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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