{June 25, 2008}   re: stop energy

so, ervin blogged about about “stop energy” and the poisonous people that we’ve been failing to deal with.

“The story started several weeks ago (probably even months ago) ” – ervin, it’s been going on a lot longer than that. ever since I started trying to get involved in plasma last year, I’ve watched aaron deal with these people over, and over, and over… his patience with them amazes me. I probably would’ve snapped pretty fast if I was getting that amount of negative energy thrown at me on a daily basis. This has been coming for a while, and none of us seems to have done much about it.

The fact that he’s both the president of the KDE e.V (which is mostly just an organisation that deals with KDE’s paperwork!) and project leader for plasma (which far too many people seem to equate with all of KDE) puts him in an uncomfortably public place. many people seem to be treating him… almost like a celebrity. it’s creepy. it’s not a healthy way for a community to behave. it makes me somewhat nervous about my own involvement in KDE; I’d hate to end up in a position like that. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’d love to be able to get more involved in the KDE community in future, and do useful things beyond just writing code… but not if it’ll mess with my life like that.

So… what can we do about this? I’m glad ervin made some suggestions, because I know fuck all about dealing with things like this. Properly moderating the dot seems like a very good place to start; I think of it as the cesspool of the community. :P
I think it might also be good to have a place to send people when we tell them “this discussion has been done to death, please stop talking unless you’re sure you have something new to add.” (because how can they know whether they’ve got something worth saying until they’ve read the old discussions?) – but that’s one of those things that requires manpower, and I’m currently behind schedule on my soc project.

Another thing I’ve noticed; when aaron is patient and tries to reply to these trolls, people wonder why he doesn’t just ignore them. when he tries to put an end to conversations, he gets called names like “dictator”. what’s anyone supposed to do in a situation like that? as a community, just what the heck do we expect from people?

Of course we don’t want to ignore users entirely. Of course we don’t want an environment where certain people are Always Right and nobody can voice dissent. but I think we’ve gone too far in the other direction. we’ve become so tolerant of people voicing their opinions and arguing about things that we’re unable to say Enough is Enough. There has to be a balance somewhere, where users can still be heard but developers can still get on with things instead of constantly justifying and re-explaining every little thing they do.

I hope we can work towards finding that balance, before more harm is done.

Thomas R. says:

Good post, I pretty much agree with you.
I think in Aarons’s position it would have been best if he had put a “Plasma FAQ” somewhere on the web, even on, I don’t know. He has been insanely patient with obviously rude people on the dot and on his blog comments. I think such a FAQ would help other people, too, if they see someone blindly complain about plasma stuff.
Of course this does not solve the overall troll problem, but some kind of “KDE kode of konduct” :p would certainly help plus a slashdot-like moderation tool.

BartOtten says:

I habe managed a community that counted about 18.000 people. Not far as many as KDE. It’s ture what you say about having to reply cause “when he tries to put an end to conversations, he gets called names like “dictator”. what’s anyone supposed to do in a situation like that?”

I know that by person and it’s very difficult. I guess the best is if Aaron could ‘leave the topic to others’. As you say: good moderation.

I have warm feelings to close hate-topics by postingscreenshots of KDE 3.0 and 3.5 next to each other. Maybe people will realize we are on a trip that last longer then the next 5 month.

Sometimes leaders *knack* like Aaron did. It’s normal and should be solved by other people then the one that have to defend themself. See it as bodyguards of VIP’s :P

Me says:

@Thomas R.: “KDE kode of konduct”… KKK?!. Guess you’ll have to come with a better name :).

@Thomas R: There *is* one FAQ on the web:

Sadly I haven’t got much time to properly update it, but such a thing exists. It only needs more publicity.

