[Python-Dev] Discussion overload

Kevin Ollivier kevin-lists at theolliviers.com
Thu Jun 16 22:00:59 EDT 2016

Hi Guido,

From:  <gvanrossum at gmail.com> on behalf of Guido van Rossum <guido at python.org>
Reply-To:  <guido at python.org>
Date:  Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 5:27 PM
To:  Kevin Ollivier <kevin-lists at theolliviers.com>
Cc:  Python Dev <python-dev at python.org>
Subject:  Re: [Python-Dev] Discussion overload

Hi Kevin,

I often feel the same way. Are you using GMail? It combines related messages in threads and lets you mute threads. I often use this feature so I can manage my inbox. (I presume other mailers have the same features, but I don't know if all of them do.) There are also many people who read the list on a website, e.g. gmane. (Though I think that sometimes the delays incurred there add to the noise -- e.g. when a decision is reached on the list sometimes people keep responding to earlier threads.)

I fear I did quite a poor job of making my point. :( I've been on open source mailing lists since the late 90s, so I've learned strategies for dealing with mailing list overload. I've got my mail folders, my mail rules, etc. Having been on many mailing lists over the years, I've seen many productive discussions and many unproductive ones, and over time you start to see patterns. You also see what happens to those communities over time.

On the mailing lists where discussions become these unwieldy floods with 30-40 posts a day on one topic, over time what I have seen is that that rapid fire of posts generally does not lead to better decisions being made. In fact, usually it is the opposite. Faster discussions are not usually better discussions, and the chances of that gem of knowledge getting lost in the flood of posts is much greater. The more long-term consequence is that people start hesitating to bring up ideas, sometimes even very good ones, simply because even the discussion of them gets to be so draining that it's better to just leave things be. As an example, I do have work to do :) and I know if I was the one who had wanted to propose a fix for os.urandom or what have you, waking up to 30 messages I need to read to get caught up each day would be a pretty disheartening prospect, and possibly not even possible with my work obligations. It raises the bar to participating, in a way.

Perhaps some of this is inherent in mailing list discussions, but really in my experience, just a conscious decision on the part of contributors to slow down the discussion and "think more, write less", can do quite a lot to ensure the discussion is in fact a better one.

I probably should have taken more time to write my initial message, in fact, in order to better coalesce my points into something more succinct and clearly understandable. I somehow managed to convince people I need to learn mail management strategies. :)

Anyway, that is just my $0.02 cents on the matter. With inflation it accounts for less every day, so make of it what you will. :P



--Guido (don't get me started on top-posting :-)

On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 12:22 PM, Kevin Ollivier <kevin-lists at theolliviers.com> wrote:
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 t
 he 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.


Python-Dev mailing list
Python-Dev at python.org
Unsubscribe: https://mail.python.org/mailman/options/python-dev/guido%40python.org

--Guido van Rossum (python.org/~guido)

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/attachments/20160616/3c5fe0ca/attachment.html>

More information about the Python-Dev mailing list