Abuse. Intimidation. And support. You can find all that and more on the Ubuntu Users mailing list. An official support channel, the mailing list is where new users are directed by Canonical for technical support and discussions about new features and ideas. But there are some key problems with the mailing list.

In the past few months, I believe there have been unacceptable comments posted -- directed at peoples' race, gender, sexual orientation and nationality. There's no moderation and no consequences to stop people from repeating their offenses.

Mailing List Etiquette

Users are asked to comply with the mailing list etiquette of:
  • Observe the Ubuntu code of conduct
  • Before writing an email, consider whether it will further a discussion which is relevant for the particular mailing list
One thing is for sure: A lot of emails sent to the list that do not further a relevant discussion.

There are also guidelines for formatting messages such as trimming quotations, not writing a reply at the top your message (so called 'top posting') and sending messages to the list in plain text.

It's very easy to forget these guidelines when posting to the list; I've top posted and sent html email to the list unintentionally on occasion. Hopefully I didn't offend anyone too much. I like to think that the technical content of my contributions negate any ill feeling over the occasional slip up with etiquette.

Code of Conduct

Still, some recent comments posted to the list have been well out of bounds of the Ubuntu code of conduct. According to the Ubuntu website the code of conduct governs all interaction with the Ubuntu community. Fundamental aspects include:
  • Be considerate
  • Be respectful
  • Be collaborative
  • When you disagree, consult others
  • When you are unsure, ask for help
  • Step down considerately
  • Avoid flamewars, trolling, personal attacks, and repetitive arguments
Users are only asked to read through the code of conduct, and bear it in mind when posting. But nobody enforces the code of conduct.

An Ubuntu MOTU (Master of the Universe) recently stepped in to remind list members of the code of conduct and list etiquette. But the MOTU conceded that the persons currently running the list do not have ample resources to actively monitor every single post.

After considerable discussion with administrators, a governance team consisting of participating list members needed to be put in place. This lead to a discussion thread that lasted three weeks -- but the effort seems to have all but fizzled out with no decisions being made and no requirements for the governance team agreed upon.

Still No Solution

Clearly this proves the point that list members are not capable of agreeing upon a workable solution and are not capable of self governance without the oversight of someone with authority for the list (a list owner or admin). A governance team with authority to warn and ultimately even ban persistent offenders is necessary.

It's time for the Ubuntu community and Canonical to come up with a solution to the list abuse. Many websites archive the mailing list for future reference. The result: Past comments may haunt Ubuntu users for years to come.

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