OSM has had a good run with our mailing lists, especially if you grade that based on quantity. We have over 100 of them for Iranians to Australians, for importers to newbies.
The problem is that they’re an echo chamber. Every mail is sent to everyone. That means intelligent postings as well as complete garbage get the same precedence and everything is equally loud.
Unfortunately some of the main lists have become less than nice places to be. Low signal to noise and a scorched earth policy from the more flamey participants pushes people away.
Below: Newbies prepare to enter firstname.lastname@example.org…
Let’s look at some solutions. One is to get rid of them. We spend too much time worrying about this crap, just kill talk@ and move to a new list discuss@ or something. Let that list have a clear and simple etiquette policy list. Put someone in charge of kick/banning people who don’t play nice. The problem here is there are very few people willing to take responsibility for being the moderator. It’s unpaid, nobody will be nice to you (except me, obviously) and it’s hard work.
Below: Mailing list infestation marines prepare to nuke the talk@ list from orbit, because it’s the only way to be sure.
Another is that we let the talk@ list be. All the clueful people decamp to a new list with a nice policy as above. Stop linking to talk@ and leave the bozos there. Hopefully they don’t notice.
Below: a newbie after making a polite suggestion on legal-talk@
We could all migrate (one imagines this follows a sea parting) to the forums. There we could be safe for awhile. Newbies are more at ease in forums. It’s easier to delete posts, they don’t have the same permanence that a mailing list does: Forever in the archive, and already sent to all participants.
None of these options are easy and we can just vote with our feet.
There is an interesting technical solution possible though. Take the forum mechanics to a mailing list. So instead of every post going to every participant just send it to participants with high karma. If they like the post (either explicitly by clicking/emailing something, or implicitly by not doing anything) then it goes to others on the list. That list can have override features so I can get sent everything in a thread or block certain people. I’ve actually started building something like this but it’s too big to fit in the margin.
Below: calm arrives at talk@ during a license discussion, unicorns descend from the skies and free healthcare for all
Before utopia arrives, Steve’s top tips for the mailing lists are as follows
- Stop asking permission on the lists, you will never get it
- Don’t feed the trolls
- Clueful people post more, and more cluefully to drown out said trolls
- Someone should be appointed to moderate the lists and just warn, kick and then ban people who aren’t nice. Just use common sense to identify who they are