[wellylug] off-topic whining

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Tue Sep 15 13:41:42 NZST 2009

Callum Grant <callum.el.grant at gmail.com> writes:

> I think that there is a time and a place for discussing things like this, I
> really do, but that place is not on this list as I feel that it distracts
> from this point in the charter "* To have a good time, meet other people and
> to make friends." - point being that arguing doesn't help you to make
> friends

I have been thinking about this for a while now, before responding.  I am in
agreement with your statement, more or less, in that argument (and especially
heated argument) doesn't win friends or influence people.

I can't agree with your conclusion, though, because it has an assumption that
isn't accurate.

Specifically, you assume that if the issue of sexism (or bias, or whatever)
isn't discussed on the list then everyone will "have a good time".

Which, sadly, isn't true.  The reason I made the comment in the first place
was that I, personally, am not comfortable with the language being used.

It wasn't that I think women are suffering, and should be championed, or that
I was imagining some hypothetical other reader being upset.

I commented because /I/ don't like the language that I feel is exclusionary,
and it makes me uncomfortable to be around it.

I commented, also, because I think that just gritting my teeth and ignoring
it, or leaving, are not effective ways to deal with the problem.

So, if the rule you suggest above is put in place — no discussion of sexism,
because it upsets people — then what do I do?

Do I decide to grit my teeth, to be unhappy, and to live with the change?
That, I think, is incompatible with the point in the charter.  Certainly, it
doesn't work to make me happy.

It also works against that point in the charter: now I have to ask, before
every post, "is there too much discussion of sexism" in the message?

I have to wonder what /else/ fits on that list.  Do I have to ask myself is
there too much discussion of Christianity in this message?  What about other
potentially sensitive topics, like sexuality, or economics, or whatever?

> If we keep this list purely for GNU/Linux and not having arguments about
> what essentially are "political" topics, (which you should check at the door
> when you contribute) this list will become as fantastic and useful as it
> always has been.

So, no politics on the list.  No discussion of the GNU manifesto, then?
No discussion of FOSS adoption in business, or GPL violations, or encouraging
students to see beyond the Microsoft world they are taught at school?

No discussion of DRM, or user rights, or legal issues around patents, or
click-wrap licenses?

I don't know about you, but for me a lot of the FOSS movement *is* about
politics.  Heck, GNU is a *political* movement that surrounds technical
issues.  FOSS is inherently a political movement.

Even skipping that, you are assuming that we all agree on what is a
"political" topic and what isn't.

For example, is a discussion of FOSS adoption in India, or Africa, a political

What if it starts to include discussion of why FOSS projects don't account for
the requirements of those locales?  Does it jump the line when it crosses over
into a discussion of how to encourage developers from those regions to join a
project to improve the situation?

These are not hypothetical examples, by the way: discussion of the OLPC
project on other LUGs has included these areas of discussion, and I can't
imagine it is hard for y'all to imagine a more local version of the same sort
of issue, eh?

Now, just to be absolutely clear: if the list charter is about technical
discussion, or is changed to make it all about technical discussion, or to
forbid these topics, that is fine.[1]

I just think you will have a terrible time trying to write up the rules that
we can use to draw that distinction, because there *is* no simple line between
what you call "political" topics, and what you don't, in my opinion. ;)


[1]  Well, I won't like it, but y'know what I mean. :)

✣ Daniel Pittman            ✉ daniel at rimspace.net            ☎ +61 401 155 707
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