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Mailing list etiquette?

As of this moment, there are 387 subscribers to the sldev mailing list. As you would expect with a big public mailing list, most of those people don't post to the list. Of course, a handful of people post a lot. That's ok; if you have something to say, you should say it. However, I also want to make sure that if someone has something to say that everyone needs to read, that it gets read. If there's too much to sort through, that might not happen.

We've discussed the idea that we should split off separate mailing lists. In particular, there are two different proposals:

I've resisted going down that path, because I think that the groupings we want are going to be more fluid than is practical to keep up with (one day we'll want to split off policy, the next day we'll want to split off caching discussions, etc).

I'd like to keep things almost the way that they are, but introduce new guidelines:

  • If a topic generates more than five replies in less than 24 hours, it's time to redirect that conversation to one of our other tools, either the wiki or the bug tracker.
  • If the topic is not specifically a Second Life development-related topic (e.g. this email, or a licensing discussion), it should be redirected to the wiki or the bug tracker immediately. One post per 48 hours should be sufficient to bring it to everyone's attention.
  • If after 48 hours, the topic seems to have died out on the alternate forum, it's ok to reraise the issue on this mailing list, summarizing the offlist conversation thusfar, and calling for further comment in the alternate forum.

I think this policy strikes a good balance between making sure that people have a large forum to raise and discuss a broad spectrum of issues, while at the same time ensuring that the list doesn't become overwhelmed with discussion on a single topic that may not be of interest to everyone on the list.

Thoughts? -- Rob Linden 10:26, 23 March 2007 (PDT)

As for the the topics that have done this (moved to the wiki or jira), they have been very successful. I second. Dzonatas Sol 21:31, 23 March 2007 (PDT)
Email is obviously a bad idea, but jira/wiki is worse. Forums are the obvious answer to anyone - unless your goal is to put road blocks up before discussion (which certainly makes sense when you want to keep the community from organizing), in which case I suppose this all make sense.
Jira is for bug reports. Wiki pages are great for documents detailing focused ideas, such as wikipedia entries. But having a dialogue between participants is not what they are meant for. There are no threads, no way to filter, rate participants and find new discussion. The only goal seems to be, as I said above, to keep the community from discussing coherently among themselves.
What LL is looking for here, let's face it, are people to contribute to their open source project without giving up some kind of control to the community. I'm sure that makes sense to some people around here, but it makes zero sense to me.
I (and I am sure many others) have avoided contributing to opensim simply because we've been waiting for LL to come around and realise that they need to work with us as a community and not as people to do their singular bidding. In some ways, opensl is becoming a threat to us all, not the opportunity LL wants to make it out to be. The only way to deal with that threat seems to be to work with the opensim crowd and wrench control away rather than work with Linden Lab.
Is this really what you guys wanted? It certainly isn't what I want. It puts at risk everything I (and everyone else) have tried to build (and we've built a lot for SL. Far more than 95% of your so called open source developers) in secondlife.. but so is the whole direction you're going with OpenSL.
It's a question of picking our masters - the freedom BSD folks or the "you must GPL everything and you can only talk in jira or wiki folks."
Pick your poison, I guess. -- Iron Perth
I don't know why you feel that way so strongly. It is obvious that as an outside developer that communication won't be as easy as being an internal employee. However, there are still features like the Technical Talk area on the forums. Jira issues can easily have forums attached to them; however, the forums are limited to premium users.
E-Mail is great. The best forum is the modern threaded e-mail unless you are stuck with hotmail or yahoo.
I'm on a dozen of mail-lists for different projects. SLDev is actually pretty quiet compared to the others, yet the others have "user" lists for the various discussions. Dzonatas Sol 21:28, 23 March 2007 (PDT)
I would not object to adding forums as an acceptable conversation redirect target. The reason for directing this conversations to the wiki or jira is to help the community organize. There is no conspiracy here. I prefer using a wiki talk page so the discussion for a topic is attached directly to the topic itself. So, when newcomers read about a new topic (such as a feature design or these guidelines), they can quickly access the debate about what went into shaping the content of the main page.
However, if you feel more strongly about using a forum instead, that's fine too. I personally don't think it'll be as effective as the wiki, but I don't mind seeing different experiments. The point is to avoid having huge conversations on the mailing list where no one tries to summarize or capture key ideas. If the goal is discussion for discussion's sake, the status quo would have been just fine. However, I'm assuming that the community wants to accomplish something, so I'm trying to help.
As I also said before, I think it's fine to raise a topic after a couple of days if the conversation died down before reaching a resolution. I would hope that before reraising it to 380+ people, that someone take the time to actually summarize the conversation and document forward progress. I don't think it's exclusively Linden Lab employees that would appreciate the courtesy. -- Rob Linden 23:49, 23 March 2007 (PDT)
I'm not sure if I like this change all that much so far. Moving conversations to the wiki makes things less convenient to discuss, IMO. Now instead of watching my inbox, I've got to use a RSS reader, and subscribe to the feed, but that includes not only the sldev discussion, but also completely unrelated changes such as LSL stuff, and typo corrections. That makes it more effort to keep up with, not less.
Additionally, there's a loss of functionality in that editing a wiki is less convenient than email. Quoting is harder, formatting requires knowing the wiki syntax with all its conventions, the Editing help link leads to a page that's nearly blank, the option of CCing people or not sending a message to the discussion list doesn't exist anymore (maybe userpages, but that's public), and adding something to a wiki requires previewing it first to make sure formatting came out right. There's also the potential problem of conflicting changes to the same page. Also, for some reason, my RSS reader keeps telling me about new entries from yesterday (what's up with that?) that don't appear as the more recent entry, but somewhere in the middle of my list. RSS also slows discussions down, as checking it too frequently places extra load on the server, while IMAP has new mail notification.
IMO, all of these things are great when they're used for their intended purpose. Mailing lists are good for discussions, keep them for that. Wikis are good for collaborative documetation, but not all that great for discussing. Jira is definitely the right place for bug reporting, but I don't like the idea of discussing anything there. Jira is currently slow, requires logging in, has usability problems (login bug) and doesn't seem to have any sort of reply notification that I can see. -- —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Dale Glass
Just had such a 'potential conflict'. Having to merge when wanting to discuss, is, ... well, ... kinda odd. -- Boroondas Gupte 16:21, 25 March 2007 (PDT)

