Howto: Civility on a Mailing List

Update: If you found this page while looking for more information on the DCPHP Beverage Subgroup, you should check out their Meetup Page for detailed meeting information. While I loved the group, I have moved to Austin, TX and am working with the Austin PHP group. DCPHP guys.. I wish you the best. 🙂

While I am not the President or even have any official role in the DCPHP Developers' Group, I am one of the moderators on the mailing list. The list itself has really been alive and active as a place for discussions – as opposed to just announcements – for about 18 months.

It started off small with probably a half dozen people doing most of the talking. As other people realized that they could help others and had questions to ask, the traffic and number of voices grew. But about a year ago that I noticed something dangerous…

A few people had set themselves up as notoriously difficult to deal with or particularly clueless. Unfortunately, the tone of the list started to change. Instead of being the bright, intelligent people that some of us are known for being, the remarks started to get harsh and once in a while downright disrespectful.

Initially, I didn't know what to do, until I looked around at other forums I participate in. I found the solution and it was amazingly simple. Get people together in a less organized situation and just hang out and talk over beers.

My belief was – and continues to be – that it's hard to be a jerk to someone that you're going to have drinks with in a couple weeks… it makes a person touch and I think has been one of the things to pull some of the local DCPHP'ers closer together.

So during my daily browsing of the tubes this morning, it was good to see Paul Graham's* note the same thing in one of his latest and greatest titled “Trolls“:

I think trolling in the broader sense has four causes. The most important is distance. People will say things in anonymous forums that they'd never dare say to someone's face, just as they'll do things in cars that they'd never do as pedestrians—like tailgate people, or honk at them, or cut them off.

And while I've been remiss in organizing these over the past few months, I hope to fire them back up for March. There's no reason the Social Media crew and the PR-types should have all the fun… after all, they need some of us in the community just as much as we need some of them. 😉