Community Filtering and Disagreeableness

This is an interesting comment to a previous blog post of mine:

I think there is a huge problem with the routes to contribution. There is a zero-requirement entry to Launchpad and Brainstorm, meaning that the small proportion of useful contributions are swamped by noise.

Ubuntu would benefit from a route to contribution that filtered interested and committed third parties capable of significant contributions. An excellent example of filtered contribution would be the recent article on kernel patching in Linux Format magazine (http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/archives).

In a practical regard I’m very impressed with the shear scale of development that the Linux kernel project manages to organise. It does have a very effective set of mechanisms for filtering contributions that intend to reduce noise and promote useful contribution over general chatter.

But, from my observations and the observations of other people, these filters primarily work through a social principle of being loud, obnoxious, aggressive and arrogant. Not to say that everyone is like that, but the culture certainly promotes those aspects. I don’t like contributing to the kernel project and I wonder why anyone else would bother to either. But that’s where the filtering comes in, you drive away so many people who would like to contribute, that only those who are hell bent on achieving a goal or are contractually obliged to would put up with it.

I remember asking an female kernel hacker (works for a big firm) one time about her experiences. I was rest assured that if it wasn’t for her companies requirement to work with the kernel project, that she would have no desire to contribute normally.

The Ubuntu community is quite different, the CoC means we can’t use unfriendly officious nastiness as a technical filter for poor contributors. We have to be a little better with our social skills, we have to encourage people, educate them and at the same time engage in tough love honesty so contributors know they’re work isn’t up to the standard, but we’d like them to continue to improve on it.

A hard balance to strike.

What are your thoughts?