In a message of Fri, 25 Mar 2011 18:14:02 -0400, Jesse Noller writes:
In principle I agree with you - I would like open archives for the
specific reasons you cite, but I value the ability for people who may
not be comfortable with coming out and openly discussing things on a
list if they know it's open to the magical powers of google and public
archives. Heck, having open archives makes it *easier to find out*
about the list itself, serving the purpose even more.
But - weighed in favor of the target audience (those that may not yet
be comfortable with "full disclosure", or discussing personality
clashes on the tracker, or those worried about future employers
digging up stuff) - I want to error on the side of the closed list
archives for now. In several months, we all might realize it was a
monumental mistake. At that time, we can fix the problem.I would have thought that the set of people who were more comfortablewith the closed list was prettry close to zero. Because the problemwith saying something stupid in public is really not one of perfectstrangers using google to find out that I said something stupid once,but rather that current members of the target group, in this casethe subscribers to python-dev or python-dev-mentors will find outthat I think stupid thoughts _now_, and think less of me for it, andmaybe say some nasty things about me.Python-dev historically has been rather special. The forbidding message"Do not post general Python questions to this list. For help with Python please see the Python help page." in a red boarded box isfairly effective at getting the message "do not waste the valuabletime of these people" across. For a while, I remember, we lied andsaid that subscriptions to python-dev needed to be approved, evenwhen they didn't. That seemed to deter some people from even tryingto join, which was probably either a good thing, or a bad thing onthe whole (but, of course, we have no way to measure). And the otherthing that makes python-dev unusual is that it is casually read bya large number of people who never say a word. All open mailing lists have lurkers, especially those who read them without a subscription,through some other means, but python-dev is unsual in the number ofpeople who try to read it 'just in case something important happens',and 'just to feel like they know what is going on in the python community'.All of these factors add to the 'don't waste people's time' factor.Thus there is a lot to be said about having a separate group, wherepython-dev contributors answer questions that they have made time for,even if others might consider them a waste of time. Because thoseothers are not forced to subscribe and read them. But I don't seesuch a compelling reason for a closed group. It's not as if we expectthat mentoring to be a source of deeply personal stories andanecdotes. Or that people want the safety to discuss hereticalapproaches to changing CPython not expected to go down well withpython-dev.It all seems to boil down to 'some people would be more comfortablethis way'. I'd like to get some metrics on how many of those peoplethere are. And I'd like to measure them against a different group,people like me who won't contribute to a closed group, in part becausethe whole closed-ness of it makes me undomfortable. My experiencewith closed-groups vs open groups has been almost entirely negative,which would be reason enough for me to hesitate to join one, butespecially when it comes to a _mentoring_ list. The single mostimportant reason why I would post something I think might be reallystupid is because 'if I don't understand this, then there are probablyothers out there like me in the same boat'. So I ask such things withthe hope that the exchange will be googled _a whole lot_ in thefuture. And again, when I answer a question fully and completely, Ido so thinking 'I'll bet a lot of people, and not this one soul, willbe interested in this'. If the answer will only be seen by thecomparatively few people in a closed mailing list, I am comparativelyunmotivated to write anything, or write anything substantial.I've seen a whole lot of very bad behaviour on the part of self-styledleaders of closed mailing lists. They determine the party-line of thegroup and then, because it is private, blast those souls who do notconform with impunity. Having been on the receiving end of a numberof such exchanges, my conclusion has been that having the whole thingopen is often the only defence one has. Firstly, most people aremore restrained when what they say can be seen by the world at large,so some of these incidents would not happen. But secondly, the abilityto share the mail with others greatly empowers the people on thereceiving end. But if you cannot get an outside opinion because doingso would violate the group's closed-ness, then you are more vulnerable.The point of bringing this up is not because I think thatpython-dev-mentors is likely to run into these sorts of problems, butto let you know that there is a substantial number of people outthere who are not emotionally comfortable with closed groups asopposed to open ones. And I don't see why the emotional comfort ofthose who like closed groups should have precedence over the emotionalcomfort of those of us who find closed groups threatening.The argument 'we'll try it closed, and then we will see about openingit up, later' doesn't work for me, because every time I have beeninvolved in such an effort, except once, the end result has been thatlater _never_ happens. The people who like the group closed _always_successfully resist such change. It is too much easier for peoplelike me who only got involved in the first place because of theexpectation of the group's eventual opening to drop out and quit thegroup than to spend the amount of energy necessary to open the groupup. And for me, at any rate, my reluctance to spend the energy is inlarge part because of the closed-ness of the group. I'd care a lotmore about the group, if the group was open.I don't think that people like me are that rare -- hmm, I should rephrasethat -- I don't think that people with this attitude towards closed groupsare that rare. And it is hard to find out about us, because we're thepeople who don't join such things. So no matter how well a given closedgroup works, according to those who are members of such a thing, it isimpossible to say whether the group would have been _so_ _much_ _better_if it were open -- or whether being closed was essential to its success.So 'In several months we might all realize that this was a momentualmistake and then fix the problem' never works. No matter what you do,there will always be some people who like it, so you will never get the'all'. But what might be possible to measure is the number of peoplewho won't be joining a closed list, but who would join an open one,versus those who will join the closed list but wouldn't join theopen one, by having some sort of vote. Of course, a vote could onlymeasure people's intentions, which are often different from what theyreally do, but it would at least allow some sort of measurement ofwhat isn't happening, which is otherwise close to impossible to see.I for one would feel a lot better about what I was missing out on inpython-dev-mentors if I knew that there were some actual human beingsbenefitting from it who would not have joined an open group. Withoutsome sort of metric, I will always worry that it was done 'in casethere might be people like that out there' or 'to test the theory that the reason we don't have enough python-dev contributers isbecause python-dev is an open group' without any actual use-casesat all.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good." :)
"If you can not measure it, you can not improve it."Lord Kelvin: (Sir William Thomson)Laura
Thank you for the feedback Laura - I think that if the people volunteering to be mentors (a fair number have) can vote and/or change the policy once we have agreed to a code of conduct for the group.
I for one like to assume In the better side of people and things, and therefore I believe that the list as outlined will be a force for good, and not bad. Remember, anyone with a subscription can access anything - so it's not truly private.
Should you wish to participate, you would be welcome.