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Re: Should mailing list bans be published?

Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> writes:

> This also seems like a good compromise to me.  Do the other folks who
> object to publishing information that could damage the poster's
> reputation (e.g., Bart, Ingo) think this is ok?

The problem that I have with publicly posting mailing list bans is that I
think it constitutes picking a fight.  This is backed up by some of the
messages that have been posted in defense of the idea (they destroyed
their own reputation, it's worthwhile to make an example of them, etc.).

I would instead take a step back and ask what the goal here is.

I agree with Steve's point that it's useful to know when someone has been
banned so that one can stop worrying about their messages.  There is a
drawback to publishing that information privately in that other public
participants in the newsgroup won't have access to that information.  We
also have a general rule that says that we always publish everything in
public unless there's some compelling reason not to, and that's valuable.

But, against that, I would say that the point of mailing list bans is not
to humiliate or expose someone who behaved poorly, or even to call further
attention to their poor behavior.  Rather, the goal is to *stop* calling
attention to their behavior and to defend the usability of the list
against further interference.  Actions that tend to produce *more*
discussion seem directly contrary to that goal.  Ideally, everyone would
simply forget the banned person ever participated in the list and proceed
as if they had never said anything.

I like either the idea of publishing the bans on debian-private or
publishing pointers to specific mailing list messages that resulted in a
ban rather than mentioning the name or email address directly because I
think both are less likely to result in further discussion and further
attention drawn to the contributions that we're specifically trying to get
rid of.  That additional hop of having to follow a link to the message in
question will, I think, reduce the quantity of discussion.  Both still
allow oversight.

If we didn't have debian-private, I would be in favor of publicly posting
all bans, and that's what other technical mailing lists do.  There's no
other good way to let people know what happened and let them know that
they should stop responding to that person.  But we do have
debian-private, which reaches most of the contributors and (hopefully) all
of the core project contributors, without making it a public issue.

However, I will say that if the choice is between not posting the bans at
all and posting them publicly, I'd lean towards the latter.

I'm definitely open to changing my mind if the listmasters have a
different opinion, since they're the ones who will have to deal with most
of the fallout.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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