Deep linking to conversations

Summaries are a fine thing. But, even if a discussion has died out for some while and so was replaced by its summary, you might sometimes wish to search for some single contribution and, once you found it, refer to it. Doing so by links to wiki-diffs of the discussion page's history will be a pain. Is there some better way to do it? I know the question is rather hypothetical right now and could be asked when the problem actually arises, but I think its relevant for the decision of what topic to redirect to what media. -- Boroondas Gupte 16:16, 25 March 2007 (PDT)

One way to do it is how I've just done it. Split the conversation into its own thread (with title) and link to it. That means potentially redirecting the context of a quote (admittedly dangerous), but you get a link you can use (e.g. ) -- Rob Linden 17:59, 25 March 2007 (PDT)

Can things stay organized on a wiki?

Although I see the problems of a high traffic mailing list, I share Iron's concerns. Up to now, people discussing on the wiki were very persistent in keeping things formatted and signing their contributions, so you can still see the threads in some way. But can we keep this up as the community is growing? Perhaps someone's got a good idea how this can be made easier, by e.g. a wiki-template generating some thread/tree-like structures with some easy way to answer to a single node.

To ease tracking all discussions on the wiki derived from the mailing list, we could put them in a common category. Any ideas how to name such category? Can someone think of an equivalent for the forums, for jira and the other media where discussions might be redirected to? -- Boroondas Gupte 16:16, 25 March 2007 (PDT)

