This Is Not “American Idol”

» 29 November 2005 » In PHP, Rants »

The latest round of discussions on the php-internals mailing list highlights something that has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. As PHP became more and more popular, the number of people subscribed to the mailing list has grown as well, and lately this has resulted in a slew of interminable threads of will-crushing length. It seems that every time I open my mail reader, the counter next to “php-internals” blinks and jumps to over a 100. And roughly half, if not more, of the messages are, a) from people I have never heard about, and b) contain opinions, rants, and “votes” on fairly important issues, as in “I’m +2 on this namespace separator”.

A whole lot of these folks are under the impression that one can simply subscribe to the list, read discussions while lurking or semi-lurking, and start to vote on things that affect intimate parts of the language. That is… kind of gall-ish, if you ask me. I have lived in the United States for over 13 years, I pay all my taxes, I respect the law (except for occasional speeding), yet I still cannot vote in either federal or state elections. Whether it’s fair or not is debatable, but at least there is a vetting process in place that requires immigrants to fully adopt this country as their new home before being able to vote.

I appreciate the enthusiasm with which these people partake in the discussions, and I understand that they may have strong opinions on things that PHP does or does not do. However, in order to be taken seriously one has to have a certain amount of respect, experience, “karma” – call it what you will – and that has to be earned.

And how do you earn it? Through concrete participation, be it code contributions, documentation write-ups, bug triage, or just some good ideas that you design and promote in a respectful and polite manner. But to show up, issue forth proclamations on topics that you do not even necessarily understand, and assume that you can influence the course of development through sheer arrogance or grandiose rants is a misguided, if not brazen, attempt at “democracy”. And if your first email to the list ignores the customs and practices of the group, your subsequent ones are likely to be taken less than seriously. First impressions count, you know.

Why not just ignore posts like these, some would say? Because on average, the signal to noise ratio on php-internals is still pretty good, and there are occasional insightful posts from new people that I would like to read. But since they may be buried under an avalanche of superfluous messages, I have to take a deep breath and wade through until I find the worthy ones. And that takes time. Precious, precious time.

To sum up: make a difference, contribute something, think before you post, be polite, and try to consider that yours is not the only opinion out there, especially if you are new to the list.

Oh, if you are using a mail reader that screws up message threading, I will hunt you down and stuff you full of Perl internals until you look like a camel. I will go fucking ninja on you, and you will not see me coming.

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  1. andrei
    29/11/2005 at 9:32 pm Permalink

    A great post/point.

    There is certainly room for moderation on php-internals.

    Your blog is always a great read.

    Keep it up or the ninjas will get even you.

  2. andrei
    Jason Sweat
    29/11/2005 at 9:55 pm Permalink

    Fear Andrei, the PHP Ninja 🙂

    I don’t know if you remember, but after the PHP cruise you helped me diagnos a regex problem where there was actually a non-breaking space not being picked up by the \s in the regex. That was the inspiration for my “suggestion” of a namespace identifier.

    Hopefully delurking for a joke was somewhat of a respite in that thread.

    Keep up the great posts.


  3. andrei
    Paul Querna
    29/11/2005 at 10:56 pm Permalink

    Gee, your opinion sounds just like apache httpd is run….

    See the bits about ‘binding votes’, which require the person be voted in by their peers, before they can make binding votes…. anyways.

  4. andrei
    30/11/2005 at 12:03 am Permalink

    The problem is that there seems to be this wierd obession to reply as quickly as possible with half thought out ideas. Final decisions on php6 are not going to be made in the next 3 hours, so whats the rush? Think your ideas through a bit and then mail them off in a well structured manner. Heck maybe talk to some people you know and iron your ideas out a bit. Internals is such a huge forum that half thought out ideas tend to be interpreted as noise because the effort of getting to the actual good part of the idea in the slew of hundereds of half backed idea is just too big.

  5. andrei
    30/11/2005 at 7:20 am Permalink

    php would likely be well-served in formally adopting the apache voting model, especially if it included a way to cycle some new blood into the ‘php group’ to finally give some long-time contributors the recognition they deserve.

  6. andrei
    30/11/2005 at 2:31 pm Permalink

    Lukas, internals is not huge. It’s very, very small room. And the big brother is watching.. 🙂

    Jim, please propose that on internals. 🙂

  7. andrei
    Jared White
    30/11/2005 at 11:11 pm Permalink

    Good points. I got on the list recently and just posted a message requesting more research in the possibility of including named arguments in PHP6, but I tried to be nice and thoughtful about it. 🙂 That’s always important!

    Here’s an idea. Maybe there should be a separate list where “average folks” can discuss new feature ideas and such, and the core devs can pay minimal attention to it on a daily basis. Instead, when the average folks seem to come to a consensus about some particular new feature or some change in current functionality, it can be brought to the core internals list for a more serious discussion and/or vote by the project leaders. The problem I see is that it’s hard to find an official place to discuss the future innovations of PHP without getting mixed up with the nitty-gritty development stuff.

    Just a thought…

  8. andrei
    01/12/2005 at 8:42 pm Permalink

    <DaedZen> I’m not on any internals list… but I have a lot to talk about 😉
    <andrei> really
    <DaedZen> what is an internals list?
    <andrei> umm
    <andrei> nothing
    <DaedZen> list of pecl authors?
    <andrei> never mind

  9. andrei
    02/12/2005 at 2:57 pm Permalink

    Amen! Heinlein got it right! 😉

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