Open Venue for Policy Discussion

Hey everyone,

From a recent interaction with a moderator, it’s become clear to me that this forum might not be the best place for open and respectful discussions on sensitive topics, such as the policy of mandatorily including gender minorities in key policy-making teams for conferences. It appears that mass flagging is enough to get a thread locked (not blaming the moderators for this), unfortunately blocking the community from freely discussing these issues and offering their insights. Is there another way we can have this conversation, possibly with board members and other relevant stakeholders involved? Many of us are keen to contribute our thoughts, but it feels like the NixOS community is becoming more distant from us.


I definitely see the need to have these discussions, see also NixOS Foundation Event Sponsorship Policy - #4 by cafkafk happening just now.
And actually, the Discourse is probably the best place to do this overall. (The moderation team even recently made a policy to move all moderation meta discussions over to Discourse because they were completely overboarding on Matrix)

In my eyes, this is not an issue of where, but one of how. How can we have these discussions without them turning into mud wars every single time? (there is a track record) And I don’t think that moving them elsewhere yet again will magically fix this. This is a social issue in our community, and one that runs deep.


How can we have these discussions without them turning into mud wars every single time?

I would say this:

First, try to rember that to the other side of the screen there are actual people with an individual mind and feelings. So, try not to utterly destroy them if you don’t agree with them on something, especially if you’re passionate about it.

Secondly, remember why we are here in the first place and what brings us together.
We are people that like a technology (Nix, NixOS and everything else in the family), we value its use and would like to see it improved and becoming more accessible and widespread.

So, what’s more important? Winning the argument while possibly alienating contributors that disagree or setting the differences aside and collaborate to achieve our goals?


The discussion in question doesnt seem like collaborative community engagement to me; on the contrary, it’s hard not to see a recent trend of organized trolling on the forum. The forum has become less usable for me to find helpful information as it’s bombarded with all these “debates” and “innocent questions” that quickly become hostile and have the side effect of makimg marginalized members of this community feel less welcomed or to undermine critical discussions like of the sponsorship policy (where a handful of employees of the same company dominated the thread by volume of posts).


Every time there is something controversial happening here, and especially when it leaves the bubble of our community (e.g. Hacker News), I see an increased influx of new users and registrations. Outsiders to the community with loud opinions are definitely a known problem. Another problem that arises through this is that over time this attracts people who are mainly there for the debate and politics and less for the actual project.

Protecting the community from outside actors (including brigading etc.) without gatekeeping community members is really difficult.

The “you must be this tall to ride” sentence has come up over this more than once, and while I don’t want to discuss it right now, I have a larger discussion about this on my backlog.


The thing that sucks about this is I was deemed not tall enough to criticize the Anduril sponsorship, and I would never have grown tall enough if I had been gatekept back then.


I find it interesting to see what happens when you replace the word argument here with sponsorship:

So, what’s more important? Winning the sponsorship while possibly alienating contributors that disagree or setting the differences aside and collaborate to achieve our goals?

I encourage those that agreed with the argument variation but disagree on the sponsorship variation to reflect on why that may be.

Or more to the point, for those who were okay alienating contributors to obtain a controversial Anduril sponsorship but not general disagreement… why?

Personally I fear an environment where some are alienated by sponsor choices while being told not to alienate others by disagreeing. Especially if those messages come from the same person.

It think and hope the intent of the newly released sponsorship policy is to state something along these lines, but need to read it over a few more times.


Or more to the point, for those who were okay alienating contributors for a controversial Anduril sponsorship but not general disagreement… why?

Paradox of tolerance, Anduril is aligned with groups that aren’t tolerant of others, so we can’t tolerate them.


I edited my comment a bit since it seems my point might not have been clear enough.

I do want to point out that this problem is absolutely not limited to recently-joined users, but also frequently involves people who have been around (and behaving this way) for years. It is not merely a problem of influx.


For the original question.

Currently the best options are in Discourse or to reach out to the Board and stakeholders directly. I do not recommend Matrix as anything controversial is quickly mobbed with interest and heightened tensions, leading to more need for moderation. Even here in Discourse it has been helpful to slow the pace down.

There have also been round-table and “un-conference” discussions about this at various events (there are pros+cons: less accessible attendance, but people tend to be more polite in person).


This is one that gets me. I’ve not been consistently active, either as a contributor or as a poster, but I’ve been around a long time. And I have a lot of respect for familiar usernames, especially ones that I’ve seen in the Nixpkgs commit logs for a long time but also people who I’ve known to give a lot of their time helping others learn the ecosystem.

In discussions that are driven by new arrivals or outsiders, I often see people talk about longtime contributors like they don’t know who they are, or like they’re nobody, or like they’re disposable— it’s clear that for outsiders contributors are often seen solely through the lens of what ‘side’ they seem to be on in a given Discourse post or whether they signed a given letter. And it feels wrong to me every time I see it. It’s painful.

I just wanna say that I appreciate your sensitivity to this.


Thanks for the advice. I tried to start a discussion on Discourse (What Defines a Minority?), but it got shut down and I was labeled a “concern troll”. What could I have done differently? Should I reach out to the board directly? It’s frustrating because it seems we can’t openly discuss certain topics, especially policy-related ones.

I feel like the moderators might not be fully adhering to the code of conduct. Is there a process for officially challenging moderation actions?

The correct place is here: Policy on discussion of the moderation process

Just so that you are aware and expectations are set: there is no specific policy nor oversight procedure for challenging moderation actions. Much of this is being worked out as we speak and is … contentious. Just as anywhere else in life, challenging this sort of thing is especially sensitive.

Frankly, I would not recommend it. Or, at least don’t expect an enthusiastic response nor should you demand an immediate outcome. Say your piece and then let that be enough. These things take time.


I posted a topic in that category, but it got locked immediately.

What did I miss this time?

that you posted something that’d cause more divide. You got the answer to your question. What else do you want?


Unlocked the topic, as this is indeed the correct venue for interacting with the moderation team.


I refuse to use Matrix for sanity’s sake so I appreciate these discussions happening here.

  • the moderation team can ban anyone “causing divide”
  • the definition of “causing divide” is subjective, and decided by the moderation team
  • the moderation team must only be asked for accountability in a very narrow forum that is also moderated by the moderation team
  • except even there, you can’t ask questions of the moderation team that the moderation team deems to cause division
  • and once again, the moderation team decides what causes more divide

Welp, here I am, causing more divide between the people that think the moderation team is way out of line, and the people that don’t. Strike me down, I’m ready to accept my fate.

“for repeatedly derailing sensitive discussions and willfully furthering the division in the community” is an inadequate response. See: Why was Jon Ringer banned from GitHub? - #9 by tarrens
and Why was Jon Ringer banned from GitHub? - #10 by IvanMalison


GitHub can be a suitable platform for purely technical or policy-oriented discussions, but this assumes that users are not blocked from the GitHub organization. For example, RFC 175 cannot progress because the authors and the nominated shepherd are all banned.