I took the liberty of breaking this into it's own thread, too. I remember hearing about threaded discussions for MediaWiki last year at the Wikimania Hacking Days. I'm not sure if any production-quality software emerged. If someone finds a plugin we can use, I'll look into it (no promises, since I want to make sure I'm introducing something I can commit to support for a while).
Even without dedicated software, I think the answer is "yes, we can stay organized", or perhaps "yes, we need to stay organized to be effective". It's one thing to make it easy for people writing; more importantly, we all need to make things easy for whoever is going to write the code. I suspect that a lot of people here have the best intentions, and all have valuable opinions of how it should be done, but it won't matter if this dies down a month from now unless this conversation is in a format that can be easily read and digested. I think what we've created here so far is far more readable than a long mailing list thread.
Re: category for discussions, I've created a template that I added to this page ({{Open Source Talk Page}}). Please add this talk page to any page you think the group should keep track of this way. -- Rob Linden 18:32, 25 March 2007 (PDT)
I'm starting to doubt that. Honestly, the more I use this, the less I like it. Strife has just put Paula's name on something I wrote for some reason, for instance. I'm sure it's a mistake, but really all of this is extra inconvenience for pretty much no gain. Monitoring it is inconvenient. I'm seeing my RSS reader report the same change multiple times now. Now I'm also seeing that I've got to keep watching the page where I wrote something to make sure that what I said isn't misattributed or misrepresented, and that I didn't forget to sign it. Such things aren't a problem for say, documenting LSL, where there shouldn't be such a thing as content ownership in the first place, but it's not good for having a discussion. I can't even be sure that if I decide to forget about this for a few weeks I'll be able to find what I said in the place where I left it. For all I know it might be moved to another section, be archived somewhere, deleted, or moved to another page.
None of these problems even existed on the mailing list. What I say there will stay in the same place where I wrote it, in the same context, in my exact wording, signed with my GPG key. And there's no reason why I a link to my post from the archive today shouldn't remain valid several years later. Besides, this moving around clearly means that we're already starting to compensate for the deficiencies of the Wiki when used for this purpose. And why are we using a tool that creates extra work instead of avoiding it? Dale Glass 19:08, 25 March 2007 (PDT)
I don't agree with this use of ":" to thread discussion on the talk page. I only use it if it is how the page flows. I suggest to use a template for talk pages that would reformat someones message to look similar to the SL forums "boxed" style. Then we could just wrap our messages up in the template and direct people to use that. Dzonatas Sol 19:25, 25 March 2007 (PDT)

Easier for writers vs. easier for readers

Okay, I guess things aren't as peachy as I'd hoped. However, I'd like to keep this experiment going for a couple of weeks. In spite of the extra overhead, I think that the result will be something that people will be much more likely to read down the road. I'm assuming that everyone here is writing because they want others to read what they've written (rather than for some therapeutic purpose). In that regard, I believe this method is more effective than the old way. If after two weeks, if I'm the only one who likes this way of doing things, we'll figure out something new.

I'm scanning down this text.. and I cannot figure out who wrote the preceding paragraph. This is an example of why I hate wikis for discussion purposes. Later editors can fragment the text of previous editors, and unless people sign each and every paragraph as if it were a separate post, then the threading becomes lost and confused. Scalar Tardis 06:38, 12 June 2008 (PDT)
Well, it's easier to read, the problem is that it's making it much harder to write, and especially much harder to actively participate. It takes me more time and effort to follow a conversation here. I'm writing here because you asked me to. Obviously, it wouldn't have been much good if I had decided to be a jerk and ignore you completely, or started whining "I don't like it, take it back!" without providing any good reason for it. The longer I post here the more ammunition I can come up with ;-) Dale Glass 03:29, 26 March 2007 (PDT)

I have to make clear, though, I really don't think the old status quo was working. I think there was probably a couple dozen really keeping up, and a lot of people who would only read selected messages. I got the sense that some people were trying to dominate the conversation by being the fastest to respond, rather than the most deliberative.

I'm scanning down this text.. and I cannot figure out who wrote the preceding paragraph. This is an example of why I hate wikis for discussion purposes. Later editors can fragment the text of previous editors, and unless people sign each and every paragraph as if it were a separate post, then the threading becomes lost and confused. Scalar Tardis 06:38, 12 June 2008 (PDT)
I'm not sure this is going to help any with that problem. I can still easily post quickly here trying to dominate the conversation, as everybody is slowed down accordingly. I'm not sure that's a good thing either. Why slow things down so that it takes a day to settle an argument when it could be settled in an hour? The longer it takes to discuss, the longer it delays actual coding. Dale Glass 03:29, 26 March 2007 (PDT)

Using the wiki as a talk mechanism, I think others a month or two down the road will be much more willing to read the entire Talk:Texture cache page from start to finish, and absorb the arguments. Whatever replacement we have for this mechanism needs to have similar characteristics. I'm not suggesting we abolish the mailing list for discussion altogether, but rather, just use the wiki when dealing with a hot topic. Let's channel the energy and passion that people have toward the topic to make sure that we end up with a document of lasting value, instead of an endless thread tucked away in a mailing list archive that someone may find when they plug "texture cache" into their favorite search engine (and, which, even if they find it, they may have no desire to read because it's just too much).

