Long mailing list discussions

I’m very happy that the ubuntu-community-team mailing list is seeing lots of discussion right now. It shows how many people deeply care about the direction of Ubuntu’s community and have ideas for how to improve things.

Looking back through the discussion of the last weeks, I can’t help but notice a few issues we are running into – issues all to common on open source project mailing lists.¬†Maybe you all have some ideas on how we could improve the discussion?

  • Bikeshedding
    The term bikeshedding has a negative connotation, but it’s a very natural phenomenon. Rouven, a good friend of mine, recently pointed out that the recent proposal to change the statutes of the association behind our coworking space (which took a long time to put together) received no comments on the internal mailing list, whereas a change of the coffee brand seemed to invite comments from everyone.
    It is¬†quite natural for this to happen. In a bigger proposal it’s natural for us to comment on anything that is tangible. Discussions in our community of more technical people you will often see discussions about which technology to use, rather than an answer which tries to comment on all aspects.
  • Idea overload
    Being a creative community can sometimes be a bit of a curse. You end up with different proposals plus additional ideas and nobody or few to actually implement them.
  • Huge proposals
    Sometimes you see a mail on a list which lists a huge load of different things. Without somebody who tracks where the discussion is going, summing things up, making lists of work items, etc. it will be very hard to convert a discussion into an actual project.
  • Derailing the conversation
    You’ve all seen this happen: you start the conversation with a specific problem or proposal and end up discussing something entirely different.

All of the above are nothing new, but in a part of our project where discussions tend to be quite general and where we have contributors from many different parts of the community some of the above are even more true.

Personally I feel that all of the above are fine problems to have. We are creative and we have ideas on how to improve things – that’s great. In my mind I always treated the ubuntu-community-team mailing list as a place to kick around ideas, to chat and to hang out and see what others are doing.

As I care a lot about our community and I’d still like to figure out how we can avoid the risk of some of the better ideas falling through the cracks. What do you think would help?

Maybe a meeting, maybe every two weeks to pick up some of the recent discussion and see together as a group if we can convert some of the discussion into something which actually flies?