James Spencer says:

Fist, let me start this by saying:

1. Aaron is a deeply, deeply, talented software developer and he has assembled a great team.
2. Plasma, in general, is and will be a giant leap forward for KDE.
3. Aaron is at his best when he is standing forward painting in broad strokes. (This is likely the root of the Aaron as celebrity phenomenon.)
4. I am a long time user, and I rather like KDE 4, and am twittering in anticipation for the future and the rest of the big apps to get released.
5. I was more than willing to accept feature regressions, vendor bugs, 4.0.0 bugs, and the porting status of many apps.
6. There certainly are trolls, and poisons people. People who show up just to stir the pot, flame, and naysayers.

Now, with that being said:

1. Otherwise reasonable people may disagree. (And given the visibility of Plasma it will draw lots of eyes)
2. Disagreement may indicate lack of understanding, but at a certain point it simply moves to the point of a fundamental intractable disagreement.
3. Many of those who disagree will gladly embrace the above 4 points.
4. Many of those who disagree are firmly behind the notion of “clean interfaces” with “sane defaults”.
5. Many of those who disagree are equally firm in the idea that maintainers, visionaries, experts, and artists should get fist say on the above interfaces and defaults, while accommodating reasonable alternatives.
6. Many of those who disagree think that the the apps that have shipped with KDE 4 have done a good job of doing this.

The primary source of dissent is in labeling all those who disagree about discrete seeming thins as ‘Trolls’, ‘Incapable of understanding’, that we are ‘regressive’, and implying that many of us are somehow ‘counter visionary’. This angers otherwise reasonable people who simply disagree over discrete details or meta issues. God knows, just following some discussions has angered me, and I’m not normally that angry of a guy. The apparent lack of any real recourse exacerbates this. Simply writing people like me off might not be the solution– especially with the great examples provided in other areas of KDE.

James Spencer says:

At my Op- Oops: “above 4 points” should be “above 6 points”.

Velvet Elvis says:

A lot of KDE users are former Gnome users who got driven away by the extreme UI dogmatism surrounding the 2.0 redesign. I think a lot of the community anxiety comes from the feeling that we’ve been down this path before and didn’t like where it went. The anger directed at Aaron and KDE 4 is thus fueled by residual annoyance with Havoc Pennington et al.

If you read Penington’s blog entry from 6-11, it seems he learned his lesson btw.

GNOME 2.0 and KDE 4 are bad models for change. They rewrote and broke the code, but from a user-goals perspective, they are the same thing as before. We shouldn’t feel bad; Windows Vista made the same mistake. Nobody cares about Vista, because XP allows users to accomplish all the same goals. Even if Vista didn’t have a bunch of regressions, nobody would really care about it.

The fact is that people already have a desktop. They don’t want a new desktop from GNOME, from Apple, or from Microsoft. Making another desktop does not add anything to the world. On average, people who have GNOME want to keep it, and the same for the other desktops.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of people who really like KDE 3.5.x but Do Not Want KDE 4. There is nothing you KDE devs can do about that now. Grin and bear it. This is just the beginning. The criticism is going to get worse before it gets better.

I’m keeping an open mind for KDE 4, but doubt it will be my fulltime desktop for at least another year.

Chani says:

@James: you raise a good point, although I wouldn’t call it the “primary source of dissent”. I certainly don’t want to call all dissenters trolls. some of them provide useful discussion. some of them provide counterproductive discussion but really mean well, and I wouldn’t count them as outright trolls, although they still need to be handled better somehow.
“The apparent lack of any real recourse” is something we need to fix, too.

@Velvet: that “people already have a desktop” post was already addressed on aaron’s blog… which I guess I can’t link to now. huh. maybe google’s cache has a copy of it.
as for “Grin and bear it”, the point of all this is that we *can’t* do that any more. it’s just too much.

Dave Null says:

@James Spencer — well said.

@James: (this is not a rant against you. You are not what I am describing.)

Well. I do not label people that have a somewhat nice way to put forward their criticism. The trolls are the ones that, opposed to you, do not have an open mind and really has no understanding that there might be a bigger picture. The criticism must always be constructive. When it is no longer constructive it is no longer feedback worth listening to.

