Well, that was weird

I’m on a couple of mailing lists for pilots, but there is one that is one of the best and one of the worst. I believe I’ve ranted about it before, if not here then on my original Slashdot journal.

There is one particular guy on this list who is a real dickwad. His constant attacking me, mostly over politics, is the reason why I left the list for a year or so while I was grounded. He’s also been cited as a major reason for several other people, right wing and left wing, who have left. When I came back to the list, I was carefully avoiding saying anything political because I didn’t want to get into it with this dickwad again, but he soon started attacking me over everything, from the fact that I *dared* to express an opinion on what sort of headset I bought without stats and graphs to back it up (his post attacking had *his* opinion, without anything backing it up, but consistency isn’t his strong suit) to stuff he’d just made up out of whole cloth, like accusing me of having bad navigation skills because I’d gotten lost around New York’s Class B airspace (in fact I’ve never flown close to New York’s Class B, except as a passenger). I decided I wanted to stay on the list, so I procmail filtered this jerk out, and while I still see some of his crap in other people’s replies, I don’t see the stuff he addresses directly at me.

Anyway, this guy, Dan, attacked somebody else recently, a politically conservative farmer who actually was one of the people who asked me back to the list when I left. And so the farmer guy left the list in a huff, and Dan started defending himself as an innocent party, while several people were attacking him.

Suddenly, the guy who runs the list, Mike, piped up. He hardly ever says anything on the list, and truth be told he’s a bit stupid when it comes to running mailing lists. For the longest time, he was proud of the fact that he was personally reviewing every subscribe request and manually subscribing or unsubscribing people. He claimed he was doing this to prevent spam, even though in my 10+ years of running mailing lists I have NEVER seen a spammer attempt to subscribe to a mailing list. The way to keep spam off a mailing list is to make subscribers have to respond to a “confirm” email, and to only accept email from subscribed members, two things that every mailing list software I know of can handle just fine.

Oh, just to digress a bit, a couple of times over the years I tried to convince Mike to switch his mailing list over to Mailman, since it’s got lots of features. The first time, it was because his stupid insistence on using manual subscription had caused somebody with an email address close to the person who had actually requested it to get subscribed, and that person had responded to getting this mailing list mail that they hadn’t asked for by sending mail bombs to the list, causing an ever increasing amount of junk as they responded to getting their own mail bombs back with even bigger bombs. And Mike was out of town, so there was no way to unsubscribe this person. Needless to say, the list members were supportive of my idea to have list administration be done semi-automatically, and have TWO people empowered to do the manual stuff. Both times, Mike publically accused me of trying to steal his mailing list, so I stopped. I publically withdrew the offer, and told people who were still trying to get me to set up a mailman list that the offer was withdrawn and if they want a mailman list they’d have to get some other patsy to set it up.

Anyway, back to the present. Mike wades into the middle of this bickering and says “right, that’s it, the next person who makes a personal attack gets bounced from the list”. Finally, we think, he’s going to take action. But less than an hour later, he announces that he’s bounced Dan. But he quoted all of Dan’s email that touched it off, and there isn’t a single personal attack in it. If anything, it’s remarkably self-deprecating, considering who it’s coming from.

So now I’m torn. I’m happy to see Dan off the list, but I think Mike made a big mistake in bouncing Dan off on false pretences. If he’d waited a few hours, I’m sure Dan would have obliged with a real personal attack, and people like me wouldn’t have felt this tiny twinge of guilt that Dan was done wrong.

2 thoughts on “Well, that was weird”

  1. A sense of fair play is a terrible burden, Paul. People think you’re taking sides when you’re not, you have to criticise people you support when you feel they break the rules, and paradoxically your balance is constantly called into question – especially by yourself.

    This is of a piece with item 1 in this blog entry of yours (though the short answer there is “as ye sow…”)

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