I joined the Fedora users/group mailing list (fedora-list) in April 2005, after being on Usenet since the late 1990’s. I somehow always assumed mailing lists were of much higher quality than the “anything goes” attitude of Usenet. Since then, I really haven’t asked too many questions. For the most part I try to only answer questions that others miss or when I think I have a better response than what is posted or to correct obvious technical errors. I try to avoid opinionated or philosophical discussions. Honestly I have learned quite a bit.
Recently the number of off topic ([OT]) issues and philosophy on the mailing list have become unbearable. A generally helpful user asked a seemingly simple question about Fedora and inadvertently opened the flood gates for discussions (arguments) on open source, free software, the GPL, developers, users and worse: the whole “Linux vs. GNU/Linux” naming argument! For over 2 weeks the misinformed, the overzealous, the trolls and potty-mouths have just been trying to get in the last word. I wish they would stop, even super hacker Alan Cox is sick of the “mountain of turd”.
Quite frankly I really don’t care whose uname string is longer (it’s a joke :-) ) Nor do I think the place for such arguments should stay on a mailing list generally for user related issues with Fedora. I seriously think that the people who keep insisting on such silliness are just exploiting the otherwise helpful users as their audience – i.e. a user support mailing list is not a soapbox!
And to the people who insist that a simple filter in your mail client could delete/ignore the threads, I say that’s not practical (and more importantly – not fair). One zealot keeps renaming and spawning a new thread every time he feels the subject warrants it. In my gmail, I counted at least 10 different threads in the past 4 days. And what about people who pay for bandwidth (e.g. India)? They are paying for pages of useless philosophy. And for people on dial-up access? Spend 5minutes opening your Inbox only to find you need to ignore 100 messages. Hmmm.
I do agree with a lot of principals from free software and I think it is based on good intentions, but, at the end of the day, people who feel they need to take it upon themselves to educate all users, well, they just need to know when to stop. There are people who simply do not care, and most likely never will!
So while I don’t think that I would switch to Ubuntu because of idiots on a mailing list, I do think I might stop using the list as it decays into something rather useless. Which is quite a shame, I used to learn a lot from it. I feel bad for newbies who are told (by people like me) that the mailing list is a good place to get help, only to be flooded with messages saying “don’t call it Linux”. … Hmmm. … Well I guess I could always be more active in the forums or go back to usenet. Or maybe just ignore it a little while longer and hope that some common sense will arise.
And as a final note: Was this worth a blog entry? Probably not, but I can think of much worse places to post such opinionated subject matter.