Declaration: This post is not directed at any one person in particular. It’s a general statement.

I’m a much newer contributor to Fedora than most people I know. I only began contributing to Fedora after Fedora 8 was released (when I signed up as a font package maintainer ). I had never been part of such a huge voluntary community that does excellent work before then (I turned 22 this year ).

Over the years, the number of mailing lists I try to follow has grown quite a bit. Now I have about 25 folders in my Evolution client dedicated to different Fedora mailing lists. I don’t go through all the mails, but pick and choose what threads seem like stuff I’d need to know. 25 mailing lists means a lot of discussion, a lot of people, a lot of points of view and a lot of different moods/tones in which people respond to queries/mails. This post is about the last one.

Fedora has a guideline which goes “be excellent to each other”. I’ve had to remind folks of this at multiple occasions now. It’s not a random guideline, it has reason behind it. I’ll enumerate a few:

  1. The mailing list has not been set up so you can vent out a bad day.
  2. If you need someone’s help, being rude to him/her is really not going to get you much in return.
  3. It’s contagious! Once a rude discussion begins, more and more people leave constructive work to jump in with their points of view!
  4. It gets nothing done. Ultimately, the thread ends with someone going, “let’s calm it down a bit, mate”. The actual purpose of the thread is forgotten because so much discussion over tones took place.
  5. It makes people who actually want to work ignore the thread. Even less chances of any work being done.
  6. When team mates, community members bicker amongst themselves, the entire community gets laughed at. You might not care, but some of us do.

What you should be doing when you reply to a mail:

  1. Understand what the thread is about. Replying without anything constructive is a waste of resources. Longer threads get less work done.
  2. If you’re angry, go take a walk. Calm down. Think it through. Even if someone’s been rude to you, a stern reply won’t change anything. In fact, you’ll end up privately mailing each other, wasting each other’s valuable time.
  3. Learn to ignore personal comments. All of us are mature enough to filter out the personal remarks and harsh tones and only pick up the important portions of an email. If an email is only personal remarks and tones, delete it.
  4. Re-read your email twice before you send it. Is it too aggressive? Is it just too much useless talk? Is there an unnecessary personal comment?

The bottom line here is that decorum should be maintained over a mailing list. We are all friends, but tones and feelings need other channels of exchange, a mailing list is not one.