Improving the list climate [was Re: Fwd: Fedora Weekly News 228]

Patrick O'Callaghan pocallaghan at
Fri Jun 4 13:43:44 UTC 2010

On Fri, 2010-06-04 at 06:26 -0400, Máirín Duffy wrote:
> Lately I've been thinking a lot about how alternative interfaces to
> mailing lists might improve some of the problems inherent to them. I
> actually set up a blog gateway and a forum gateway to the Fedora
> design list. While it was primarily to solve a different problem (the
> largest pool of designers out there for us to recruit from aren't
> familiar with mailing lists at all), it might help here. If folks
> think it's a good idea I'd be happy to help having something similar
> set up for this list. 

Speaking as someone who's managed a number of large lists (in the
hundreds to thousands of members), I'm keenly attuned to the problems
that can arise when a small minority doesn't behave as they should.
However this is in the nature of large communities. Technical solutions
such as changing to a forum format are not going to cut it, not least
because many people are going to want to stick with the mailing list, so
you're going to end up with two interfaces, only one of which you can

It's always tempting to propose radical solutions when some unusual
event occurs (see most responses to terrorist incidents for a real-world
parallel). My view is that the recent slug-fest over the Fedora webpage
design is not typical, and has mostly died down. It doesn't *need* a
radical response, and the same goes for the occasional spats that crop
up from time to time. Those directly involved may feel strongly, may
even feel personally wounded, but the majority of the list is on the
sidelines and presumably just want it all to go away so we can get back
to our regularly-scheduled programming. Fortunately the use of threads
helps a lot in ignoring the parts one doesn't care about, except for the
rare occasions where someone hijacks a thread (though this doesn't seem
to happen with the kind of thread we're talking about).

My advice is to leave well alone. What I would do however is make some
key aspects of the Guidelines a little more upfront when people
subscribe. I don't mean simply a pointer to the complete Guidelines, but
a *brief* list of the top points directly summarized in the confirmation


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