[Python-Dev] Discussion overload

Kevin Ollivier kevin-lists at theolliviers.com
Thu Jun 16 15:22:12 EDT 2016

Hi all,

Recent joiner here, I signed up after PyCon made me want to get more involved and have been lurking. I woke up this morning again to about 30 new messages in my inbox, almost all of which revolve around the os.urandom blocking discussion. There are just about hourly new posts showing up on this topic.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Discussion of issues is certainly good, but so far since joining this list I am seeing too much discussion happening too fast, and as someone who has been involved in open source for approaching two decades now, frankly, that is not really a good sign. The discussions are somewhat overlapping as so many people write back so quickly, there are multiple sub-discussions happening at once, and really at this point I'm not sure how much new each message is really adding, if anything at all. It seems to me the main solutions to this problem have all been identified, as have the tradeoffs of each. The discussion is now mostly at a point where people are just repeatedly debating (or promoting) the merits of their preferred solution and tradeoff. It is even spawning more abstract sub-discsussions about things like project compatibility policies. This discussion has really taken on a life of its own.

For someone like me, a new joiner, seeing this makes me feel like wanting to simply unsubscribe. I've been on mailing lists where issues get debated endlessly, and at some point what inevitably happens is that the project starts to lose members who feel that even just trying to follow the discussions is eating up too much of their time. It really can suck the energy right out of a community. I don't want to see that happen to Python. I had a blast at PyCon, my first, and I really came away feeling more than ever that the community you have here is really special. The one problem I felt concerned about though, was that the core dev community risked a sense of paralysis caused by having too many cooks in the kitchen and too much worry about the potential unseen ramifications of changing things. That creates a sort of paralysis and difficulty achieving consensus on anything that, eventually, causes projects to slowly decline and be disrupted by a more agile alternative.

Please consider taking a step back from this issue. Take a deep breath, and consider responding more slowly and letting people's points stew in your head for a day or two first. (Including this one pls. :) Python will not implode if you don't get that email out right away. If I understand what I've read of this torrent of messages correctly, we don't even know if there's a single real world use case where a user of os.urandom is hitting the same problem CPython did, so we don't even know if the blocking at startup issue is actually even happening in any real world Python code out there. It's clearly far from a rampant problem, in any case. Stop and think about that for a second. This is, in practice, potentially a complete non-issue. Fixing it in any number of ways may potentially change things for no one at all. You could even introduce a real problem while trying to fix a hypothetical one. There are more than enough real problems to deal with, so why push hypothetical problems to the top of your priority list?

It's too easy to get caught up in the abstract nature of problems and to lose sight of the real people and code behind them, or sometimes, the lack thereof. Be practical, be pragmatic. Before you hit that reply button, think - in a practical sense, of all the things I could be doing right now, is this discussion the place where my involvement could generate the greatest positive impact for the project? Is this the biggest and most substantial problem the project should be focusing on right now? Projects and developers who know how to manage focus go on to achieve the greatest things, in my experience.

Having been critical, I will end with a compliment. :) It is nice to see that with only a couple small exceptions, this discussion has remained very civil and respectful, which should be expected, but I know from experience that far too often these discussions start to take a nasty tone as people get frustrated. This is one of the things I really do love about the Python community, and it's one reason I want to see both the product and community grow and succeed even more. That, in fact, is why I'm choosing to write this message first rather than simply unsubscribe.


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