What's in a community?

Posted on January 16, 2014 with tags debian.

I haven’t been doing Debian work for a while now, due to various reasons. However, I try to keep reading (but not posting to) the mailing list, such as to keep in touch (in a virtual way).

What surprises me is how the community evolves: in some ways not at all (was there an init-system flamewar this week already or not?), in some ways a lot (mailing list bans!).

Since I don’t post to the mailing lists, consider this post as my +1 towards the listmaster’s work: yes, we should limit the damage that abusive people do to the project.

I’m surprised at how some people call list bans as censorship (it’s not, IMHO), and how they treat abuse as something light.

Another thing that surprises me is how abuse and arrogance go hand in hand. In the explanations for bans, I’ve seen not just one example where the abusive person is not only, well, abusive, but also considers themselves superior (morally, technically, etc.). If you’re already so much superior, why hit on people? If you already know so much, why the personal attacks? And no, being immature is not the whole or even the only explanation…

This page has a nice collection of quotes around the same motive: how you treat other people, especially people whom you regard less knowledgeable than you, tells a lot about your character. One quote is nice in how succinct and how applicable it is to the kind of abuse I’ve seen:

To insult or to abuse those who cannot resist, or dare not resent the injury, is a sure mark of cowardice, […].

From 1852 September 30, Farmer’s Cabinet, Courtesy to Inferiors, Page 1, Column 2, Volume 51, Number 8, Amherst, New Hampshire. The rest of the quote also contains a somewhat sexist remark, so I’ve left that part out (but I’m surprised they still talked about swords in the 1850s).

And yes, I hope that this spring I’ll be able to get back to my Debian work.