gnome is humans; jeff is human; murray is violating the no asshole rule

My post yesterday was all too brief. This one will be equivalently long, sorry. Some clarifications:

First: gnome is not ‘in trouble.’ [1][2] GNOME is people, and so, of course, we should be excellent to each other.

But GNOME is also humans. This is not to defend being an asshole (more on that below) but every organization composed of humans has assholes and more mundane personality conflicts. You measure the organization not by whether it has assholes, but by what it does about them. GNOME is no different; like any long-lived organization, it has had conflicts before and will have them again. So, no, GNOME is not “in trouble,” unless being assholes to each other becomes an ongoing problem rather than an occasional outburst. And I don’t see any evidence of that, yet.

Second: I should clarify my comment that Jeff and I have “had several frustrating clashes when we’ve worked together;” Jeff and those who are thinking of voting for Jeff deserve that I be more specific and not leave that dangling.

Jeff is a passionate, committed person; he cares deeply and honestly about GNOME and about software freedom. He channels that into being an incredible motivator, and a great communicator of our values and message. There are very few people, anywhere in Free Software, who are his peer in this department, and GNOME is lucky to have him in that role.

Like all of us, Jeff is human and hence imperfect. In Jeff’s case, it is ironic that someone who is most of the time so positive can some of the time have such a hugely negative impact on people and their motivation. I think Murray does exaggerate (psychotic? come on, man. Also, see below.) But as Jeff admits, there is truth there- he has obstructed the work of others in the past by overcommitting himself and refusing to delegate (I’ve been one of those victims who Murray refers to, and it sucks), and one of the least appealing activities in GNOME (for me) is disagreeing with Jeff, because it is so emotionally draining- much more so than anyone else I’ve ever had to disagree with. It is hard to explain until you’ve been there, but trust me- not fun :/ (This particular experience is much of what I was alluding to when I talked about avoiding politics in my own candidacy announce.)

But after several long talks with Jeff since my candidacy announcement, where I’ve been more up front about my issues than I have in the past, I do think he’s genuinely working on these things, and I certainly think that (in most circumstances) these problems shouldn’t outweigh the other things Jeff brings to the table. I look forward to working with him again in the new board, both as his friend and as his fellow volunteer, and I will be more upfront than I have been in the past about broaching the sorts of issues raised by Murray- not just with Jeff, but with others- so that we actually fix these issues instead of just screaming about them.

Finally, and probably most importantly: Murray, FFS. We should all feel that it is our responsibility (not just our right) to speak the truth. And you are right to call out those of us who have soft-pedaled problems in the past. But it is hard to imagine a worse way to deliver the message than what you did. I think less of you as a person now- even though I agree with much of what you said! Truth speaking and communication is a habit I hope GNOME gets better at, but this goes well beyond that- the level of vitriol and hatred is simply something that cannot become a habit in any healthy community. The way you delivered the message simply must be condemned.

You wrote the code of conduct– the one that says “Disagreement is no excuse for … personal attacks.” (emphasis mine.) No matter how correct the substance, your post is almost the textbook example of not merely a personal attack, but a vicious, hateful, direct, unambiguous personal attack. There is no other plausible explanation for the tone of your post. If you honestly wanted to help GNOME deal with the problem, you could easily have listed the various factual issues, discussed factual results, and let people draw their own conclusions as to whether or not Jeff is ‘poisonous people.’ You could have suggested ‘hey, next time you block on Jeff, JFDI instead of waiting; here are the reasons why blocking on Jeff has been damaging in the past’, or any of a number of more constructive approaches that still would have done the good deed of getting these issues into the open, while being less purely hateful. You’re completely right that these things need to be discussed, and should be discussed. But that isn’t what you did. Instead, you drenched your commentary in so many layers of palpable loathing that it may well end up being harder for people to challenge such behaviors in the future, for fear of being associated with such hatred.

So… I don’t know. The words cannot be resaid or unsaid; informative speech should not be stifled, especially when we’re all trying to make decisions about how our community will run in the future; and in the end some good may even come of the message if it helps all of us work more honestly and straightforwardly with each other. But regardless of what you think of the substance of the message, the way in which Murray delivered it should be condemned; must be condemned, if we’re to function as a healthy community. I hesitate to say ‘unacceptable’, because that implies some sort of punishment; I’d settle for shame and embarrassment.

To put it another way, Murray: you may be proud, perhaps even with some justification, for having the guts to deliver the message. But you should be deeply, deeply embarassed by the way you delivered the message- it was unnecessarily destructive and hateful, and that just can’t be part of any constructive, functional community.
[Disclaimer: I’m no saint; in a corporate context, I once did something similar to what Murray did, to someone who died in an accident not long thereafter. I still regret that I never had a chance to apologize for the way I said what I said, and I’m trying hard not to repeat the mistake. Maybe Murray can do the same.]