[clug-talk] Too Many Mailing List Guidelines?

Jarrod Major jmajor at clug.ca
Tue Nov 30 12:27:01 PST 2004


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Sorry Shawn, I felt compelled to comment on this. I will try to indicate what 
is official and what is my opinion as a member and not as an Executive or as 
the President.

Officially:

I need to explain the facts of the situation. We use mailman to handle our 
mailing list. It has built-in filters to handle SPAM and so on. It is set up 
to _disallow_ posts from anyone not subscribed to the list. Anyone posting to 
the mailing list _will_ be sent an email telling them that their message 
awaits moderator approval. The moderator _is_ sent a message telling him/her 
that there is a message awaiting his/her approval. The majority of messages 
are SPAM. There are the odd instances where someone with multiple email 
addresses sends a message from an account they have not yet subscribed with. 
We have either sent the person a message indicating that they should 
subscribe with this address or let the message pass as we know they are 
subscribed under a different address, where time permits. As this list does 
see a fair amount of traffic, this moderation list can grow quite long. 
Sometimes we just cannot get to it on a timely basis. This is how list 
moderation is handled.

As far as direct moderation, the Executive are all subscribed to the talk 
list. If it is felt that someone is going to far in a thread or is treading a 
dangerous line or is appearing to be abusive any one of us _may_ post a 
message to that effect, again if time permits. For the most part there has 
been any number of people who have jumped into the fray. This is 
self-moderation and we fully condone this. It makes it less likely that the 
Executive gets painted as bad guys or micro-managing this list. We do not 
want to be painted as bad-guys (and gal) nor do we want to appear to 
micro-manage this list or anything.

Opinion:

This list sees sporadic activity. Sometimes it is very quiet and other times 
we see lots of activity. Sometimes we see relevant information or questions, 
other times we see lots of off-topic items and things that really have no 
business being posted here. The thing is that this list is a general list. 
The very idea of it is talk about Linux and FOSS. That's a pretty broad 
topic. I don't see the point in changing it to 'community', it's a longer 
word, more to type :) Seriously though, clug-talk has been around as long as 
this group has in one form or another. The purpose is to create a catch-all 
list for everyone. This would be the "if you are going to sign up to one 
list, this is it" scenario. For good and bad, I don't think we should change 
this list.

One possible solution is to change your subscription to digest-mode, you get 
an email with groups of posts together instead of each one separately. This 
would cut down on traffic into your inbox and you may search through the 
posts in whatever fashion you prefer. The downside is not readily being able 
to contribute to a thread. Another solution is to unsubscribe from the list. 
This is not something I like to see but I understand the reasons for it. 
There have been lists that I have removed myself from because I felt I wasn't 
getting anything from it anymore.

Officially:

It has been suggested many times to create other mailing lists to deal with 
specific topics. The majority has ruled that to create more mailing lists 
would cause fragmentation of the group as a whole and diminish the group's 
capacity to solve it's own problems. The Executive did feel it was necessary 
or conducive to create a few extra mailing lists, to date we have 
clug-lpisig, clug-progsig, clug-workshops and convergence. I think the lists 
speak for themselves but you may visit the individual list pages to see what 
each is for if it is unclear

http://clug.ca/mailman/listinfo

Stats:
clug-talk - 200 subscribers
clug-lpisig - 25 subscribers
clug-progsig- 48 subscribers
clug-workshops ? (don't have access from here)
convergence- 25 subscribers

Opinion:

I think we will revisit this issue many times. We have already created other 
mailing lists to deal with specific topics and those have been thought of 
very carefully and added one at a time over the last few years. With the 
introduction of Special Interest Groups, there has been a (perceived) need to 
have an associated mailing list.

I am personally not against the idea of more lists but I think they need to be 
handled carefully. Too many lists may be detrimental to the group. I think 
that there may be some folks who already feel we have too many lists. Looking 
at the number of subscribers for the other lists supports this as well. There 
aren't a lot with the exception of the Programming SIG.

On Tuesday 30 November 2004 11:37 am, Shawn wrote:
> It seems to me that we as a group are spending too much time talking about
> guidelines than other pertinent issues. <grins>

Opinion:

Agreed. From my point of view, it appears that the more we try to control 
things the more people we make unhappy. The 'guidelines' are a suggestion, 
take 'em or leave 'em. We needed to start somewhere to give people an idea of 
what they should or shouldn't do. Only in extreme cases has the Executive 
gotten involved.

I would love to see us go back to dealing with Linux issues over 
organisational ones any day.

> While I agree that some guidelines are necessary, I feel that too much have
> a detrimental effect.  We are starting to see that effect now.

Opinion: Agreed

> - Mr Pletch has just indicated that he is removing himself from the list,
> because (in part) it is no longer a helpful or enjoyable place.  (Sorry to
> see you go Michael, all the best to you.)

