mailing list culture

There is currently a big debate in progress in Debian. I am not going to mention any specifics because too much of it has already been blogged (maybe in the same syndication in which you read my blog).

I think that the way things are going is more an illustration of the failings of mailing list culture than of failings of Debian. Maybe another mechanism would be more productive in leading towards a solution.

One option that occurred to me is debate via wiki. If each side had a wiki page that they could modify then in a small amount of time we should get a set of two main consensus opinions which would each be explained clearly and summarised well. Then with two options clearly expressed the people who have less strong opinions could decide which option they favor. For this to be a quick solution honorable behaviour would be required from all people involved, if people start trying to sabotage the other group’s wiki entries then it would significantly increase the time taken to achieve things.

Another possibility that occurred to me is debate via blog. The quality of blog postings is expected to be a lot higher than that of mailing list discussions as all posts are tied to the author’s public image. Writing content-free messages on a mailing list is easy, but every blog entry needs to stand on it’s own to a certain extent and anyone who writes flames in most of their blog entries will probably find that the readers like it less than the readers of a typical mailing list.

Maybe when an issue is recognised as highly contentious a few people could blog about it and then form groups to develop wikis to promote their views. A debate might start out with five or more different competing views, some of them would merge until there were only two main opinions being pushed. Then once the two remaining groups had sorted out their positions a vote would be easier to arrange.

What do you think?

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