[Python-Dev] Discussion overload

Guido van Rossum guido at python.org
Thu Jun 16 23:25:51 EDT 2016

More likely your post was too long... :-(

On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 7:00 PM, Kevin Ollivier <
kevin-lists at theolliviers.com> wrote:

> 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
> Thanks,
> Kevin
> --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.
>> Kevin
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> --
> --Guido van Rossum (python.org/~guido)

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