[Distutils] a plea for backward-compatibility / smooth transitions

PJ Eby pje at telecommunity.com
Tue Jul 30 22:01:11 CEST 2013

On Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 2:04 PM, Donald Stufft <donald at stufft.io> wrote:
> On Jul 30, 2013, at 1:13 PM, PJ Eby <pje at telecommunity.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 4:14 AM, Donald Stufft <donald at stufft.io> wrote:
>>> Heh, I'm pretty good at getting yelled at :)
>> Nick is also pretty good at making people feel like he both knows and
>> *cares* about their breakage, and isn't just dismissing their concerns
>> as trivial or unimportant.  Breakage isn't trivial or unimportant to
>> the person who's yelling, so this is an important
>> community-maintenance skill.  It builds trust, and reduces the total
>> amount of yelling.
> *shrug*, If I didn't care I would have made this change as soon as Nick
> said it was ok. Instead I declared I was going to and waited to make sure
> nobody else had any concerns. And once Holger said he did I said
> ok I won't do it. Maybe my mannerisms give the impression I don't but
> that's actually pretty far from the truth.

I did say "feel like".  ;-)

Nick usually gives more of an impression that he's thought about
concerns raised before rejecting them; your responses often sound
like, "Who cares about that?"  Asking for suggestions, for example,
would be good.  Nick also rarely seems irritated by people's concerns
or problems, whereas you sometimes seem in a big hurry to fix
something today or this week that's been broken for years, without
giving folks a while to get used to the idea.  Often your proposals
seem less like proposals than, "I've decided to do this, so deal with

I'm not saying all this because I want to complain or yell at you; I'm
saying it because I think you do care enough to know how you're coming
across, at least to me.  Our discussions have gotten heated in the
past because my impression of your reaction to the concerns I raise
often seems like, "I don't care about supporting [group of people
affected], so neither should you."

Perhaps the issue is just one of confusion.  When I raise an issue
about, say, Python 2.3 users (who are still downloading setuptools 0.6
releases, and presumably also using them), it's not because I expect
*you* to change your plans to support them, but because I need to know
how *I* can, if the issue arises.  So I don't actually expect you to
care about Python 2.3 users (again, as an example), but I do expect
you to care about *me* supporting them.

In the most recent situation, you did in fact point me to your awesome
hashlib port, so I do know you *do* care to at least that extent.  But
the rhetoric that you sent both before and after the helpful bit
seemed on the inflammatory side, as though I were crazy to be thinking
of Python 2.3.  Whether or not this is true ;-) -- it's not especially
*helpful* to the discussion.

If I may offer a suggestion, asking questions in response to
objections is generally more useful than immediately arguing the
relevance of the objection.  First, it tells the objector that you're
interested in what they have to say, and second, it may well help the
objector understand that there isn't actually any real problem, and
gives them an easier path to backing down and/or compromising, whereas
a frontal assault tends to focus people on responding to you instead
of reconsidering their objection.

On the hashlib issue, for example, it actually occurred to me later
that it's completely a non-issue because the actual hash scenario I
was most concerned about *can't actually happen*.  (MD5 hashes in code
or dependency_links, used e.g. by setuptools itself to secure its own
downloads.  Changing PyPI won't affect these, duh.)  It might've
occurred to me sooner, though, if you'd actually asked what scenario I
was worried about, instead of arguing about the relevance.

This isn't to say that you're responsible for what I do or don't
figure out; my point is simply that asking questions and inviting
suggestions in response to people's objections will generally get you
more thoughtful responses and more trust, and resolve issues sooner,
with less arguing.

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