[p2p-research] On P2P mailing list issues and rudeness

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 12 04:47:35 CET 2009


could you publish this excerpt as a Ning posting?

many thanks!!

on the road, can't do it myself for now,


On Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 10:40 AM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> On recent issues with the P2P mailing list, from when problems came up on
> the OM list back in February:
> http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/msg/72d14b36de86ccb6
>   "Chapter 2. Getting Started: Setting the Tone"
>   http://producingoss.com/en/setting-tone.html#prevent-rudeness
> ================
> """
> Nip Rudeness in the Bud
>  From the very start of your project's public existence, you should
> maintain
> a zero-tolerance policy toward rude or insulting behavior in its forums.
> Zero-tolerance does not mean technical enforcement per se. You don't have
> to
> remove people from the mailing list when they flame another subscriber, or
> take away their commit access because they made derogatory comments. (In
> theory, you might eventually have to resort to such actions, but only after
> all other avenues have failed—which, by definition, isn't the case at the
> start of the project.) Zero-tolerance simply means never letting bad
> behavior slide by unnoticed. For example, when someone posts a technical
> comment mixed together with an ad hominem attack on some other developer in
> the project, it is imperative that your response address the ad hominem
> attack first, as a separate issue unto itself, and only afterward move on
> to
> the technical content.
> It is unfortunately very easy, and all too typical, for constructive
> discussions to lapse into destructive flame wars. People will say things in
> email that they would never say face-to-face. The topics of discussion only
> amplify this effect: in technical issues, people often feel there is a
> single right answer to most questions, and that disagreement with that
> answer can only be explained by ignorance or stupidity. It's a short
> distance from calling someone's technical proposal stupid to calling the
> person themselves stupid. In fact, it's often hard to tell where technical
> debate leaves off and character attack begins, which is one reason why
> drastic responses or punishments are not a good idea. Instead, when you
> think you see it happening, make a post that stresses the importance of
> keeping the discussion friendly, without accusing anyone of being
> deliberately poisonous. Such "Nice Police" posts do have an unfortunate
> tendency to sound like a kindergarten teacher lecturing a class on good
> behavior:
>     First, let's please cut down on the (potentially) ad hominem comments;
> for example, calling J's design for the security layer "naive and ignorant
> of the basic principles of computer security." That may be true or it may
> not, but in either case it's no way to have the discussion. J made his
> proposal in good faith. If it has deficiencies, point them out, and we'll
> fix them or get a new design. I'm sure M meant no personal insult to J, but
> the phrasing was unfortunate, and we try to keep things constructive around
> here.
>     Now, on to the proposal. I think M was right in saying that...
> As stilted as such responses sound, they have a noticeable effect. If you
> consistently call out bad behavior, but don't demand an apology or
> acknowledgment from the offending party, then you leave people free to cool
> down and show their better side by behaving more decorously next time—and
> they will. One of the secrets of doing this successfully is to never make
> the meta-discussion the main topic. [An unfortunate situation at the moment
> here, as this is a meta thread, but we are all learning.] It should always
> be an aside, a brief preface to the main portion of your response. Point
> out
> in passing that "we don't do things that way around here," but then move on
> to the real content, so that you're giving people something on-topic to
> respond to. If someone protests that they didn't deserve your rebuke,
> simply
> refuse to be drawn into an argument about it. Either don't respond (if you
> think they're just letting off steam and don't require a response), or say
> you're sorry if you overreacted and that it's hard to detect nuance in
> email, then get back to the main topic. Never, ever insist on an
> acknowledgment, whether public or private, from someone that they behaved
> inappropriately. If they choose of their own volition to post an apology,
> that's great, but demanding that they do so will only cause resentment.
> The overall goal is to make good etiquette be seen as one of the "in-group"
> behaviors. This helps the project, because developers can be driven away
> (even from projects they like and want to support) by flame wars. You may
> not even know that they were driven away; someone might lurk on the mailing
> list, see that it takes a thick skin to participate in the project, and
> decide against getting involved at all. Keeping forums friendly is a
> long-term survival strategy, and it's easier to do when the project is
> still
> small. Once it's part of the culture, you won't have to be the only person
> promoting it. It will be maintained by everyone.
> """
> ===========
> It just worked for me on a slashdot discussion; wish I had done it more in
> the recent P2P one on "Building Alliances. Part of two items that otherwise
> had some more technical content as well:
> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1437068&cid=30044862
> Me: "There is no doubt some truth to what you say, but why make this
> personal? Can you talk about ideas without attacking a person and making
> lots of assumptions about them (which may well be wrong)? We might see a lot
> more progress if people could talk about ideas more."
> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1437068&cid=30048432
> Other poster: "You're right, my tone was too strident. Just heard this
> post-scarcity sillyness too often. I actually agree with you about solar and
> wind except I insert "I really really hope" before "almost all our energy
> will come from renewables"."
> So, it can work. Sometimes. :-) If we remember. :-)
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/

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