Be polite. Be helpful.

Tim Lauridsen tim.lauridsen at
Wed Mar 19 18:02:16 UTC 2008

Nils Philippsen wrote:
> Hi all,
> recently there were discussions on this list (and elsewhere) which stood
> out by the sheer lack of social graces some of us occasionally seem to
> employ when dealing with others. This wasn't a single, isolated,
> incidence but happened every now and again in the past, so here are, in
> the hope that we can improve this situation (and in order of what I deem
> decreasing significance), some things which deserve some fixing:
> 1. Calling people names, getting personal: This can only serve to poison
> the atmosphere. If you can't get your point across without calling
> somebody the "biggest troll under the sun", then it's probably not much
> of a point to begin with. Besides that, nothing I've seen here comes
> near the level of trolling I've seen elsewhere[2]. It's a good idea to
> keep discussions objective. This brings me to...
> 2. Needless exaggeration, hyperbole: It may be okay to call a program
> the "biggest piece of crap I've ever seen" in private, if you know the
> person well and can be sure they don't take it personally. Incidentally,
> most people you're dealing with around here are more likely strangers
> than not, so this exception won't apply very often. It's a good idea to
> see (and present) things a little more differentiated, this can only
> bolster your credibility.
> 3. Confusing opinion and truth: Not everything that annoys you is also
> an error, some things are matters of preference and in these cases
> usually the maintainer's preference trumps others ("who does wins").
> That won't change very soon, so better not be grumpy about it. Likewise,
> it's good when maintainers care for those who use things differently
> than they (or the personae they envisioned) do -- you don't have to
> cater for every obscure use case, but acknowledging that some people do
> things differently and that their ways are equally valid helps much.
> Getting "I don't have the time to do that, but I'm open for patches if
> done properly" as an answer to a request leaves someone much more
> options than "You're not our target audience". Somewhat related:
> 4. Lack of patience and perspective: Sometimes things are broken, but
> awfully hard to fix correctly. Sometimes there are more pressing things
> to do first before the problem you have can be fixed. Sometimes a patch
> which helps you breaks stuff for others. That some things take their
> time doesn't mean that developers don't care about your problems.
> Ironically, developers can experience the same when having problems with
> packages maintained by others. Being rude to people usually won't
> increase the priority of your issues. Coming up with a patch (or bribing
> someone else to do so) might be a good first step here.
> I'm aware of the "Tact Filter Theory"[2] but it seems to me that some
> people (assuming that they read the piece) just think "That's exactly
> how it is." instead of adding "... and this is how I could improve
> myself in dealing with others." to the thought, i.e. they haven't read
> (or do ignore) the last paragraph.
> I'd like to summarize this by quoting Deb Richardson[3]: "Be polite. Be
> helpful. You're bright people. Extrapolate."
> Thanks,
> Nils (covering for Miss Manners for today)
> [1]: e.g. the discussions in the Heise Newsticker (sorry folks, this is
> not available in English):
> [2]:
> [3]:


One of the best post i have read on this list ever


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