I'm scanning down this text.. and I cannot figure out who wrote the preceding paragraph. This is an example of why I hate wikis for discussion purposes. Later editors can fragment the text of previous editors, and unless people sign each and every paragraph as if it were a separate post, then the threading becomes lost and confused. Scalar Tardis 06:38, 12 June 2008 (PDT)
I see your point, however I don't think this is the right way of dealing with it. If you want to make it easier for newcomers to read, why not try to use some better mailing list archiving software? For example I like Gmane (example here). Alternatively, use a forum. If going that way, I'd like to see something that supports threads and makes posting code easy.
The main problem I see with moving active discussions to the wiki is that active discussions are actually more difficult on it. It's strange when we're having a lively discussion on the list, then suddenly we hit the limit, and have to move over to the wiki. It also takes extra effort and slows things down.
[The rest of this answer was moved to its own subtopic]

Re: Dale's concern about PGP signatures. I agree that mailing lists are much more effective for PGP sigs. The wiki does at least have the advantage of a complete audit log, but PGP sigs are better. Nonetheless, I think you'll find that getting in the habit of signing comments isn't that tough -- Rob Linden 22:58, 25 March 2007 (PDT)

It's not PGP signatures per se that concern me, rather, the difficulty of keeping the integrity of the conversation. If I stay something stupid on the list (which I already have a couple times ;-) it'll stay eternally archived, signed with my key to boot, in the way I said it. But that is fine. I did say that after all. Meanwhile, here something I said might over time end up somewhere else entirely, and in another context. There's no way to refer to the original and pristine post here, so it can't be 100% sure that what everybody seems to have written is in the context and exact wording it was intended. If we can't be sure that everybody is being represented correctly, having a serious discussion becomes a lot harder Dale Glass 03:29, 26 March 2007 (PDT)

Inworld discussion of hottest of hot topics

Let me try to propose something new, however: How about we actually use SL for discussions? ;-) When it becomes clear that the discussion is becoming so heated that we'll end up with a huge long thread people won't want to read, or we're about to start flaming each other, how about we decide to hold an in-world meeting right that moment, discuss whatever needs getting discussed in person and without any delays due to email checking intervals, RSS, etc, reach an agreement (or not), and post a condensed version of the result on the wiki, then link to the full log of the conversation for those who want the gory details? In essence, like SLDev-traffic, but done by the participants (I really appreciate Soft Noel's contribution here, but I'm not sure how long she'll be able to keep up. This would seem to scale better)

Thus, instead of a 50 posts thread, or a 10 page wiki talk page, we'd have something like this: After a long in-world discussion (link to full log) between Dale Glass, Strife Onizuka and Paula Innis, consensus was reached that texture caching should be done this way: (10 lines detailing the mechanism, with links to the appropiate parts of the full talk) Only thing that might be a problem is that this could seem to exclude people from the discussions, but I'd like to make it clear that my intention here is to take heated disputes between a few participants somewhere they'll get done faster, and when that is settled somebody can always argue with the conclusion. Dale Glass 03:29, 26 March 2007 (PDT)

