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The end of LWN comment dialog?

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 1, 2009 15:46 UTC (Wed) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026)
In reply to: The end of LWN comment dialog? by ncm
Parent article: That massive filesystem thread

The comment from ajross above was not some gentle plea for polite discourse. What he actually said included this: "No doubt you've already made yourself heard in the other flame wars on the subject." A more accurate summary would have been, "Be polite you jerk."

People get nasty in the comments here all the time. If there's something beautiful and fragile here it's already in a thousand jagged pieces. But people hector one another about being polite all the time too. That also wrecks the signal-to-noise ratio and solves nothing.


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The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 4, 2009 9:05 UTC (Sat) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

Hmmm. Just say whatever your brain produces, and if somebody has a problem
with what comes out, it's on their own plate.

Living in a country where that mode of thinking is the norm, I can tell
you it also has disadvantages... If only because the resulted hurt
feelings can muddy the discussion more than you might think. Besides, it
chases people away who would otherwise have contributed constructively -
it's not acceptable behavior in all cultures. Ever wondered why the FOSS
community is still predominantly western, despite many smart developers in
countries like India?

A little decency now and then doesn't hurt. I know people who, knowing how
blunt they can be, ask someone else to read certain emails before sending
them. After all, reality is that people DO have feelings.

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 5, 2009 3:34 UTC (Sun) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

Pardon me for saying so but you have not understood what I wrote. I did not urge anyone to "say whatever [their] brain produces" or anything equivalent. Nor did I issue a rallying cry against decency. Elevating the level of discourse would be a wonderful thing and if you've got an effective suggestion for how to do so I would be glad to read it.

But saying "be polite you jerk" merely drags things even further down into the muck.

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 5, 2009 12:43 UTC (Sun) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

I disagree on your argument that saying 'be polite you jerk' merely drags things down, for two reasons.

First of all, some people don't notice their behavior is unnecessarily impolite. Pointing it out can help them (if they are willing to be reasonable in the first place). Never pointing out somebodies failures will make them fail forever.

Second, it shows you care about being polite. If others show they care too, a culture of 'you should be polite' can be maintained. As you might have noticed from the differences between FOSS communities, culture is important and heavily influential. And it can be changed.

Some things to note:
- people DO care about what others think of them. No matter how much they scream 'no I don't', they do. It is our nature.
- people should know their arguments are not supported by being mean - it is the other way around.
- I agree that a 'be polite you yerk' might not always be the best way to correct someone. A personal mail can do more. However, it won't show up in public (unless an apology is made), thus it does not much to influence others who might think it is acceptable behavior because the guy got away with it. Of course, giving a good example is better than anything else.
- Of course discussing without end whether somebody was polite enough or not muddies the discussion and lowers the SNR.

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 5, 2009 15:42 UTC (Sun) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

Both of your arguments could reasonably be applied to a comment that says "please be polite" but both fail for "be polite you jerk." Someone who is accidentally rude is much more likely to respond to the "you jerk" part than the "be polite" part. The contradiction immediately destroys the credibility of the person posting because he or she is not willing to be held to the standard set for others.

A truly polite request for more courtesy might help but it's difficult to be sure because such things are quite rare. Giving in to the temptation to scold even just a little makes the comment worse than useless. Unless you are absolutely certain you can do it right it's better to focus on substantive issues and avoid appointing yourself a courtesy cop.

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 5, 2009 16:20 UTC (Sun) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

True, if you meant to point out that 'be polite YOU JERK' isn't very effective, I agree. I do however think that it's better than nothing. Nothing changes nothing.

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 5, 2009 16:27 UTC (Sun) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

It's better to change nothing than to make the situation worse.

The end of LWN comment dialog?

Posted Apr 5, 2009 17:11 UTC (Sun) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

Maybe. Probably for this one response. However, as I pointed out, there are wider repercussions to be expected from such behavior, and it is worth to show, as a community, that we disapprove of such ways of communicating. Even if that is done in a rather unfriendly manner.

On re-reading the thread, I think you are right in that ajross was more impolite than bojan, which often leads to a downward spiral and isn't helpful... bojan's post wasn't that far off from the normal tone on this site.

Anyway. This is went pretty far off-topic, and I think we mostly agree. For as far as we don't, we at least agree on that ;-)


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