Keeping mailing lists sane with social pressure

Today I was reading my backlog of debian-devel and noticed the big thread about the trademark issue with Firefox. It was a pain to read it because as usual some people got so involved that they felt the need to reply to all mails rehashing again and again the same point.

This is not acceptable for a civilized project like Debian. So I complained by private mail to the person who misbehaved according to my own criteria. This time it was “Humberto Massa Guimarães”. I have been polite and expressed clearly what was not acceptable in his behaviour:

  • he has posted 20 times the same argument
  • he’s no more expressing his point of view but trying to impose it to other by repeating it over and over

I didn’t mention the fact that I disagree with his point of view because I’m not complaining about his opinions, only about his way of behaving on the lists.

Do you want to know the result ? Humberto replied to me :

Your point was taken and I will try to behave better.

What does it mean ? That social pressure works … and that all other readers of debian-devel should do the same. When someone clearly goes too far, we should politely invite him by private mail to calm down. When someone receives 10 similar requests I’m sure he will quickly understand that his behaviour is not well accepted.

Going further in that direction we could have a system where all those complaints can be publicly archived. We would CC or BCC and the system would generate statistics : who has been the biggest cause of complaints and so on. 🙂
(This last paragraph is only semi-serious)


  1. says

    Raphaël, thank you for showing that amongst the heated debates, there is some rational discussion going on. Congratulations to both yourself and Humberto for behaving appropriately.

  2. Hamish Moffatt says

    Now if we could also convince Humberto to use a decent MTA so as not to break *every thread*…

  3. Colin Watson says

    Ian Jackson has occasionally suggested the need for a “bollocking committee”; you complain to them when somebody’s getting out of hand and refuses to calm down, and the committee gives them an official bollocking if they feel it’s necessary.

    I have no idea whether this would actually work, and it might need to be renamed. 🙂