As inworld discussions lack threads even more than the wiki does and as they tend to move fast, there would be a problem for people who need some time to answer, like me, not being a native speaker (writer?) of English and so needing quite some time to formulate and producing lots of typos that I use to correct before committing my posts. Doing so in a real-time conversation will often lead to the talk having moved to other (sub)topics by the time I have my answer ready. As someone like me you'll have the following options:
  • Keep the answer for yourself, and though not actively participate in the conversation. If the answer is relevant, this might not be a good option.
  • Answer when you got your answer ready, even if the conversation has moved on, and so confusing the other participants and making the log harder to read.
  • Answer right away, not minding formulation and typography, again confusing others and making the log harder to read.
In-world discussions lack threads, but it's not my intention to say that we should debate everything in-world. But IMO, 20 posts arguing about whether the cache should be stored in one big file or not aren't nearly as interesting as the end result of the discussion. To somebody new, "we agreed on X" is almost certainly more useful. The Wiki seems to me like a great place for documenting things like the results of a discussion, but not nearly as good for actually having one.
I perfectly understand what you're saying about needing time, btw. English is my third language, and of course some time ago it took me considerable effort to type anything coherent in it. But I'm sure that's not a new thing for people in SL, where there are people from everywhere. Simply say that you need some more to come up with an answer, I'm sure we're not so inconsiderate that we can't wait a bit. I don't know about other people, but when I see people typing I usually wait to see what they say before continuing. Dale Glass 06:06, 26 March 2007 (PDT)
Inworld discussions might be good if only some few want to discuss/flame who preferably already know each other well and so can adapt to every one's typing abilities. But as soon as there are more than -- let's say five -- people wanting to participate in a hot discussion who only know each other from their respective wiki and mailing list posts, some slower ones will either be left behind or be forced to (although they might not want to) dominate the discussion to get said what they wanted to say.
IMO, every medium has good and bad uses. Wikis are good for documenting. Mailing lists are good for long, well thought discussions. If it's the sort of thing where I'd have to read source code, research, etc, or I'm going to announce an idea, a list is the right place. On the other hand, when you get a thread with 2 or 3 people discussing a single subject, and talking to each other, then that's pretty much a conversation, and probably would be best done in-world.
So, resuming, my overall suggestion would be: Discuss development on the list. If it starts to turn into a long argument between a few people, have them to in-world and argue that there. When a consensus, decision, or interesting point of some sort is made, document it on the wiki. Dale Glass 06:06, 26 March 2007 (PDT)
/me agrees. -- Boroondas Gupte 07:55, 26 March 2007 (PDT)
I already experienced that kind of problem in inworld discussions of less relevant (non-Dev) topics, where it normally doesn't matter much which of those (equally bad) options you keep to. And I also know that problem from a reader's POV, having read quite some of the logs of Lindens' office hours I didn't attend.-- Boroondas Gupte 04:51, 26 March 2007 (PDT)
Dale Glass's suggestion of utilising in-world conversations to make some level of decisions is probably unworkable as SLDev expands, on the grounds of timezones (let alone diaries!) and lack of wide-spread input due to probably few people being aware of the discussion topic in advnace. Similarly, the use of ":" and multiples for threading is something that clearly works on the large discussions on Wikipedia, etc so can work well for medium-busy discussions, also having the great advantage that everyone will see new ideas pop up on recent changes. Email lists often suffer from subject-lag, but are still useful though tracking back a topic may prove impossible, as are forums with threaded conversations, where at least there is a full record of the discussion. Overall, it is going to depend on the topic, its immediacy-for-decision, and how widespread that discussion needs to reach in terms of interested people, which will make the selection of which communication method to use, not some pre-determined 'all this way or not at all' approach. --Alison Wheels 08:57, 26 March 2007 (PDT)

The above conversation with all the mixed levels of tab discussion has just made it harder to read. When you start to insert your paragraph in between the paragraphs of the one before you, it gets much harder to follow. That is what makes wiki's hard to follow. If people follow reply etiquette to thread discussions nicely, it is not that hard. Here, don't interrupt someones reply. Quote and summarized if needed.

As for in-world discussion, main concerns is timezones, reply speed (foreign speakers or office workers), and those that are actually actively coding aren't in-world because they are testing the client.

The problem: discussion for entertainment purposes

I guess this discussion is starting to make me figure out what the real problem is. Here's a couple of totally valid reasons for a long thread:

  • Person A, who is committed to write code, asks for discussion about a topic. Much debate ensues, guided by Person A, who is ultimately tasked with writing the code. This may result in Person B and C arguing, but as long as Person A finds the discussion interesting, that's ok.
  • Person A, who is committed to write code, states that they are going to do something. Person B doesn't like the approach. Until Person A cuts off the conversation, the thread is probably useful.

