Re: Debian Facilitators
John Goerzen <email@example.com> writes:
> On 08/16/2010 08:30 PM, Stephen Frost wrote:
>> In particular, developing a code of conduct/community guideline that
>> encourages use of a facilitator to resolve conflicts, with a goal to
>> avoid needing to escalate to anything beyond that. One of the issues
>> that came up at DebConf, and is discussed in your link above, is about
>> "list moderators" and preventing individuals from posting. In the end,
>> I'm afraid that may be necessary, but feel it should be a last resort.
> This is an excellent idea which I fully support. Revoking mailing list
> posting ability is, of course, not the goal of the facilitators. It was
> stated by many at Debconf10 that listmasters have the technical ability
> to block people but do not wish to have the responsibility to make the
> decisions on who, when, and how to block people for non-technical
> I think that, even if the facilitators rarely exercise the authority, it
> is important for them to have it. Hopefully the DFs can defuse most
> problems without having to use, or even mention, that authority.
> However, there will be some cases where this just plain doesn't work,
> and we as Debian, without a useful mechanism for dealing with poisonous
> people on mailing lists, have had a long-term problem with it.
Yes, I agree with this.
I think such a capability is most likely to need to be invoked in cases
when someone without a lot of involvement in Debian starts behaving badly
on a mailing list and attacking people. In the days since we had this
discussion at DebConf10, I've had a chance to review a few cases in the
mailing list archives, and that does seem to be a common pattern. Someone
with little or no previous posting history will make insulting or
inflammatory comments, and then DDs and other Debian contributors will
react poorly to that and escalate the situation, at which point it turns
into a screaming match that demotivates everyone watching. That's the
kind of thing that could be nipped in the bud if someone watching could
ping the facilitators and say that this is getting out of hand, and they
could temporarily ban (like for a day or two) that previously unknown
poster while they explained to them the acceptable standards of behavior
on the Debian lists.
This is standard for large blog sites, for example. (And, actually, large
blog sites tend to just outright permanently ban previous unknown
commenters who come in stirring up trouble; we don't need to go anywhere
near that far.)
It's less likely, I think, that such a facility would be needed for people
who are more a part of our community, since in that case peer pressure
works better and people are more emotionally invested in having their
peers in the project think well of them. But I think it's still important
for the capability to be there as a last resort.
> Moreover, if everyone understands that the DF can ban people from the
> list, it can lend their attempts to defuse the situation some additional
> measure of credibility and authority.
This is a two-edged sword, since having that capability can also make the
DF come across as authoritarian, which is counter-productive in nearly
every case. But I think the Debian Facilitators would be better off with
it than without it, and there are ways to manage that without coming
across as authoritarian.
One point that was raised during the hallway discussion at DebConf10, and
which I agree with, is that any mailing list ban capabilities should not
apply to debian-vote, since that list has special constitutional roles.
For that list, we should stick with the current rather high bar for
Russ Allbery (firstname.lastname@example.org) <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>