Beloved Mailing List Frustration

I’ve been growing disconcerted recently with the Wolves LUG mailing list, the lifeline of our LUG. We have a growing amount of new people which is always good, but we also have a small number of people that persistently post rubbish. Some of the new people got annoyed at the amount of posts and suggested a forum as an alternative. Thats not an unusual thing to suggest by new people, but being new to the list and list culture, they didn’t really understand the way things work on a list and consequently flooded the list with repeated statements of the same points which ended up in several near flame wars. Personally, I was probably a little hot-headed in my approach to the issue of list flooding (JUST STOP!) but also quite reasoned I thought on the forum debate.

Essentially, I put the issue down to the large amount of useless and meandering non-technical discussion that has been increasing steadily over the last 6 months. Many of the large contributors to the list have backed away almost completely from posting on there and have noted that the list is ‘a bit shit these days’. I also put it down to the really bad readability of some of the posts on the list. About a year ago, one newish poster got a serious roasting for repeatedly ignoring direct personal requests to adhere to some kind of readable posting format and he responded in an equally volatile way. After some consideration and some reconciliation, the flamed party saw the sense between the flames and became reformed and the flamer became quite good friends with his flamee. As a side effect of this we became more tolerant towards poor email technique, html posters and top posters were politely asked not to do so, but we let most other things slide.

We’ve always prided ourselves in the fun side of the list and always been proud of not being a dry, technical list. Jokes and banter have always made up a large part of the discussion. However in recent times, the not so funny jokes and unproductive chatter have begun to drown out the useful technical stuff and the witty repartee has disappeared with most of the long-time list members.

So now we find ourselves in a situation where the list is full of crap, I could quite happily killfile a small but prolific number of people there and I’ve gone from reading every email on the list to deleting 75% of it on arrival. It’s a sad way to be. With the silence of most of the people that used to use the list I’ve found myself filling in with a lot of the technical assistance, but this recent row was too much for me. I lay awake all night thinking about how to temper the poor state of the list content with the unintentional and likely to be repeated bollocking that got given out to an unwittingly naive poster with appalling list etiquette. I wrote out several different mental replies to the recipient of my wrath after he complained that such attitudes to new people, not just by me, would put people off both us and Linux, which is a terrible thing to happen. As he stated, idiots can use any operating system, which runs directly parallel to what I was thinking, that bad manners aren’t operating system dependent, but nevertheless, he pissed me off for his bad manners and we responded by giving him and some other new people a terrible impression of Linux people.

As I said, I lay awake trying to verbalise my feelings about his and others’ bad etiquette, our reactionary response and the solution to this continual problem. In my flame I had said that we can all help stop people feeling overwhelmed by making our posts more readable and not meandering way off the point within a thread, leaving several different strands of the same thread talking about different things. I also pointed that he had arrived in the middle of a large technical thread and a large number of other heavily discussed non-technical threads. His lack of a threaded email client, the unusually high traffic of the list in the few days since his arrival and the lack of readable threads meant he felt overwhelmed and thought a forum would help. Mostly people disagreed but his continual flooding of the list, saying the same thing pissed me off. The solution is, in my opinion, better readability, less drivel, better manners on his part and more tolerance on mine. But I said that and the problem of useless posting persists. It’s strange how I’ve gone from enjoying the off topic posting to hating it. It used to be funny or useful and now it’s neither.

Anyway I’ve trying to formulate all of this into a post that would be readable on the list in such a way that people would stand up and take notice, rather than fan the flames of the ill-feeling. Instead I’ve just decided to stop posting there altogether for the time being and delete most of what is posted without reading it. I will in the future, read the new technical threads and post assistance where I can help, but for now I just don’t care to read or post. At the moment, the content of the list isn’t worth the effort of writing something like that.

This is of course just my disappointed and slightly reactionary opinion. I feel bad for saying this publicly as I know it will appear on Planet Wolves and for not saying something on the list itself, which may appear cowardly (it’s an effort and aggro thing, not fear of conflict). Some people will agree and some won’t, but I really care a lot about the LUG and particularly the mailing list as the primary source of our community spirit and the publicly archived version of our shared knowledge. I’d hate to think that people might read our archives and think we talk a load of rubbish and don’t actually know anything useful.

Whatever you think I welcome your opinions either as comments or as private emails, though don’t expect me to go into it with you if you start to rant about how wrong I am. I’m looking for a solution to how we can make things better without ramming etiquette or ‘stick to technical discussion only’ down people’s throats.