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

Nathaniel Smith njs at pobox.com
Tue Nov 28 01:55:49 EST 2017

On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 7:22 PM, bunslow <bunslow at gmail.com> wrote:
> My first submission to this list was predicated on what I'd read in PEPs --
> and many of those, since they recommend major-enough changes to require a
> PEP, have sections (often lengthy) dedicated to "what's wrong with the
> status quo". My attempt to imitate that obviously crossed some boundaries in
> retrospect, and of course now that it's brought up here I see that spinning
> it as "what can be done to make it better" is psychologically much more
> effective than "why the current way sucks" (because semantically these are
> either approximately or exactly the same). But that's where it came from, at
> least with some of my earlier threads, and I suspect the author of the topic
> message of the OP will have a similar sentiment.

To quote Brett's original email:
> So obviously Nick doesn't like the design of the heapq module. ;) And that's okay! And he's totally within his rights to express the feeling that the heapq module as it stands doesn't meet his needs.
> 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.

You can and should talk about problems with the status quo! But it's
totally possible to do this without insulting anyone. Brett's talking
about tone, not content.

> (One major example I can point to is PEP 465 -- because it proposed such a
> major change to the language, literally half its text amounts to "what's
> wrong with the status quo", quantifiably and repeatedly. It was also a
> highly persuasive PEP due in no small part to its "why current things suck"
> section.)

Maybe, but you won't find the word "suck" anywhere in that section
:-). And of course, the nice thing about PEP 465 is that it's
complaining about a missing feature, which sort of by definition means
that it's not complaining about anyone in particular's work.

Nonetheless, an earlier draft of PEP 465 did inadvertently talk about
an old PEP in an overly-flippant manner, and I ended up apologizing to
the author and fixing it. (Which of course also made the PEP
stronger.) It's cool, no-one's perfect. If you think you've made a
mistake, then apologize and try to do better, that's all.


Nathaniel J. Smith -- https://vorpus.org

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