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Proposal_talk: Suspending the private mailing list

Revision as of 07:09, 1 December 2012 by Lankiveil (talk | contribs) (→‎My thoughts: formatting)


Looks good to me. There are arguments both ways on whether we need a private mailing list, and this is a reasonable process for resolving it. --Chris Watkins 16:13, 1 December 2012 (EST)

Will you second this proposal, by putting your name in the template at the top? John Vandenberg 16:37, 1 December 2012 (EST)

My thoughts

Thanks John for proposing this. I feel very strongly that the behaviour of some people on the private mailing list during the recent election process was disgraceful and embarrassing for the chapter. I think that having a “private” mailing list, which allows people to hide their poor behaviour behind a cloak of ‘privacy’ is not productive to the movement in the long term, and flies in the face of the values of transparency and accountability that the chapter should be fostering. The present situation is unsatisfactory, and it must change.

There have been a few comments made on the private mailing list which I’d like to address here:

  • There are some legitimate comments that should remain private, as they may be taken out of context. This has a core of truth to it, but the existing “private” mailing list isn’t really that private to begin with. Anyone with twenty quid (or a concession card and a tenner) can become a member, get subscribed, and then do what they want with the messages on the list. Any expectation of actual privacy on a mailing list with more than ten people, or where you do not personally know each and every subscriber, is rather fanciful in my experience. We shouldn’t be providing a forum that people think is “private” where it’s actually not private and can’t be made private.
  • Some of the comments in recent weeks are not the sort of thing we want made in public. Again, I agree with this. I’d anticipate that moving discussion to a venue where the comments are visible to the public and eternally preserved for posterity would make people think twice before sending heated or careless comments through.
  • Having a members-only mailing list provides an incentive for people to join the chapter. In my experience, this is not the place. I don’t imagine anyone (except for leakers) has signed up for the purpose of getting access to our internal squabbling. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here =)
  • Removing a private mailing list will just mean that the squabbling goes underground to other private venues. Perhaps this will happen, but I can’t imagine how this would be worse than the current situation where a few hotheads can air dirty laundry in front of the whole membership.
  • The loss of privacy will mean people won’t feel comfortable making frank and honest feedback about the committee or the chapter’s partners. In my experience, our members have never been shy about being frank and honest, whatever the circumstances =).

One of the proposals being made has been to shift discussion onto the public chapter wiki. This has some merit; everything is done out and in the open, and with good organisation it’s easy to follow just the discussions you’re interested in and ignore those you aren’t. Personally, I find that while wikis are excellent tools for collaboratively developing content, they’re badly suited to hosting discussion and debate. Insisting everything take place on-wiki might create a barrier to those who are more comfortable engaging in discussion via an email mailing list.

The other alternative that has been proposed is to move discussion to the public wikimediaau-l mailing list. This list is already public, and anyone may subscribe or view its archives. However, this list is maintained by the WMF, not by the chapter. The chapter would not have any ability to sanction misconduct or take action to remove problematic content from the archive. My understanding is that the WMF intends it to be a list for people in Australia interested in Wikimedia, not a chapter list per se, and the existing community there might be a bit put out if a whole load of chapter business suddenly appears there.

Hope this provides everyone with some food for thought. Lankiveil 17:58, 1 December 2012 (EST).