29 Apr 2000 mdorman   » (Journeyer)

Cheap Shot

<slashdot>First Post!</slashdot>

Why Make An Account?

Opportunities for cheap shots aside, I mostly created this account because I thought it was silly for Jeffery W. Baker to be stuck at Apprentice level. The work I do on a day-to-day basis depends on Apache::Session, so I felt obligated to at least see him promoted to Journeyer.

Obligatory Self-Referential Observation

I wish I understood from whence this diary/journal impulse that has infected the free software community in the last few months springs. Is it:

  1. an expression of the sort of thoughtless self-importance you might see in an adolescent who thinks that everything he or she is doing should interest everyone, or

  2. an attempt at human contact on the part of hundreds of people so consumed with work that they are almost shut-ins, or

  3. an attempt by a large dispersed community to give keep one another abreast of what is going on in their shared experiment, much like the informal correspondence of scientists

  4. All of the above

Still Pissed

Jeff Buckley shouldn't be dead.

The case for goodwill

Why do some communities work, and others not?

In addition to being a Debian developer, and thus party to (though no longer much of a participant in) it's quarterly attempt to gnaw its own leg off to escape some imagined trap, I also participate in a fairly large email list for a group of people from an honors program where I went to college. It's a fun list---there's at least four foreign languages seen regularly, discussions of everything from music to politics to geekdom, and the range of knowledge and experience that people bring to the table is staggering.

The program's celebrating its 40th anniversary this year---it celebrated its 30th during the time I was in residence---and so the mailing list has a wide cross-section of people on it. We have people who graduated when I was barely out of diapers, people who are still in school, and everything in between. Though everyone usually knows at least one other person, there's always a number of people you have never met, though you may have heard about them one way or another.

(Heck, for a while there my wife's ex-husband was on the list. That was kind of interesting.)

Funny enough, for a group of loosely connected strangers, we don't have the sort of knock-down-drag-outs that Debian experiences all too regularly.

Sure, we have disagreements---bring up certain topics, and you're sure to see a couple of heated messages. We have had one real flamewar, which I'm sorry to admit I was deep in the midst of. But that was five years ago.

How so little conflict? I mean, it's not as if these people aren't opinionated!

I think I can explain it. It's what Robert Fripp might call an assumption of goodwill.

Simply put, our shared experience in this honors program helps us remember that, however stupid the person whose email you're reading may seem at that moment, they're probably not; and just as you assume that no one's going to take violent exception to what you post, you shouldn't abuse this persons similar assumption.

And even when someone gets out of line, it's usually enough for a third party to express disappointment at that sort of behavior, and things clear up.

I'd like to see more of that in some of the free software community---Debian certainly, but there's other places.

For instance, earlier today, a developer on IRC commented about killfiling another developer, because all of his posts in the last six months have seemed intended to stir things up.

Why aren't we trying to deal with other like adults, and actually communicating about problems like this, rather than putting our fingers in our ears and saying "I'm Not Listening" when someone displays this behavior? Do we really think they're not worth the effort? And if that's the case, on whom does this reflect most poorly?

As a final addendum, I'll note that someone on this mailing list I'm on said several particularly stupid things in quick succession a few months ago, and I kind of unceremoniously *PLONK*ed him. Well, not really, but I said I had, just to make a point, and I studiously pretended that I didn't see any of his posts, even though I did usually read them.

He died suddenly in his sleep, of a heart attack just three weeks ago. If you don't feel like shit when someone dies and your last words to them amounted to, "You're not worth talking to", you need to have a refresher course on being part of the human race.

So perhaps we can keep some of this in mind when dealing with the other people in our community. That they're here probably says a lot.

Still Still Pissed

Kurt Cobhain, too.

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