I’ve just read the Wikipedia page about Unparliamentary Language . I recommend that everyone read it, if only for the amusement value, among other things it links to incidents where elected representatives acted in a way that would be expected of primary school children. The general concept of having rules about Unparliamentary Language is that MPs are permitted to say anything in Parliament without the risk of being sued or prosecuted, but certain things are inappropriate – the most common example is directly accusing another MP of lying. One of the main aims of rules against Unparliamentary Language is to prevent attacks on the honor of another member.
Having just witnessed a mailing list discussion go widely off track when a free software project was denigrated, it seems to me that we could do with some similar guidelines for mailing list discussions. The aim would be not to just prevent excessive attacks on the honor of other members but to also protect the honor of the free software projects. So for example one might recommend not using a particular program because of design decisions which seem dubious or a bad security history, but saying “it’s crap” would be considered to be inappropriate. Not that rejecting a program based on design decisions or a history of security flaws would be uncontroversial, but at least that gives objective issues to discuss so if there is a debate it will educate some of the lurkers.
Note that I’m not claiming to be better than other people in this regard, I’ve described software as crap on more than a few occasions. But I will try to avoid such things in future.
Finally does anyone have a good suggestion for a Free Software equivalent to the term “Unparliamentary Language”? It seems that to a large extent the support of certain ideas depends on having a catchy name and I can’t think of one.