Here's what gets tedious:

  • Person A, who is not committed to write code, throws out an idea for the list to consider. This provokes much debate among Person B and Person C, neither of whom is interested in committing to the code. So, there's a long debate where Person B and Person C go back and forth, but no one is committed to write code or even document an idea. Nobody is clear on who the audience is.

Most of the arguments about why taking things off list don't work center on the wiki being a poor medium for debate. I suppose it might be, but the question in my mind is "why are we having a debate?" If someone can actually tell me why a debate is important, then I can get behind actually leaving debate open (on the mailing list) on that topic. However, the debates that I've seen lately don't seem to have that characteristic.

So, if directing discussions offlist isn't the answer, what is? Moderate the mailing list? -- Rob Linden 22:19, 26 March 2007 (PDT)

Tough call. As I said on the list, "If it's not interesting in the absence of immediate feedback, it's probably not worth spending time on... that's a sign you're involved in the discussion rather than the topic." On the other hand, a certain amount of noise on the list probably shouldn't be seen as automatically counterproductive (for example, one thing that I've found immensely useful in following lists and ignoring noise is to subscribe to the list as a digest). On the gripping hand it's the productive individual who gets to make that call as to what's counterproductive.

Partial answer, for people thinking of reading the list: subscribe to a digest, and simply skip digests completely that don't contain any subjects that interest you.

Partial answer for the list manager: can you chunk digests by subject, to make the above easier?

One project I started several years ago was a mailing list archive that dumped each message into a wiki. At the time there wasn't a lot of easily hackable wiki software that could be fed into, so it stalled out. The idea was that you could go in and turn a message into a wiki page, with wiki links between the message and thread and some clever way to add to the page with tags in the email. -- Argent Stonecutter 10:19, 27 March 2007 (PDT)

I agree it's a tough call. Part of the reason why I'm making this drive to increase list traffic quality is that I'd like to start heavily advocating more Linden Lab use. One precondition of that is that I have to be able to say, with a straight face, "yes, involvement in this mailing list is a good use of your time". Sure, the SLDev Traffic summaries are fantastic, but reading that is not the same as being involved with the mailing list. The guidelines I've chosen aren't too different than our own internal communication guidelines, so I believe they will foster the type of involvement I'm hoping for.
We can put the burden of wheat/chaff sorting on the reader, but given the size of the list, I think it's fair to ask a little more of writers. In exchange for getting a bigger audience, you have to be more considerate of that audience. -- Rob Linden 10:42, 27 March 2007 (PDT)
I don't understand how the wiki is supposed to fix that problem. There's absolutely no reason why the tedious exchange you describe above can't happen on the wiki. The only reason I think we're not seeing this sort of thing on the wiki yet is because you step in after it happens on the list, so it stays there. Eventually somebody will start one of those on the wiki. Dale Glass 12:43, 27 March 2007 (PDT)
It doesn't solve the problem entirely. It makes it so that the discussion is limited to only those that are interested in it. For example, I worried about sending the message above to the mailing list, because the meta discussion was already starting to take a toll on subscribers (net subscribers is back in negative territory after a positive weekend). I'm sure that more people would have read my message had I put it to the list, but it might have pushed more people to say "I really don't need this in my inbox". For you as an active developer, that may not matter to you, but as someone whose job responsibility is to expand this community, I consider it pretty serious when people start dropping out.
For wiki conversations, if they are really tedious or off-topic, one person can move or delete the conversation (though there's always a history of who did what). On the mailing list, it's up to the 380 individuals to deal with it. -- Rob Linden 14:31, 27 March 2007 (PDT)

FYI, I'm personally responding to people who post about these guideines on-list

I had asked that conversation about the new guidelines occur here, which, unfortunately has caused a discussion to break out on list. Please don't use the list, and please don't reply on-list to those people. I have been (and will continue to) personally reply to those people, rather than replying on list. The people who are interested and/or need to participate in this conversation are right here. I suspect that most people did not sign up for sldev to keep abreast of tedious mailing list policy questions, so please be courteous to those people. Thanks -- Rob Linden 11:22, 27 March 2007 (PDT)

Conversations that span years

One thing that people who don't have a lot of wiki experience may not understand about conversations on wikis is that, unlike mailing list conversations, they can span weeks, months or even years, as opposed to mailing list conversations that rarely live past a week or so of inactivity. For design discussions, this is a really important attribute. It helps us develop a better collective memory of what we've discussed and what we haven't, and makes it much quicker for people to come up to speed.

