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Mailing list etiquette

I was about to send a message of my own on mailing list etiquette when
RPG's mail went by.  I endorse everything he says (in that message!),
and would like to add a few things.

As you all have seen by now, the volume of mail on this list is
tremendous.  A number of people, including some members of the technical
committee, are having trouble keeping up, and the task of catching up if
you're off the network for a couple of days is daunting.  Important
issues are being buried by less important ones.

I intend to slow down the pace a bit.  People are travelling in the
summer, and some have objected at the speed with which issues 1 - 4 went
by.  It was probably a mistake to introduce 10 new issues at once; I
forgot that there are NO easy issues in language design.  On the other
hand, we cannot slow things down too much.  A glance at the issues file
reveals that we've got something like 100 small issues to decide as of
now, with more to come, plus several very large ones like the error and
object-oriented facilities.  We have to keep moving at a fast pace or
this will take years.  Also, as things are going now, if I were to slow
down the pace, others would slip more issues of their own into the gaps.

If we are to make progress at a reasonable rate and not burn out a lot
of people whose inputs we need, we are going to have to slow up the pace
somewhat and work hard to make the discussions more coherent.  I'm
hoping that this can be accomplished by a certain amount of informal
pressure from the moderator (me).  If not, we'll have to consider more
radical measures, such as moving a lot of these discussions to another
list with fewer people on it.  Nobody likes that idea, so we'll avoid it
as long as possible.

Let me suggest some guidelines for this discussion.  If you don't like
these guidelines, reply to me privately; the last thing we need right
now is a discussion on this mailing list about the rules for discussions
on this mailing list.

1. Only the moderator (that's me) gets to introduce NEW issues for
discussion.  If you've got some issue or proposal that you think we
should discuss, send it to me.  I'll either send it on to the mailing
list, queue it on the issues list for later discussion, try to talk you
out of this idea, or work with you to debug the idea.  Anyone who sends
a random new proposal directly to Common Lisp will get flamed at by the
moderator.  Anyone who starts discussing an out-of-order proposal will
be flamed at as well.  If flaming doesn't work, we have other methods
for neutralizing repeat offenders.

2. I will from time to time remind people of what topics are currently
on the table.  Each proposal will have a number; messages relating to a
specific proposal should include that proposal's number in the header.
(I haven't been doing this consistently myself, but I will start.)
Issues that have not yet matured into proposals will be given some other
unique identifier such as "Scope of special declarations".

3. From time to time I will try to close off discussions that have
reached the point of diminishing returns.  Sometimes this will take the
form of sending the issues on to the technical committee.  Sometimes I
will declare that a proposal seems to be going nowhere and should be
dropped.  In the latter case, the proposer may demand that the full
technical committee rule on his decision, since I alone am not able to
make binding technical decisions.  In such cases, the issue will be sent
to the technical committee, along with my comments, for appropriate
action.  (As a one time exception, since some people were taken by
surprise, comments on issues 1 - 4 are still allowed up until the time
when the technical committee's decision is announced.)

4. It is legitimate to endorse proposals, argue against them, or propose
amendments.  If you're not sure whether an amendment is worth proposing
(for example, if you are not sure whether it is "too radical a change to
consider" I encourage you to send it to me or to some other person whose
judgement you respect to get a second opinion before you send this on to
the whole list.  At the least, this will help to insure that amendments
are not obviously absurd or ill-formed; we all have blind spots.  As
moderator, I reserve the right to rule certain amendments out of order
if I think that they are really totally new topics in disguise or if I
think that they will distract people from more important discussions
that are going on.  We'll come back to such amendments later, unless the
proposer agrees to withdraw them.

5. PLEASE try to keep your messages short and to the point.  As RPG
suggested, include only those parts of earlier messsages that are
necessary to establish context.  When replying to another message, the
person you are addressing should be in the TO field and Common Lisp in
the CC field; don't let a lot of other names accumulate in the CC's.
If a you've fallen behind in your mail reading, read through all the new
messages FIRST, then go back and respond if you must.  The most
irritating kind of message to get is one that jumps into the middle of
an old argument after the protagonists have reached a reasonable
conclusion (or the moderator has ruled the discussion out of order).

6. Always take the time to compose the clearest message you can, and
when you're done ask yourself once again whether sending the message is
really useful.  Becoming the #1 message generator will make you famous
in the lisp community, but it may not be the kind of fame you want.  As
moderator, I sometimes will need to respond quickly to keep the debate
from wandering off in useless directions; the rest of you don't have
that excuse.  Don't put too much into any one message, and don't try to
toss out more than one really clever idea per week; NOBODY has more than
one clever idea per week.

If we all try to follow these guidelines, we may be able to finish this
job in finite time.  It remains to be seen whether a task of this
complexity can be done by a group of this size, but it certainly cannot
be done if things go on as they have been.

Your servant (for as long as I can stand the pace),