Noone has the right to command any of the kde devs, yet some people think that they are in a position where they can do that. Instead of just saying: “XYZ sucks balls – fix it” you simply ask about it in a nice fashion. That is common sense. If you do not like it, give it a try – it is not implented without thought. If you still do not like it – find out why you don’t and suggest to a dev how it could be made better. If they say no – accept it.

People seem to lose all their sensibility and become the worst narcissists in the world when let loose on the internet – and that is what pisses me off the most with open source.

Stefano says:

I’m a KDE3 user, and I’m compiling KDE4 svn since a long time (1 year?), and IMVVHO, the KDE failed in just one thing (that was debated at the end of the year already): they put out there something that was simply not usable. Like children often do, people just did what you say “don’t do that” and installed it and started to rant about it and maybe spread FUD. I think someone foresighted this at that time.

Still now, when 4.1 is at the door things are not complete yet. I’m not ranting myself, but people can’t see no obvious improvement in 3->4 switch, simply because they’re not that evident, beside GUI redesign; think about some real great new things, like nepomuk: still under the hood and not ready until supposedly 4.2. And count all those apps – digikam, amarok to quote two – that are not in sync with KDE, I know, but at the moment totally absent. And they are substantial for many users.

High expectations were set during all past year, and now people begin to pose questions, because they see some “normal” things are not working anymore (a stupid thing, autoshrink panels, or the ability of media manager to rename devices).

About rudeness, I just think that any rudeness should be simply kicked as it was/is kicked out in newsgroups; you’re all great developers, you have to listen to user needs, but you don’t need to even take in consideration stupid/rude reports.

But keep in mind that KDE is so widely spread, and that 3.5 set a very high level for desktops, it’s followed by a huge amount of people. Criticisms are louder than congratulations, and rude people is even louder, but that shouldn’t shake you that much. After all, all those “You’re doing a great job, keep on” are rewarding, but not that construcive, are they?

Moderate, that’s fine, ban and kick rude people, delete offending posts, that’s sane and “normal” in real world. But realize that real world is full of insane people and you won’t reach anything by reacting to bad habits with good manners.

Velvet Elvis says:

@Chani Short of cutting out all communication channels between developers and users, I’m not sure you have any other choice. Retreating to private mailing lists and closing off blog comments just makes you look aloof and builds resentment.

You could direct some of the anger directed at yourselfs by bolstering your user support community. Here’s a couple interesting articles:

The writer of those was herself driven from the web trolls, btw. Ironic. All her stuff is worth reading.


Thomas Fjellstrom says:

[quote]I think someone foresighted this at that time.[/quote]It was thought about a lot, do they release as soon as kdelibs is ready and kdebase is ported? Or do they wait till its “ready”? But what really is “ready”? 3.0 equivalent? 3.5.9 equivalent? They could wait forever, and never get there, because noone would ever use it till its released, and thus things would never get the testing and use it needs to smooth out all the rough parts.

Stefano says:

@Thomas: I do remember the discussion very well, and perfectly know who 4.0 was targetted at. But fact is that since 4.0 was out, users began to install it and “judge it” nevertheless. Developers’ intentions were obviuosly on the right side, but you can’t control people behaviour: opensource is fine right because you can download and install it yourself.

A program /release/ is “Ready” when it reasonably works and doesn’t loose functionality compared to previous releases. You can’t do nothing about it, people using 3.5 will expect at least the same functionality from 4, before “calming down”. People who haven’t followed KDE growing in this year can’t have a clue about the big pictures, and they roughly “judge” from what they see.

Fri13 says:

This “Freedom to speak” as on democratic, is actually the problem.

When someone gives “You have rights to speak” -permission, many people things that they have rights to comment everything or that others expect a opinion from them so they need to say it.

I could just ignore this post too and use my rights to be silent. It’s just so easy to express yourself with comment. Especially when the other person is not front of you on face-to-face conversation.

