Proposal: Mailing List owner policy

Philippe Cloutier chealer at
Sun Jul 26 17:31:08 BST 2020

Hi Albert,
Thank you for bringing up this important issue.

Le 2020-07-22 à 18:31, Albert Astals Cid a écrit :
> Dear Community,
> One important part of mailing lists being healthy is owners/moderators[1].
> They moderate the lists, they help users that want to subscribe/unsubscribe but don't know how to, they enact emergency moderation in the very very seldom case that it is needed, etc.
> So to keep our mailing lists healthy we need to be sure to have healthy list owners.
> In plural, more than one, because from time to time, we go on vacation and the list duties still need taking care of.
> For that I'd like to enact this policy:
>      Mailing lists should have at least 2 active owners, ideally 3 [Obviously exceptions apply, like if we just started a mailing list to coordinate translators for a language that has no translation in KDE yet, we'd probably have no way to get 2 list owners]
> One keyword in that sentence is "active".
> Mailing list ownership/moderation un-activity is hard to detect.
> One way to potentially detect it, is by those summaries that sysadmin sends periodically for lists with lots of mails to moderate, but that doesn't cover all the cases.
> For example, it's possible that a mailing list has 2 owners and only one of them is inactive, since the other one is keeping the list in working condition we don't see it as a problem, but if that person goes on holiday, then it suddenly is.
> For that I'd like to enact this policy sub-point:
>      Mailing list owners will be contacted every year asking if they are still active and if they want to continue being list owner or if they'd prefer we find a substitute.
> If they say "please find a substitute" or fail to answer in a given time frame (I'd say a month is fair), they will be removed as owners and in case the "at least 2 active owners, ideally 3" policy is broken we'll find a new person.
> Does that sound something like we could agree on?
> Then the big question is "who will do this work?" Because it seems quite a bit of work (albeit only once a year). I would suggest the Community Working Group does this, as it's a way to keep our community healthy, but i understand it's quite some work, so i volunteer to do it if the CWG doesn't feel this is a task they want to take on.
> Things I'm missing?

An even bigger question, I'm afraid. When nobody steps up, what would we 
do? I wouldn't mind "moderating" this list today, for instance, since I 
found the time to read it. But I for one would not *commit* myself to 
moderate it or any other; I just don't have the required availability 
and if I had, I wouldn't guarantee I would remain available.

Basic moderation may require little effort and knowledge, but the volume 
can be important, and the fact that the task seems easy has a downside: 
it may not develop skill that much (or not those most look for in this 
project), it is little rewarding and may not contribute much to one's 
curriculum vitae. These factors unfortunately make it more difficult to 
secure reliable/good moderators in a volunteer context like KDE's.

Plus, like any regulation, such a policy could have unintended 
consequences. Perhaps this would put pressure on moderators, which would 
lower the quality of moderation, or put pressure to allow moderation by 
some insufficiently skilled.

> Improvement suggestions?

I don't have the ideal solution, but I suggest a (more) 
gradual/organic/decentralized perspective. For example, a forum's 
moderators could determine by themselves a time limit for moderation for 
their forum. If no one has evaluated a post in that time, the mail is 
relayed, but with a warning to that effect (allowing subscribers to 
filter it accordingly). As for the archives, the mail would display 
after that delay, but with a warning (which would disappear if it gets 

Even better, a subscriber could decide for himself how long to hold 
posts before relaying them to him unevaluated (correspondingly, those 
following through the web could set how long to hide posts before 
showing them).

Otherwise, a very down-to-earth solution could be to work on the reward 
issue, which could be alleviated simply by crediting moderators (which 
may also help those who do want to use moderation experience to boost 
their curriculum vitae).

This could also complement other work; if we detail credits (for example 
by specifying the number of processed messages and/or the latest date 
when each moderator processed a message for the last time), it gets 
easier to measure moderator activity.

It would be very helpful to have per-forum metrics too - average 
processing times, oldest post to process and the current/average number 
of messages requiring processing. Not only would that help decide if 
changes are needed, but it would reduce frustration too; often, waiting 
for messages to be processed is not as bad as not knowing how long it 
will take, if there are others in the same situation, and knowing that 
others may not even be aware of the problem.

Making systems more transparent tends to solve problems automatically - 
forum participants will detect issues fast and step up by themselves.

> Cheers,
>    Albert
> [1] yes, i know they are not the same, but since one is a subset of the other, let's pretend they are.
Philippe Cloutier

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