[Python-ideas] Using an appropriate tone in emails (was: Adding a thin wrapper class around the functions in stdlib.heapq)

Paul Moore p.f.moore at gmail.com
Mon Nov 27 17:36:49 EST 2017

On 27 November 2017 at 21:59, Nick Timkovich <prometheus235 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 8:17 PM, Brett Cannon <brett at python.org> wrote:
>> But calling it "atrocious" and so bad that it needs to be fixed
>> "immediately" as if it's a blight upon the stdlib is unnecessarily insulting
>> to those that have worked on the module. To convey the feeling that you
>> think an OO wrapper would be helpful as the current design doesn't work for
>> you, you could just phrase it as I just did to get the same point across
>> without insulting anyone. Basically if you wouldn't like your own work
>> called "atrocious" by someone you respect, then it's probably best to not
>> use that phrasing when talking about a stranger's code either.
> Sorry for the curt tone, I did lose some sight on the code being designed by
> people rather than a faceless organization. My intention wasn't to disparage
> the original authors but sprung more out of my frustration and perception
> from that thread and those before that the status quo would not change and
> that if a contribution was proffered, would simply be dismissed or ignored.
> To motivate any change, there must be some argument levied against the
> status quo, but hopefully I can articulate it better.
> That little corner is something I'm interested in, and not having
> contributed to CPython before, I'm unsure how it "really works". The steps
> at https://devguide.python.org/stdlibchanges/ suggest trying to elicit
> community feedback from the lists as a step, so negative feedback tends to
> kill the enthusiasm to actually make the PR. In the absence of code,
> concrete arguments are almost impossible as we're discussing the shape of
> clouds.

In my experience (and this reiterates Brett's point) the proposals
that get the best responses are those that are presented positively -
instead of focusing on the (perceived) problems with the current
situation, describe the benefits that will come from the proposed
change. If you can't do that, then it's unlikely there is enough
justification for a change. Certainly, negative feedback can be
demotivating, and when you have a great idea and all you hear is "but
what if...?" it's hard to remain positive. But you're not going to get
better feedback if you criticise - at best, people will stop
listening, and you'll have avoided some of the arguments, but at the
cost of no-one being willing to support your proposal and so it dies.

Your perception isn't wrong, by the way. It *is* hard to persuade
people that the status quo needs to change. But that's not because
there's no interest in change. Rather, it's because there's a strong
sense among both the core developers and the frequent contributors on
this list, of the significant impact any change will have - it's hard
to conceive of just how many people will be affected by even the
smallest change we make, and that's a big responsibility.

So while it's often hard, focusing on the positives (and being willing
to accept that the status quo is sufficient for many people) really is
the only way to gain support.


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