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Re: List/IRC climate issues (was: What do you want to learn?)

On Thu, Aug 05, 2004 at 09:32:03AM +1000, Jenn Vesperman wrote:
> On Wed, 2004-08-04 at 17:34, Matthew Palmer wrote:
> > > Nor do I know anyone in the Debian community (or more accurately, I
> > > don't know that I know anyone in it), so I wouldn't be choosing someone
> > > with any foreknowledge of how working with them would be.
> > 
> > I think you're approaching this at the wrong end of the process, then.  NM
> > advocacy is supposed to be a DD who knows you and your work thinks you're
> > ready, and advocates you.  In other words, you've got to have done something
> > already *before* you get advocated.  Hence you'll already know a DD before
> > you go look for an advocate.
> Ah. The impression I had was that *before* you could provide
> contributions more significant than bug reports, you had to go through
> this whole daunting process.

No, about the only thing you *really* need the DD badge for is uploading
packages and direct access to the servers -- which is fair enough when you
consider what you could do with that level of access, whether by accident or

Frank Lichtenheld has just posted his experiences of contributing to Debian
-- and his case is fairly typical.  You can do most things without actually
having an account, and it's gotten better and better since Alioth has come
along.  Yes, reporting bugs and such can be a significant part of that, but
don't disregard them as sources of contribution.  A well-formed bug report,
even if it doesn't have a good fix, is a beautiful thing, and takes
significant effort to produce.  Woe be to the maintainer that doesn't
appreciate their bug reporters.  (XThread: Hmm, there's an example of a
sentence which loses clarity by using a plural pronoun as a gender-neutral

> > As far as finding something to do, well, you need to work that out on your
> > own.  What do you want to do?  There's not a lot of point in giving someone
> > an @debian.org account if they're not going to do anything.  You can do
> > nothing without being a DD.  Find something to get involved with.
> Right now, 'something to get involved with' is actually LinuxChix. :)
> I've committed myself to things to do there.

Oh well, you've found your place to contribute.

Please don't think that anyone (sane) will think less of you because you
don't contribute to Debian in particular.

> I don't want an @debian.org account. I was just confused about the
> process of contributing. :(

Identify something you think needs your attention, and attack it.  If you
don't see anything that you particularly want fixed in Debian, then there's
no need to contribute.  I was like that for about the first year or two of
my Debian use -- I did nothing for Debian, because it all Just Worked for
me.  Then I started wanting to fix things, and off I went.

> > I'm sure we lose not just women by doing that, but what would you like done? 
> > Censure them for one idiotic outburst?  Two?  Three strikes and you're out? 
> > Things don't work like that.
> If your goal is to get rid of the abusive idiot, then yes, you're right
> - things don't work that way.
> If your goal is to make it clear to the victim(s) and bystanders that
> the idiot is behaving idiotically and that their behaviour is not part
> of the main culture - then it's very different.
> A simple, public, 'Please do not use language like that' or 'This is not
> the place for that', backed up with a temporary kick/ban if they
> persist, goes a long way to assuring the rest of the group that the
> idiot is a one-off, not the main culture.

I'll ensure I do that more visibly from now on.  Hopefully with a few
others, the message will become more visible.  But relying on there being a
Net.cop around is going to be a poor way to raise the image of Debian.

> > > My response is 'do you only want people who check you out despite having
> > > heard bad reports, or would you like to have good reports?'
> > 
> > I would actually prefer people who checked us out regardless of reports,
> > good, bad, or otherwise, and didn't rely on second-hand knowledge.  It's
> > easy to get a false report (whether it be falsely good or falsely bad)
> > through no fault of one's own.  Even easier to have one small but vocal
> > sub-group create a bad impression.  And there is basically nothing that
> > anyone can do about them.  Ignoring them makes it look as though we support
> > them, shouting at them makes them shout louder (the arms race of noisy
> > wankers), and banning them will, sooner or later, kill the community.
> How will banning them kill the community? I expect it would make the
> community stronger, and more welcoming to actually useful people.

Because once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your
destiny.  <grin>

If you've banned one person for being a twit, then it's a lot easier to ban
the next person who annoys a couple of people.  Then when someone loses
their temper a bit and goes on a bit of a tirade, you decide that they're

Before you know it, nobody will actually engage in a productive discussion
because they're worried that someone will take offense, blow it out of
proportion, and get them banned.  I've seen it happen.  A little bit of
off-topicality and general rambunctiousness is good for people.  It lets
them bond and become a closer community.  If people suppress that part of
their psyche out of fear of reprisal, there's just no fun in it any more.

It is way too easy to write something that will be taken the wrong way in an
electronic forum, because you are missing a very, very large portion of the
communication bandwidth.  You can't see if I'm grinning, fidgeting, or
whatever as I type this, and I can't see if you're getting tense and
uncomfortable as you read it.  If that happens face-to-face, you know that
I'm joking, and I can see that my words aren't being taken in the manner
that I intend them to be taken, so I can modify my delivery or whatever in
order to rectify that.  In e-mail, by the time I have any feedback, you've
rounded up the lynch mob to run me out of town for being a worthless

You can remove the possibility of getting lynched by carefully analysing
everything you write for possible offensiveness to someone or other, but
that gets to be no fun, and everyone leaves except for the ultra-obsessive
few who get their rocks off doing that.

> I know I sound like I'm being deliberately obstructive. I think my point
> here is that you (the Debian community) have a choice to make: do you
> want the loud abusive idiots, or do you want the people who avoid places
> that have loud abusive idiots?

I want good contributors, whether they be loud, soft, abusive or whatever. 

> LinuxChix chose the latter - in fact, we have to if we're going to
> fulfil our purpose. We've found that once you figure out the methods,
> it's almost self-sustaining.

Well, if you can work out some way to retro-fit a dickhead filter onto
Debian, please let us know.

> But .. well. That's what it boils down to. The real world doesn't let an
> organisation say 'we're welcoming, just ignore the idiots'. If you let
> them stick around, you lose people because of them. 

OK, how do we get rid of the Krooger-troll without outright banning it? 
Arguing with it or telling it to go away just makes it froth more, and
likewise telling everyone else to ignore it doesn't work.

- Matt

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