Because this benefit isn't immediately apparent, I really need to call this out. Please be patient. A few months from now, when everyone here is sick of the current topic, and when someone asks "has anyone considered using Berkeley DB for texture caches?", you'll be able to say "yes we did", and redirect the conversation to the wiki -- Rob Linden 11:28, 27 March 2007 (PDT)

What's the point of SLDev?

I've been following mailing lists and participating in open source projects for years. There are two hurdles to overcome with an open source project: building a community and maintaining a community. A mailing list keeps the conversation going. People get to recognize familiar names after a while. They intuit personas to tie to the names. They get to "know" each other. Anything you can do to foster community is good for the project. Anything you do to disperse the community is counterproductive.

I know you guys at LL are busy, but I imagine that once in a while you exchange conversations that are not directly related to the work you are currently assigned. Suppose you were told to take those conversations somewhere else or we'll have to have a moderator watch over you to make sure you keep on task.

You have the JIRA for cataloging bugs and requested features. You have the wiki for documentation. What do you see as the role for SLDev? Mm Alder 08:07, 28 March 2007 (PDT)

P.S. If you reply and ask me a question, I'll get back to you next time I drop by this page. Don't know when that will be.

With a very slight amount of flippancy, "I'll get back to you next time I drop by this page. Don't know when that will be." is exactly why a wiki-based conversation recording method works better than an email one: it is archived, linkable and searchable far easier than a threaded email one can be, and - as noted above - it has a far greater level of permanency and long-time-after refer-ability to the discussions. Even better, using Recent Changes and Your Watchlist mean that you can 'catch up' with all the changes made since you last checked in far easier than searching for which emails or forum threads have been updated (plus you don't get so much copy/re-copy of content with each post as it is directly visible above the newer responses.) But then I'm biased in favour of wikis given my position ;-P --Alison Wheels 15:33, 28 March 2007 (PDT)

OK, so I finally checked back, and the only answer I got is that the wiki can do it all. That is, there is no role for SLDev. I wonder if I'd get the same response if I asked on SLDev, but I won't because that would be metadiscussion there. :-) Mm Alder 16:51, 20 April 2007 (PDT)

It's for talking about development. Sorry if I wasn't clear before, but its also ok to raise a meta issue on the mailing list, but not very cool to let that conversation dominate the mailing list.
The guidelines are just guidelines. The idea of 5 posts for dev conversations before going to the wiki, and 1 post on a meta topic before going to wiki seemed reasonable to me, because that seems like roughly the right ratio. If a thread is going on for too long, it should go somewhere else.
While this isn't conventional among open source projects, I have yet to see entirely consistent norms, and I've seen lots of unsolved problems on other fora. I've seen mailing lists where there's no guidelines like this, but instead, the core members just get uncivil and snarky enough that people discussing meta-issues feel unwelcome. I'm trying to come up with a system that both maintains civility but keeps the signal-to-noise ratio high enough that most people interested in the topic feel i's a good use of their time to keep up. -- Rob Linden 23:51, 20 April 2007 (PDT)
Rob: "It's for talking about development."
Question: Up to now, non-developers and not-yet-developers playing around with the source and having problems compiling it (or getting it to run, once compiled) where redirected to the SLDev mailing list when they asked according questions on the fora, HelpRequest or other places. Where is now the appropriate place to ask such questions? Will we need a new, separate list or forum for those? (Suggestion: SL Forums > Resident Forums > Technical Talk > Source Client Users)
I myself am now having such a question, and - as it isn't actually development related - will hold it back until I get some feedback on this. --Boroondas Gupte 04:02, 21 April 2007 (PDT)
Compilation problems are in scope (trying to develop is "development" as far as I'm concerned). As long as you've put in a reasonable effort to find your answer in the appropriate places in the documentation, that's fine.
If there get to be too many help requests, we'll set up the forum like you suggest, but I'm worried that it won't get the attention necessary if it goes to a new forum. -- Rob Linden 10:30, 21 April 2007 (PDT)

