[OT] Off-Topic Posts and Threads on the Python Mailing List

Ben Finney ben+python at benfinney.id.au
Fri Sep 30 04:06:56 CEST 2011

Westley Martínez <anikom15 at gmail.com> writes:

> I'm kind of new to the whole mailing list thing, but they seem to be a
> lot more lenient than internet forums about most things.

Note that a mailing list *is* an internet forum: it is a forum for
discussion, conducted on the internet. Mailing lists have been internet
forums long before any web application came along.

> I've noticed that sometimes Off-topic posts can get a little out of
> hand. I guess it's not really a big deal, but it bothers me, and the
> trolls just love to feed on it.

Yes, these are hazards of an unmoderated discussion forum like this. The
overall quality of discussion here, and the signal-to-noise ratio, makes
it very worthwhile I think.

> I mean, as programmers, we should devote our time to improving
> computer systems. On this mailing list, we're programmers, nothing
> else, and so we shouldn't mingle other things into the list.

What counts as “mingle other things in”? What sparked this latest outcry
was a flippant remark at the expense of an ancient text and the Zen of
Python. That outcry was, I have argued, not reasonable.

I am firmly committed to allowing flippant remarks which are not at the
expense of people. It's highly inappropriate to ask that such remarks
not be made simply because some people might take undue offense.

Are they off-topic? Maybe, but there's no compulsion to respond to them
since flippant remarks, by definition, aren't meant seriously.

Are they not funny? That doesn't matter. If the obligation is that
people should not make unfunny jokes, we'd all be guilty.

Are they poking fun at something? That *definitely* shouldn't matter; if
a thing (not a person) is worth defending, then do so or not as you
choose. If you like it but can't defend it adequately, that's your
problem not anyone else's. If the ridicule works because it's true, then
the target thing is perhaps not worth defending.

We draw the line, IMO rightly so, at personal attacks on people or
groups of people. I have many times spoken out against those in this
forum. But books and ideas, no matter who likes them, are fair game for
flippant remarks in this and any forum, and I resist efforts to quash
such expression.

 \          “What I have to do is see, at any rate, that I do not lend |
  `\      myself to the wrong which I condemn.” —Henry Thoreau, _Civil |
_o__)                                                    Disobedience_ |
Ben Finney

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