Officially: People come and go as traffic ebbs and flows. Some people are 
turned off and leave, some come back after a hiatus, some don't.

Opinion: We can't please everyone, as hard as we try.

> I have to agree that the nature of the list has changed.  When I first
> joined (2 or 3 years ago now), I thought of the list as a great resource to
> get the technical help I needed learn to get Linux and other open source
> software running the way I needed.  Now, the list is more of a social
> gathering where like minded folks (that would be all of us) keep in touch,
> and talk about the topic of the day.  We still see some requests for help,
> but this does not constitute the bulk of the messages anymore.

Opinion: I disagree. I think clug-talk is doing what it always has, providing 
CLUG with a forum for members and non-members alike. Um, I said the f-word 
but I honestly couldn't think of a better adjective at the time. Yes, it 
would be nice if there were more posts that were Linux related but in this 
self-moderated environment we leave that up to the individual posters to stay 
on track.

> I feel that the list needs to be self moderating, and very "hands-off" by
> the executive.  I only mean this from a point of view of issuing the
> "executive opinion" on some topics.  If these topics and the resulting
> opinions are necessary, lets create a different list.  I've participated in
> a number of other mailing lists, and the successful ones were the ones
> where the list administrator would only act in an "official" manner in
> exceptional cases (i.e. abuse of the system or other list members).  These
> lists are successful and popular because they are focused, and do not
> dictate guidelines as to how the list should be used - they leave it to the
> list members to moderate themselves.

Officially: It's already there. See the facts above.

> The clug-talk list used to be focused on technical matters.  This is not
> the case anymore.  It's now focused on community matters, with a spattering
> of technical messages (IMO).  The list should either be about being a
> technical resource for all of us, OR a community forum - but NOT both.  We
> can (and should) create a new list to cover the other topic.  I think the
> need for guidelines that keeps coming up lately is a result of this lack of
> focus. Again, some are needed (i.e. thread hijacking, etc.), but creating
> guidelines on what is a suitable message goes too far (IMO).  Obviously,
> spam is spam and has no place on the list.  But a judgement call on if a
> non-spam message is suitable for the list? or guidelines to help make that
> judgement?  I say let the list decide that in way of whether or not we read
> and/respond to it. I'd also go as far to say that if we (me included) post
> to the list from an address not signed up on the list, then a notification
> message should be sent to the author - and leave it up to them to rectify
> the problem (i.e sign up that address, or send the message from another
> address already on the list). Any message posted from a non-member address
> should be sent the notification and then simply ignored and directed to
> /dev/null  (protects us from spam).

Opinion: clug-talk has _never_ focussed on any one topic on purpose. It's a 
general list! Topics come and go. Personally, I have tried to suggest many 
times that people preface their subject with a [topic]. This is one coping 
mechanism for the generality of the list. CLUG as a community is something 
that needs to be discussed obviously. From my point of view we have grown to 
the point where we are getting input from people we haven't heard from before 
and we have people who are regular posters maintaining their beliefs in how 
the list and CLUG should be run.

Officially: the list does handle non-subscriber posts automatically, that is 
why we don't see SPAM. Someone has to take the time to subscribe in order to 
actually get their post on the list. What does get through is then subject to 
the list subscribers as to whether it is worthy of a response or not. There 
is also a filter in place to disallow messages with attachments over a 
certain size (40Kb) to prevent large files being passed around. The odd conf 
file here and there never killed anyone.

Opinion: we _can_ take the hard-line and delete _all_ non-subscriber posts. As 
explained, the poster gets a message that their message is being held pending 
moderator approval.

> Of course, this is all just my opinion, and really, I'm not trying to
> offend anyone.  I wanted to point out an issue I've seen developing, and
> maybe get some feedback from the list members (even if it's just to tell me
> to shut up and there is no problem..<grins>).  (um, respectfully, can I ask
> the executive to NOT comment on this email in an executive capacity, until
> there is a consensus on it? <grins>)

Sorry, I felt compelled. I would love to read what other people have to say 
about the subject. And no Shawn, I don't want you (or anyone else for that 
matter) to shut up.

> May I humbly propose a new mailing list called clug-community.  Then all
> emails such as this one could be (politely) referred to that list, and keep
> clug-talk the technical resource that most of us signed up for.  I think
> that initially most of our traffic would end up on the community list, but
> in a short while, the technical talk will far exceed the community talk
> (again), if we can keep the two mostly separate.

Opinion: "asking is polite demanding" :D Seriously, if there is enough support 
for starting new lists I will do everything in my power to see that it 
happens.
- -- 
Jarrod Major
GPG Fingerprint: FA4A 1EA3 A0EE A842 07BB  804C 0090 14F6 BE6E DE3D
CLUG President
Registered Linux User: #224211
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