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Killfile and Move On


CONTENTS:

Introduction

It's happened to all of us. Reading a mailing list we highly value, we come upon somebody yelling and screaming, or repeatedly defending a point of view that conflicts with the very foundation of the list. In order to defend the list against flames, you step in and, on-list, read the guy the rules of the road.

Bzzzzt: Wrong!

You just increased the likelihood that this ill-advised post will turn into a full fledged flame war, thereby hurting your cause and playing right into the hands of the troll. Depending on the offense and how long it goes on, I'd recommend one of these three responses:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Correct the guy, offlist, possibly CCing other, involved people.
  3. Killfile the guy, and move on.

None of the three preceding choices throw gasoline on the flames. If everybody followed the preceding, there would never be an on-list flame war.

The Dng Incident

Although the info in this document is valid for most mailing lists, what inspired it were some events on the Dng mailing list starting 4/5/2015 and continuing to this day (4/9/2015). The Dng list is the mailing list for the Devuan project. The Devuan project started as a way of removing systemd from Debian. Its purpose has gotten a little broader since then, but removal of systemd is still its #1 activity and is a foundational principle of the group.

Anyway, on 4/5/2015, one anti-systemd post spawned "systemd's not that bad" posts, which spawned "why are you here" posts, which spawned "everyone has a right to their opinion" posts, with opinions growing ever more strident. This thread spawned a "let's split the list into developers and everyone else" thread and a "who should be here" thread, with the former getting especially incendiary.

In my opinion, one or two people repeatedly fanned the flames in the conflict, with the remainder simply trying to defend the honor of either the "No systemd on Devuan" policy or the "hey, everyone has a right to his opinion" principle. The problem is, these threads measurably disrupted business on the mailing list.

If those who did not take pleasure in the conflict had either ignored it, issued corrections offline, or killfiled those who fanned the flames, this disruption would have died before it had gotten started.

The Role of Systemd in Devuan

Devuan was born with the purpose of removing systemd from Debian. This is proven by looking back in the archives of debianfork.org and the archives of several mailing lists before and during Devuan's formation:

Avoidance of systemd is at the very foundation of Devuan. So why do some insist on joining the Dng list and saying "systemd isn't that bad?" Here are some questions to ponder:

When somebody joins an organization and start defending, in any way or to any degree, something foundationally repulsive to that organization, he's not being open minded, he's not being practical, he's trying to start trouble. There's a name for those who try to start trouble: Troll.

Don't feed the troll. Instead, do one of the following:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Correct the guy, offlist, possibly CCing other, involved people.
  3. Killfile the guy, and move on.

Conclusion

The Internet is a strange place. Anybody can assume any identity and any role. For whatever reason, some folks just like to start trouble, and one way of doing so is to question the foundational beliefs of the organization or venue. Replying in any way to these people gives them what they want, trouble. And it greatly reduces the value of the communication channel. When somebody emails something that's way off base, do one of these three:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Correct the guy, offlist, possibly CCing other, involved people.
  3. Killfile the guy, and move on.

If someone else makes things worse by responding to the troublemaker, do one of these:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Correct the guy, offlist, possibly CCing other, involved people.
  3. Killfile the guy, and move on.

If you value high value communications on a list, think twice before arguing on-list with troublemakers or responders to troublemakers.