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Thursday, 06 November 2014 17:36

Linux Australia puts curbs on mailing lists Featured


Linux Australia, the umbrella group for Linux user groups in the country, has imposed a censorship regime on its mailing list, with regulations that run to nearly 1000 words to govern them.

The stated aim of the new policy, which took effect on October 22, "is to foster open dialogue and discussion on relevant forums, while providing a safe space free from undesired behaviours such as personal attack and 'flaming'," according to a post by the LA secretary Kathy Reid.

In sharp contrast to the avowed open nature of the group, the policy was never put up for discussion on the LA general mailing list. The policy was developed by the office-bearers and announced as being in effect.

And nobody has objected!

After announcing that the policy had taken effect, Reid wrote: "If you would like to propose amendments to the policy, the best place to discuss amendments is the policies mailing list, and changes can be proposed openly via GitHub."

Reid has now created a new mailing list to discuss amendments, a clear case of putting the cart before the horse.

The need for such a bureaucratic policy is questionable as there is very little that is offensive on the list. On the other hand, the policy does tend to discourage animated discussions between geeks which can be extremely illuminating.

As iTWire has reported in the past, there have been very occasional flare-ups on the Linux Australia mailing list, far too few to justify anything like the policy which has been drafted to cover it. It seems like overkill and that is putting it mildly.

However, there is a strain of political correctness running through Linux Australia, driven mostly by the feminists in its ranks; some in these ranks have actually enunciated a wish to make talks at the organisation's annual conference suitable for anyone who is 12 years old.

This is a ridiculous aim as conferences for adults are generally not meant to cater to 12-year-olds. But LA has been in thrall to the feminists ever since John Ferlito, a weak-willed president who could easily be led by the nose, took office a few years ago. The new president, Joshua Hesketh, who took over in 2013 has shown no desire to go against the feminists who now control the show.

But then this is not surprising, as feminists among the open source crowd have now come to even believe that they have the right to try and have talks with which they do not agree removed from the agenda of conferences.

Coming back to the mailing list policy, the pall of censorship may well extend to removing any offensive posts of the past from the list archives. This has been proposed by one member, Glen Turner, and shows the thinking prevalent in the group right now.

Linux Australia's conferences and its mailing lists were once an open area for members of the community, But now it appears to be meant for mediocre bureaucrats – Reid is a typical example – who want to control the show and rise up the ranks. Members of the American Republican Party would feel right at home reading the lists now.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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