own combative role in
the kernel team?  (Yes, criticizing you for being off-topic does *not* imply
taking Jonas's side in the argument!)

> I commented that this was not correct, which lead to Andres asking for my
> removal.

Er... which brings us to another problem that makes me (and others) not want
to deal with you: gross mischaracterization of others' positions.  Why would
you conclude that Andres did this because you "commented that this was not
correct"?  He gave his reasons for the request, and factual corrections were
certainly not mentioned there.

Other examples of judgemental, unsubstantiated assertions about people's
"true" motives, just from this thread:

> Yeah, well. I waited almost three month for something to happen on that bug
> report, and nothing ever came of it. I also note that jonas is not excempt
> from the fault, and that other had had trouble dealing with him, even if you
> didn't know that when you made your hasty judgement.

Why do you think this is a hasty judgement?  Andres himself has said he
thought about this for a long time.

> >     - I've seen him several times reject good or even optimum solutions
> >       to problems, upon which a fair number of other people agreed, just
> >       for them going against his own personal agenda; which is, oook,
> >       something not so uncommon in this project, albeit very very
> >       undesirable.

> please provide backing for this diffamation, especially the accusation of not
> having the best of debian in mind, but a personal agenda.

Why do you view it as a defamation to say that you have a personal agenda?
Why do you think having a personal agenda conflicts with having Debian's
best interest in mind?  I know I have a personal agenda; I sometimes have to
choose between my personal goals in Debian, and what I think is best for the
project as a whole, because I don't have infinite time to spend on
everything I want to.  Why should I feel insulted when someone says I have a
personal agenda when I know that I still have Debian's best interests at
heart, even when I have a different idea of what those best interests are
than someone else might?

Do you think that filing critical bugs against make-kpkg whenever it breaks
Pegasos systems, and accusing the make-kpkg maintainer of misdeed when they
aren't fixed immediately, is in the best interest of Debian?  Do you think
it's a coincidence that most people who don't work on Pegasos systems
disagree with you about some of these bug severities?

> Notice also that i am still expecting excuses on how you threated me in april
> last year, when i almost was brought to leave the project due to the abuse i
> got at the time, but i really am not expecting them anymore. Ever since i have
> questioned my involvement in debian, and after 8 years of participation, i
> have to say that issues got worse and worse the last year since a few of you
> guys used me as scapegoat to vent all their frustration on the delayed sarge
> release.

Until you actually refute the evidence presented in
<http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2005/04/msg00199.html> showing that
the lack of transition in d-i to the kernel-latest packages for powerpc, and
the subsequent delays in the d-i release candidate, were *not* the fault of
the ftpmasters, I think that's the last word *I* have to say on that
subject.  But when did anyone ever try to blame you for *all* frustration
with the delayed sarge release?  Do you really think that it's wrong for
people to point out when decisions you've made *do* cause delays to a team's

I would appreciate it if you would think about these questions and answer
them, and use this as an opportunity to improve your approach to conflicts
in Debian so that some good comes out of this thread.

I would appreciate it if others would consider how these observations apply
to them as well.  I'm sure no one on this mailing list is perfect...

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
vorlon@debian.org                                   http://www.debian.org/

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