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Re: My responses to developers' responses

From: Graham Percival
Subject: Re: My responses to developers' responses
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2012 13:39:36 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

On Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 03:23:38PM +0200, address@hidden wrote:
> I agree.  I do not believe that saying "it's too hard" is a good
> solution.  I am more than willing to help people this way - I am
> officially naming myself as "New Contributor Czar" and will
> propose a patch in an hour that advertises this on the website.


> > The arguments are another problem that lessens the feeling of
> > teamwork.  We should be able to "agree to disagree" -- namely,
> I agree, but I have come to realize in the past year that
> politeness is more linked to someone's capacity to be polite
> than any inherently good or bad aspect of a patch (meaning that
> there is no such thing as a patch that merits more or less
> politeness, just people who are more or less polite by nature).

I agree that there's no such thing as a patch that merits more or
less politeness, but I disagree that politeness is linked to
someone's capacity to be polite.  There's all sorts of tricks one
can use to be more polite (particularly by email):
- after writing an email, wait at least 2 hours, then re-read it
  and look for any problems
- try to imagine how you would react if you received such an email
- if you really never take any emails personally, then just try to
  remember how other people reacted when receiving similar emails
  in the past.  Look for words or phrases that triggered big
  arguments in the past, and reword those sections.

Some people may be naturally polite (I can't make educated guesses
about this), while other people might need to "work" at being
polite.  In the latter case, the key is *wanting* to be polite, of
*wanting* to work together, of *wanting* to not drive away
existing developers.

The potentially-nice thing about email is that there's no voice
inflection or face images.  It's really easy to "act" in writing.
A good stage actor will spend hours practicing how to recite his
words in a certain way, how to adjust his body language to give a
certain impression, etc etc.  But in text?  all you need to do is
choose which words to string together.  Then re-read it and edit.
And if it's particularly important, send it to somebody else to
review before sending it to the general email list.  I've done
this, both as a writer and as a reviewer.

Many forms of modern communication (email, sms, social networking)
allow rapid replies.  In some cases that's desirable, but in other
cases, this leads to harm.  I'm fairly confident that if we
approached email messages the way that people approached letters
200 years ago, we could avoid some problems.

> I used to get hung up on this and hurt by certain comments, but
> I have since just come to say to myself "person X or Y is
> sometimes impolite", not as a value judgement, but simply to
> remind myself that this is how person X or Y communicates.

Notwithstanding all the above, I agree that there's a cultural
element to this.  Certain nationalities tend to favor blunt,
direct communication: "X is wrong", while others may tend to favor
indirect methods: "I wonder if you could possibly think about X

Adapting to other cultures can be awkward and a lot of work, but
it's not impossible.  Again, the key is to *want* to adapt, and if
necessary ask for extra help.

- Graham

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