Please be nice on the mail lists

The description for ubuntu-devel-discuss says:

– Sharing of experiences with the current development branch of Ubuntu
– Technical questions about new features in the development branch
– Ideas and suggestions about future development of Ubuntu
– Point of contact for Ubuntu users to reach Ubuntu developers
– Open to all to subscribe, posting moderated for non-subscribers

This is a valuable resource for the community. It’s one of the few places where users and developers routinely interact. This is at risk. I’ve recently heard a number of developers mention that they got tired of the noise and the rudeness on this list and unsubscribed. I did feel strongly enough about it to bring it up on the list in a thread called Do you really want developers to be on this list.
I’m bringing it up here too because I think it’s important.
Ubuntu users (I include all the Ubuntu flavors in that): No developer is required to be on that list. It is up to you to make it one that we want to be on. This may be hard. You may have to sit on your hands instead of sending an emotionally satisfying, but really unpleasant response to a message about a problem you are having and are understandably upset about.
We have a Code of Conduct for a reason. Please be mindful of it.
Here are a few tips:
– Don’t demean or impugn someone’s knowledge or capability. We’re all very busy and just because we don’t drop everything and fix your personal problem right now doesn’t make us idiots.
– Don’t bother threatening to switch to another distribution. All that tells me is that I should ignore you. The only exception is those with support contracts and you should be dealing with your support contact and not whining on the list anyway.
– Don’t claim we don’t care. We do care, but we may have a different sense of priority than you do.
– Don’t be angry. If you are, don’t hit send. Wait until you calm down. Emotional messages tend to get emotional responses and people unsubscribing. They don’t get problems fixed.
– Don’t forget to pay attention. If you have a problem and we ask questions, please give us the courtesy of a prompt reply.
This isn’t meant to say that Ubuntu developers are paragons of virtue, we aren’t, but we’ve got plenty to do without reading ubuntu-devel-discuss and some of you really aren’t helping us to want to invest the time in doing it. This isn’t meant to minimize your problems or your frustrations. I understand they are real, but sometimes you really aren’t helping yourself get your problem solved.
BTW, most of the advice above applies to comments in response to this posting (not that I expect mentioning that to help).

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7 Responses to “Please be nice on the mail lists”


  1. 1 jldugger November 12, 2008 at 10:44

    Interestingly, you mention kdvi on the mailing list as an example of proper interaction. This is the same person you’re upset with now. Not sure if you realized that or not…

  2. 2 ScottK November 12, 2008 at 10:58

    That particular thread was just one example. I don’t mean to single out one individual. The point about kdvi is that if a good case is made, people will listen and do something if they can. I could and I’m glad things will be the better for it.

  3. 3 Omari November 12, 2008 at 12:06

    I read the thread. The guy was obviously very frustrated. But also quite obviously, he has been using Ubuntu for years and is frustrated because, for him, the level of support for his hardware has steadily deteriorated.
    He echoes a sentiment I have read elsewhere, which is that Ubuntu’s bugginess has increased.
    Honestly it seems to me that he is doing Ubuntu a big favor by complaining as he has. Apparently Ubuntu’s goal is to be the easiest to use Linux. Most users in Ubuntu’s target group would not report their frustrations as he has. Instead they simply would switch to another distributor, or not use Linux at all.
    Most Linux users are already a hardy group. They are willing to tinker with things a bit in order to get them working. Any user who posts to a forum or a mailing list has shown that he is willing to help. If these users grow increasingly frustrated, it should be taken as a danger sign that something is on the wrong path in the software, not as a sign that users are a big grumpy PITA.
    If developers are isolating themselves from these conversations, then they will end up developing the distribution that developers want, not the one that users want. That is perfectly OK, but then you will no longer be working toward Ubuntu’s goal, which is to be easy for non-developers to use.

  4. 4 shermann November 12, 2008 at 14:50

    @Omari:
    One problem of Linux or OpenSource is, that the production of all this is made by many non paid contributors.
    Scott and others don’t get paid to work on ubuntu, we do that just for fun.
    But this is as well the very best which can happen in software development.
    But people shouldn’t demand something they don’t want to pay for.
    If I want to have a bug fixed, I’m able to do it myself, or I’ll ask other people nicely or pay other people to do that.
    Yes, people will always have problems with software, or with their strange hardware…but instead of complaining and whining that this or that doesn’t work as wanted, he/she should ask how he/she can help to fix this.
    Fixing can also mean, sending the piece of hardware to contributors or developers…or it can mean, that he/she is using his/her brain and learn how to do it themselves.
    But as always….be nice…if not, people will ignore people or they just stop working.

  5. 5 ScottK November 12, 2008 at 15:06

    I can understand the frustration. I’ve felt some of it myself. My message isn’t “don’t be frustrated”. My message is don’t let your emotions get in the way of your message.
    The disscussions that lead to the thread I referenced above started with a very reasonable suggestion about doing a better job of describing which hardware is known to work for a particular release (or not), but that got lost fairly quickly in the angst.

  6. 6 shermann November 13, 2008 at 02:03

    @Scott:
    TBH, the only real message we got from all this (Developer and Users):
    You can’t make it right for everyone.

  7. 7 Martín Soto November 13, 2008 at 05:35

    Scott: I know you’ve already said you’re speaking in general and not trying to single out a particular individual, but I’d still have something to say about this particular thread (which you’re obviuosly using as anexample). Have you considered that cultural issues may be playing a role here as well? This guy is obviously Italian, and I know from personal experience (I’m Latin American myself) that the “latin style” will often be interpreted by people of other cultures (and this includes North Europeans and Anglosaxons) as agressive, when it really isn’t meant as as such. This guy is certainly passionate about what he’s saying, but he doesn’t look like a troll to me.
    Take also into account that many of us are writing English as a second language and, not being used to deal with people of other cultures on a daily basis, may have a hard time measuring the potential effect of our words on other people. Interestingly enough, this may be a particularly hard problem for people who are gifted with languages, because they may master the grammar and vocabulary relatively easily, but may still have problems with certain language nuances. Problem is, as a native speaker you end up reading a piece of text that is fairly well written, and, because of that, fail to realize that the writter may have actual problems to understand how strong his words may actually sound.
    I’m sure this doesn’t cover all issues, and I believe you that people are often too rude, but I thought this could offer a different take on the events, anyway.


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