On the need for moderated questions lists

Giorgos Keramidas keramida at ceid.upatras.gr
Fri May 29 02:48:02 UTC 2009

On Thu, 28 May 2009 23:00:09 +0200 (CEST),
Wojciech Puchar <wojtek at wojtek.tensor.gdynia.pl> wrote:
>> Wojciech Puchar wrote:
>>> How about it? Only STRICT RULES keep things healthy and long lived.
>> I wonder what makes you think you have the right to decide for all?
> Why you think so? I don't mean myself as definer of that rules.
> FreeBSD owners should start moderation and define rules. What they do is
> their decision.
> It's just my opinion, time will show if i am right if they will not do
> this, and this list turn to <1% on topic.

The only problem with that sort of reasoning is that the FreeBSD mailing
list charters *have* been decided.

There is a reason why freebsd-questions is open to everyone, including
people who want to discuss things like ``How do I make my Windows boot
loader launch FreeBSD?''.  This way people who are not subscribed to the
mailing list can still post their question and receive _helpful_ answers
like ``Sure, add this line to your C:\BOOT.INI file and you are ready to
start using FreeBSD''.

My impression from hanging around this mailing list for several years
now (It's almost a decade now, geez! When did all that time pass?) is
that the openness and the all-around friendly character of ``If your
question is even marginally related to a small part of FreeBSD and we
can help, we'll do it'' is a valued and much-cherished attribute of the
list.  A lot of the people who hang around here like it this way, and
what you propose to do is such a radical change that it requires a *lot*
of up-front work if you really want to convince anyone.

You do have a point that there is a very thin line between ``being very
helpful to new people'' and ``talking about irrelevant systems all the
time'', but it is my impression that you have not provided convincing
arguments about the need for another moderated list or even the need for
more strict ``rules'' in this one.  The main argument for launching a
moderated list seems to be ``We have to do this or we are doomed to be
flooded with useless non-FreeBSD posts''.  This is very hard to prove,
however, without having actually seen it happen in this very same list,
so that's why you get a lot of resistance to the idea from old-time
mailing list posters.

One way to see if there is indeed a lot of off-topic traffic or if the
volume of off-topic posts has any sort of upwards trend is to:

  (a) Define *precisely* and in very clear terms what you consider on
      topic and what you consider off-topic.

  (b) Download the freebsd-questions archives from our public web site.
      They are openly shared with anyone interested to get them.

  (c) Go through the archives by year and/or month and keep statistics
      about things like: thread size, active posters per period, posts
      per period, off-topic/on-topic ratio of messages, and so on.

Then, with a verifiable, documented and repeatable way to repeat the
experiment, you can present graphs that stand a far better chance of
proving or disproving the hypothesis that ``the sky is falling if we
don't moderate freebsd-questions''.

This sort of approach would probably meet a lot less resistance, because
it is repeatable by anyone who wants to verify your results, and it is
based on the actual *data* of the mailing list itself, instead of a
hand-wavy interpretation of personal opinions like ``trust me, I've seen
this happen before''.

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