I believe that best way to deal with trolls, is to just ignore them. It does not matter what troll things about you, but what other’s thinks how you deal trolls.

Every troll eventually tiers trolling forums if no one answer to them. And it really means, NO ONE. If someone answer to that person, troll gets just more food to live.

And we should always check the names who has posted the message and thing, is he kind a person who would respect what you say?

I like these comment possibilities, where I can just type nickname, email and then comment. And I especially hate those what needs that I login first to somekind journal list etc. I would never comment few blogs if I would not have already blogger account, I dont have account for wordpress so I wouldn’t write this if it would need it. But I’m sure that if there is lots of good posts on that system, I would definetly make one.

This is one reason why I like the old news-server. I can add persons to ignore list and I can rate people so when new subject comes, it calculate the ratings for the conversation. Based by who writes there, how many posts etc.

I just dont like these html blog/forum types because it’s harder to follow conversations, almost impossible to control it on own end etc.

I hope and would place own news-server. If I’m correct, there are software what can move posts from PHPBB News-server so those who cant use news-servers, can follow things on the HTML browser.

Thomas R. says:

Yeah I agree with you. But there’s one point: Where do people get to use KDE4? Yeah, mostly on “kde four live” or even “kde4daily”, and if they use Fedora 9, maybe there. But those trolls mostly tested a live cd. KDE 4 isn’t in their distro by default (though opensuse 11.0 has it now, but heavily modified I heard).
I’m a Fedora 9 (where I use KDE 4.0.5) user and I live with those glitches because I couldn’t wait. But I’m sure all those trolls just used a live cd for 5 minutes or even worse, read Aarons blog, don’t get it and just grouch on his blog or on the dot or on whatever the heck before even using it. KDE4 is not in their distro, they don’t use it. That’s my point.
I understand their “fears”. But there is the possibility to ask politely that you don’t catch a specific decision made in plasma development. I’m sure Aaron would have took the time and responded. And there’s always a reason for a decision.
I personally don’t savvy every change about plasma, but in my opinion Aaron explained everything as best as he could and I just wait for 4.1, because that’s what’ll be in all distros.

Stefano says:

If we are talking about people rudeness/unpoliteness/IT stupidity, sorry folks but there’s nothing to do about it: you can’t think about “educating” people’s behaviour. That’s not about KDE or opensource, nor even about computers: I deal with similar situations everyday in my job, and plenty of people do. But I can’t hammer people’s head.

I strongly second the newsgroup idea of Fri13, but maybe I’m and “old” fashioned: there you have the ability of control/ban undesired behaviours; discussions can be easily followed and info are not spread about tens of blogs/dots/whatever.

Chani says:

“there’s nothing to do about it: you can’t think about “educating” people’s behaviour.”

I disagree. people can change their behaviour. they don’t like to, and it can be really really hard to make it happen, but it does happen.

people used to think it was okay to treat blacks and women and homosexuals as less than human. obviously things have changed since then; most people believe in equality these days. the people who made those changes happen were probably told that that was the way things would always be, and they shouldn’t bother trying to change things. good thing they didn’t listen. :)

I’m not saying that we can stop all people from being assholes on the internet, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never make our corner of it a little better. it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Stefano says:

Chani, yes people change within AGES :) But there’s one thing we shouldn’t underestimate: while developers are innovative, users tend to be much more conservative. I’m a developer myself, and every time I change something to the user base, using newer technologies, making things better or easier, there’s always a number that will complain saying that it was better before.

If you, when upgrading your software, are missing functionality match – whatever good reason you have, and KDE did have good reasons to do that – be prepared to rants.

KDE 4.1 won’t match KDE3 level of functionality, or better usability. Maybe 4.2 will, maybe not. But until KDE4 won’t have reached them, you can’t hope to have your userbase satisfied. And you’ll have to cope with different spectrum of reactions, from kind to ill-brained.

That’s a sad part of being a developer :)

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