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Summary of debian-private discussion: list moderation

I've just returned from vacation and taken a couple of hours to catch up
on mail I missed.
It was nice to be entirely without email for a week.

During that week, there was a discussion on debian-private about how to
handle abuse and harassing email both on debian-project and in general.
The immediate take away is
a proposal to make debian-project moderated.
Please follow up with that bug for the specifics of that proposal.
There was a large and diverse group of people who volunteered to be

However, I wanted to summarize the discussion  along the lines of the
consensus building work I've done because I think that it will be
valuable going forward.
This summary is going to be  looser than other work I've done
intentionally because it was a private discussion.
My suspicion is that the consensus of -private will be validated by the
larger community.


There was strong although not universal support for the idea that we
need to be doing something about abusive mails we're receiving.
People describe the current climate as toxic and several people
said that if we did not succeed in doing better, it would drive them
away from Debian lists as a communications medium.
Others indicated through words and actions that they were already
cutting back their Debian involvement as a result.

Moderation of problematic lists was by far the best supported option for
Many people spoke in favor.  Many people volunteered to help.
I am not aware of anyone who favored  any technical choice over

People First

There was strong support for the idea that  we need to take care of our
people.  We were reminded that some of these patterns of harassment have
been targeting individuals for over a year, and that we need to help and
take care of members of our community.  This idea had strong support and
no descent.

Our community members are our important resource.
In working on problems like this, we need to keep that in mind.

Concerns About Openness

Several people want to make sure that Debian remains open to
contribution.  They want the bar to contribute to be low.  Concerns were
raised that having to subscribe to a list, create accounts etc, in order
to make a contribution of a patch or suggestion might take us away from
our core values.

However, the current environment is already driving people away today.
We got several examples of this in the private discussion.

The discussion supported the idea that moderation is a reasonable
balance between keeping Debian open and not driving people away with a
toxic environment.

Technical Limitations of Moderation with Our Software

Listmasters noted that with our current software, we cannot moderate
based on sender.
If I'm understanding things right, we can moderate an entire list (all
postings) or not at all.

It sounds like the listmasters are open to improvements to fix that, and
it sounds like there were enough people interested that we'll see
development effort spent in the near future.

debian-project is *not* the right place to discuss the technical details
of our list software.
The only part of that that even plausibly belongs on -project is a
discussion of where you are moving the discussion.

DPL Support

If listmasters or anyone else feel that they need broader authority for
action they would like to take, I'm very open to supporting people
getting the mandate they need to help make Debian less toxic.

Multiple options are available:

Documenting discussions like I'm doing here helps establish project
consensus.  That is sufficient for most things in Debian.

I think that the situation is serious enough that action under 5.1 (3)
(urgent action) would be appropriate.
Again, I want to stress my goal here is to support people doing work,
not to override anyone or get in the way.

Finally, if needed, we always can call a GR.  When there is broad
agreement in the project, but an official statement is needed, GRs do
not need to be a emotionally tense mechanism.  Although obviously, GRs
do take up project resources so when other options are sufficient, they
are probably better choices.

Feedback Welcome

As always feedback is welcome, both on whether I correctly captured the
discussion and on whether this is the direction we should take.
As a reminder, on the specific proposal to moderate debian-project,
please follow up on the bug, not here.

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