Revitalizing the Urban Center of GNOME

>You have every right to ask for an off-topic discussion to go off
> but you have no right to recommend people not reply to him, and you have
> no right to say the way he wants to make a proposal is "useless". Its
> his time to use as he pleases.
> If he puts forth something that looks like "dogs breakfast", then you
> can dismiss it on more valid grounds than that you personally don't like
> his methodology. Some people work differently than you Jeff. You should
> find more constructive ways of deal with them then telling them to shove
> off.

Jeff was certainly curt, and perhaps should have been gentler in making
the point, but he's probably right too. In his judgment (and mine too,
fwiw) that thread was doomed to produce very little impact, a lot of

Something GNOME enthusiasts on this list often seem to forget is that
its *not* just their time. When you send a message to a mailing list,
you are asking for everyone to spend some time on it. When you start a
thread that will draw lots of replies, you are, unwittingly or not,
asking for everyone on the list (including hackers) to spend lots of

I define the GNOME enthusiast community as: those who are actively
involved with and interested in GNOME but have NOT contributed large
quantities of code, translation or documentation (there are several
exceptional cases, for example Jeff himself, but not a lot). We need
enthusiasts and should value them! It provides a source of excitement,
sociability, feedback on how we're doing in different areas, and
sometimes even new ideas. 

But right now, the lists have become driven by the enthusiast community
to the extent that hackers have gone into hiding. A good thread on
desktop-devel-list *should* be predominantly (75% or more, say, as a
totally arbitrary number) posts by core GNOME hackers related to that
area. Look at a thread now.... probably 90% of the posts are by
enthusiasts. That's taking "being in touch with the community" a little
too far to the point that its hard to get work done ;-)

For example, most of the people actually writing code that will be in
the next GNOME release have probably been actively deleting every
message to this theme thread! Its not because they don't care, its
because they don't want to take the time away from working on gnome to
wade through all the noise. And they shouldn't have to.

Compared to its peak as a lively discourse among the hackers doing core
contributions to the gnome codebase, desktop-devel-list is almost a dead
list in terms of "useful things accomplished". Part of the problem is a
*very* high noise level, and also very annoying persistent threads of
the bike shed variety.

Something people only relatively recently involved in GNOME (last couple
years) wonder is about the relative silence / non-responsiveness of core
hackers. It seems like desktop-devel-list, despite all the traffic, has
very few people who are getting something done (see usability gnome org
for an even worse example of this that is even more my fault). That the
lists we (core hackers) used to haunt have become a tangle of weeds is
one of the major factors driving this. 

As community leaders in GNOME, one of our jobs is to shepherd the lists
so they do not become exceedingly noisy (and scare away important hacker
to hacker traffic). But we have largely abdicated this responsibility in
the last couple years. markmc tried to fight the tide about a year ago,
but eventually gave up. Its hard *because* we're actually very nice
people, and thus none of us want to be the list nazi. But its also very
important to have this sort of pruning to be a healthy community.

We've been talking about this a lot lately in s33kret cabal discussions.
That we feel the need to have these private circles is part of the
problem! Nobody, even those of us involved in the cabal (and especially
not Jeff who is an outspoken supporter of openness and inclusion), want
this sort of private exclusionary construct.

So what's the point?

1) Desktop-devel-list, #gnome-hackers, etc have been drowned by a deluge
of well meaning (and healthy, when found in moderation) enthusiast
2) The loss of effective communication channels has had a major negative
impact on the amount and pace of GNOME development. Esp. development
across the whole desktop (as opposed to in-module development where
there's a relevant specialized list).
3) If the enthusiast community wants to help GNOME, they need to be
understanding as we try curtail (primarily socially, by asking people to
show restraint) how freely they post / chat on IRC about whatever comes
to their head. We *do* want community input, but with such a torrent, we
end up shutting our ears, not hearing any of it, not hearing eachother,
stop hacking, and gnome dies. 

I know it will be painful: some of you who are accustomed to posting a
few (or even more) times a day and that has to change. Please understand
this is for the health of GNOME: If you are quieter, hackers will be
louder. I am very apologetic we haven't been good at reinforcing this as
a community norm all along. Its always more painful to have to go
through a transition, esp. one in which your voice gets quieter, than to
integrate with an existing set of social norms. But do not fear, we WILL
hear the enthusiast community voice, in fact, we will hear it better
when we aren't stopping up our ears because its so loud. ;-)

No disrespect intended,


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