Pisthetaerus. I want a town where the father of a handsome lad will
stop in the street and say to me reproachfully as if
I had failed him, "Ah, is this well done Stibonides!
You met my son coming from bath after the gymnasium
and you neither spoke to him, nor embraced him, nor
took him with you, nor even once twitched his parts.
Would anyone call you an old friend of mine?"
-- Aristophanes, "The Birds" (414BCE)
-- It's 30 degrees out there. You're going out dressed like that?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please step back, take a deep breath and avoid posting to this thread
for 24 hours.
For those of you not already 'in the know' humor is not universal.
It normally fails at language and cultural boundaries.
For that reason alone, it should normally be avoided in international
forums such as are provided by Gentoo.
(NeddySeagoon on behalf of gentoo-proctors)
So, what's going on here? In (A), we see that what passed for expected
behavio(u)r 2500 years ago will get the practitioner thrown in prison today.
In (B), yes, it's unpleasant out, and you are not dressed for it. But is it
hot, or is it cold? The general principle in (C) ties these together.
That's all intellectually interesting, but what does it have to do with
Gentoo? Gentoo, you recall, has a written Code of Conduct. Why written?
Roy's memo along with the examples (A) and (B) gives a clue. Gentoo's
official language is English, and its culture is generally Western European or
North American. But even there, there are differences: French culture is not
Icelandic culture; Canadian English is not US English. Yet in Gentoo, we
expect unambiguous communication and civil interaction.
We as a group of individuals are unlikely to always "get it right", but guides
of various sorts can help. In particular, a written Code of Conduct can aid
us by defining the norms expected by Gentoo, and perhaps we can use the Code
when we communicate within Gentoo.
But perhaps we cannot. Suppose I come from Czamistan, where a term of high
respect is "big-balled goat lover." If in Gentoo I am impressed by something
you have done and call you a "big-balled goat lover," you might take it the
wrong way, and our coversation will go downhill from there. This is where the
proctors come in.
If a proctor notices that I am calling you a "big-balled goat lover", the
proctor might consider this to be someplace between inappropriate. The
proctor can contact me to find out what is going on (or issue a warning, which
will have the same end effect). Eventually, the proctor and I will figure out
what is going on. The proctor most likely tell me that "big-balled goat
lover" might not be taken as a term of respect in Gentoo, so it would be
better if I'd use something else.
II. Traffic Cops
So what is a proctor? A proctor is a traffic cop. What is a traffic cop? In
the US, at least, "traffic cop" is colloquial for highway patrol police officer
--- a mobile police officer who cruises highways, looking for drivers
violating the highway legal code.
What are the characteristics of a traffic cop? Here are the important ones:
A. The traffic cop looks for infractions, but will miss most of them. The
cop is effective largely because drivers know that cops are out there
B. When the cop sees a violation, he has discretion to make a traffic stop or
to ignore it.
C. If the cop makes a stop, he has lots of options, based on the violation,
on the driver's record, on the driver's attitude, on whether or not something
more serious turns up (no driver's license, drunk driver, stolen car, assault
rifle on passenger's seat, and so on). Some examples:
1. Minor violation (cracked tail light, cooperative driver): "Please get
the tail light fixed" and nothing else.
2. Broken tail light: warning.
3. Speeding, but not excessively: Driver has no other violations on
record and does have a good explanation: warning.
4. Normal speeding (not too fast): warning or ticket as the cop feels
appropriate based on other factors.
5. 200 in a school zone: ticket or arrest.
6. Erratic driving: nothing if, say, driver is looking for an address.
Arrest if driver is inebriated.
7. Speeding and license is suspended: Confiscate license, issue ticket,
make sure driver does not drive away.
D. If the cop sees a violation, he acts now. There is no option to think
about it --- either make a stop or let it go. The driver is not going to wait
around to see what the cop wants to do.
How does that apply to the proctors? If you change the meaning of "traffic"
from cars on a highway to Gentoo email, IRC, and so on, the application is
exact. But the proctors' options are different of course. Examples:
1. Miss a violation (of Code of Conduct): default condition
2. Ignore a violation: at the proctor's option.
3. Talk to the violator and nothing more: Depends on the nature of the
violation, circumstances, whether the violator is a repeat offender, or so on.
4. Informal warning: <proctor> Please don't do this, thank you. <!proctor>,
reasons as above.
5. Formal warning: On serious violations, a note to the violator "This is a
warning" which is placed on record.
6. Brief ban: For serious violations or for people who are collecting
warnings. USE WITH CARE!
7. Longer ban, ban from multiple communication paths: USE WITH EXTREME CARE.
8. Suspension: Requires concurrence of 3 proctors. Don't do this; call on
devrel to be the decision makers.
How are proctors different from highway patrol? Ignoring the differences in
the violations, the environment, and so on, one stands out: highway patrol
almost always acts instantly. Proctors necessarily cannot do that (how do you
"react instantly" to email?). Instead, proctors react very quickly. If the
proctors do not act quickly or if they overreact, they lose their
effectiveness. This comes with experience.
III. Proctors and Devrel
-------- --- ------
Why both proctors and devrel? This is a natural question, and in most cases
it has a natural answer.
As we have seen, the proctors are concerned with individual behavior which
falls outside the norms suggested in the Code of Conduct. They work "real
time" to identify problems, to correct them, and to educate the offenders in
proper conduct when such is appropriate. Proctors work both with developers
and with users. Proctors work very quickly.
By contrast, devrel is mostly concerned with conflict. Devrel works to
mediate disputes among developers in order to effect a settlement satisfactory
to all involved. Devrel generally works from complaints --- bugs or email.
Devrel also tries to work quickly, but a mediation takes as long as it takes,
and devrel will not close a dispute until it is resolved. In extreme cases
(once in the history of devrel) devrel will adjudicate a case, but this is
strongly discouraged. Note further that devrel is concerned with developers,
not with users; devrel seldom if ever bans anyone from participation; devrel
can suspend developers; devrel can dismiss developers from the project (very
Nonetheless, occasionally the proctors and devrel will overlap. This overlap
arises when two developers get involved in a flame war. As a practical
matter, in this case it does not matter which organization (proctors or
devrel) handle the situation, and there is no reason the two should not
cooperate. In that case, the flaming developers see that (1) they have
attracted unwelcome attention from two organizations, (2) one of which can
temporarily ban them if they don't behave, (3) the other of which can move
their flame war into mediation (if it isn't already). The wise developer
wishes a visit from neither organization, and after some conditioning, I
expect the developer base to become more sensitive to flame situations and to
work to avoid them.