Transcript from last Open Source Meeting/2007-08-23

We had a long conversation about this topic at the last office hour: Open Source Meeting/2007-08-23

Message labeling

Suggestion was made on the sldev mailing list to start labeling messages. This led to the creation of this issue in JIRA:

  • MISC-642 - Come up with list of subject line keywords for sldev mailng list

-- Rob Linden 11:08, 31 August 2007 (PDT)

"[SVC] questions about the service" Help desk service? Servicing hardware interrupts? Religious service? Could you be more specific? Have we had any of these discussions before? If so, could you indicate a thread? And "SVC" is still cryptic even if I knew what "service" meant. Mm Alder 09:39, 10 September 2007 (PDT)

Sorry for the confusion. Check out the new description and see if it makes more sense. -- Rob Linden 09:58, 10 September 2007 (PDT)

Ah! Good idea using the JIRA classifications! Mm Alder 11:59, 10 September 2007 (PDT)

TrackBack linking

Suggestion: When a discussion moves from one place to another (from one forum to another, from the wiki to jira, from the mailing list to a forum, etc) please do not only link forward (from the old to the new place) but also backward (from the new to the old place), so that the beginning of a discussion can be found easily any time later. -- Boroondas Gupte 05:23, 2 September 2007 (PDT)

Does taking things off list during discussions make sense?

So it says: "If a topic generates more than five replies in less than 24 hours, it's time to redirect that conversation to one of our other tools, either the wiki, the bug tracker, or a thread in the appropriate forum. ". Taking only the amount of messages generated is IMHO no good criteria to move it off-list. This just basically stops discussion (and as we see also does not really work). What should more likely happen is that results of discussions will be directed to the wiki, not the discussion itself. It probably is more a question of a healthy vs. unhealthy debate. The originator of that thread should then have the responsibility to record the outcome on the wiki or JIRA (can one actually put a changelist of a jira ticket into the wiki, would help to just need to look at one place).

In general using wikis or bugtrackers for discussion purposes is a bad idea, that's what mailing lists are for (and now I forgot again how to sign my posts here, another advantage of mailing lists esp. taking the speed into account I work with this instead of with the wiki or bugtracker).

TaoTakashi 04:48, 14 June 2008 (PDT)

Tao, I think you're right about healthy vs. unhealthy debate. Honestly, though, when that guideline is broken, 95% of the time, it's not a healthy debate. Furthermore, 99.99% of the time, the result of healthy debates fails to get documented on the wiki, JIRA, or any place other than the mailing list. A lot of energy gets spent chewing over an issue, only to have it pretty much disappear deep into a date indexed mail archive. The nice thing about wiki discussions is that they're good for both "cooling off" a debate, and getting something more durable written up. Unlike a mailing list, healthy wiki debates can span months if not years, just like this exchange. :)
I do think a better guideline can be written though. Often times, a single person will reply on the same thread more than five times, not to be bothered to even change the subject line if the conversation drifts. I'm hoping we can find some rule of thumb that gets people to direct more of their energy to places that make more of a difference than solely posting to sldev@. -- Rob Linden 22:28, 10 September 2008 (PDT)

Per person/thread limit on conversation?

This mailing list guideline is pretty roundly ignored these days: "If a topic generates more than five replies in less than 24 hours, it's time to redirect that conversation to one of our other tools, either the wiki, the bug tracker, or a thread in the appropriate forum."

I have to admit that I ignored it myself on a recent thread. It strikes many as too severe. However, it still seems like there's a good rule of thumb that can help keep conversations healthy. I'm going to propose this: "It's good form to redirect heated conversations to one of our other tools, either the wiki, the bug tracker, or a thread in the appropriate forum, rather than continuing them indefinitely on the mailing list." Additionally, I do think that asking everyone to curb their input on a particular thread to five messages is a reasonable personal per-thread limit. Thoughts? -- Rob Linden 02:17, 30 December 2008 (UTC)