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Date:      Sun, 3 Oct 1999 13:39:55 +0200
From:      Jeroen Ruigrok/Asmodai <>
To:        Poul-Henning Kamp <>
Subject:   Re: A bike shed (any colour will do) on greener grass...
Message-ID:  <>
In-Reply-To: <>
References:  <>

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On [19991002 20:18], Poul-Henning Kamp ( wrote:

>My last pamphlet was sufficiently well received that I was not
>scared away from sending another one, and today I have the time
>and inclination to do so.

I am glad you took the time to write this out. I only wish more people
would communicate more verbally about the what and whatnot.

>The thing which have triggered me this time is the "sleep(1) should
>do fractional seconds" thread, which have pestered our lives for
>many days now, it's probably already a couple of weeks, I can't
>even be bothered to check.
>To those of you who have missed this particular thread: Congratulations.

I dare ask where this thread took place. Again I think it took place on

>It was a proposal to make sleep(1) DTRT if given a non-integer
>argument that set this particular grass-fire off.  I'm not going
>to say anymore about it than that, because it is a much smaller
>item than one would expect from the length of the thread, and it
>has already received far more attention than some of the *problems*
>we have around here.

Problems at hand [some of which were enspired to me by Marcel

- cross compilation, this obviously does not work.

- lack of communication between the coders towards the -doc team. Need I
  dare say that pci_read_config, a lot of newbus stuff and god knows
  what else is still lacking from the documentation. I am working on it,
  but there's only so much I can grasp, understand and document each

- lack of communication of the indivudual developers amongst each other.
  I have seen patches floating around and I have seen NIL comments when
  asked for testing, comments and what not. One example were Marcel's
  sig_t changes.

>The sleep(1) saga is the most blatant example of a bike shed
>discussion we have had ever in FreeBSD.  The proposal was well
>thought out, we would gain compatibility with OpenBSD and NetBSD,
>and still be fully compatible with any code anyone ever wrote.
>Yet so many objections, proposals and changes were raised and
>launched that one would think the change would have plugged all
>the holes in swiss cheese or changed the taste of Coca Cola or
>something similar serious.

[snip bike shed analogy]

>In Denmark we call it "setting your fingerprint".  It is about
>personal pride and prestige, it is about being able to point
>somewhere and say "There!  *I* did that."  It is a strong trait in
>politicians, but present in most people given the chance.  Just
>think about footsteps in wet cement.

Ego, cherishing `babies' and the likes is something which doesn't work
in commercial environment, and probably even less so in open source

>I bow my head in respect to the original proposer because he stuck
>to his guns through this carpet blanking from the peanut gallery,
>and the change is in our tree today.  I would have turned my back
>and walked away after less than a handful of messages in that

Problems which also arise is that people divert from the topics which
are at hand.

I don't know anything about the thread and I somewhat refuse to dig
through the committers archive by means of ftp in order to just read the
thread, because I still believe that these kind of things should have
been discussed on the appropriate lists.

>And that brings me, as I promised earlier, to why I am not subscribed
>to -hackers:
>I un-subscribed from -hackers several years ago, because I could
>not keep up with the email load.  Since then I have dropped off
>several other lists as well for the very same reason.

The load itself might not be the burden if only the signal-to-noise
ration would be a lot better. A lot of the topics at hand should've been
made to questions.

>And I still get a lot of email.  A lot of it gets routed to /dev/null
>by filters:  People like Brett Glass will never make it onto my
>screen, commits to documents in languages I don't understand
>likewise, commits to ports as such.  All these things and more go
>the winter way without me ever even knowing about it.
>This is where the greener grass comes into the picture:
>I wish we could reduce the amount of noise in our lists and I wish
>we could let people build a bike shed every so often, and I don't
>really care what colour they paint it.
>The first of these wishes is about being civil, sensitive and 
>intelligent in our use of email.
>If I could concisely and precisely define a set of criteria for
>when one should and when one should not reply to an email so that
>everybody would agree and abide by it, I would be a happy man, but
>I am too wise to even attempt that.
>But let me suggest a few pop-up windows I would like to see
>mail-programs implement whenever people send or reply to email
>to the lists they want me to subscribe to:

[fun, but somewhat non-practical pop-up windows removed]

>The second part of my wish is more emotional.  Obviously, the
>capacities we had manning the unfriendly fire in the sleep(1)
>thread, despite their many years with the project, never cared
>enough to do this tiny deed, so why are they suddenly so enflamed
>by somebody else so much their junior doing it ?
>I wish I knew.

I can give an example. This is just a very, very clear example of what
we in dutch call the best sailors are on the shore.

I mean, it is easy to criticise and say NIH, while in all fairness
people don't bother to offer hints or new diffs to counter the
`mistakes' the originator made.

>I do know that reasoning will have no power to stop such "reactionaire
>conservatism".  It may be that these people are frustrated about
>their own lack of tangible contribution lately or it may be a bad
>case of "we're old and grumpy, WE know how youth should behave".
>Either way it is very unproductive for the project, but I have no
>suggestions for how to stop it.  The best I can suggest is to refrain
>from fuelling the monsters that lurk in the mailing lists:  Ignore
>them, don't answer them, forget they're there.

Which might be `fun' considering that those who want to progress test,
review and commit and see their changes backed out the same minute they
are committed to the tree. Why? I do not know. Any request for
rationality often gets brought back to the case `we don't used to do
that'. Times are changing people. A healthy dose of reviewing is indeed
good, but do it beforehand.

>I hope we can get a stronger and broader base of contributors in
>FreeBSD, and I hope we together can prevent the grumpy old men
>and the Brett Glasses of the world from chewing them up, spitting
>them out and scaring them away before they ever get a leg to the 

At current, I can very much understand the reluctance of `new/young'
coders to start work on the system only to see their efforts get
trampled upon by `older/more experienced/more rusted shut' people who
like it as it is and don't want innovation to hit the system, or
otherwise don't seem to be able to offer a mentor-like/helping-hand
function towards these new people.

>For the people who have been lurking out there, scared away from
>participating by the gargoyles:  I can only apologise and encourage
>you to try anyway, this is not the way I want the environment in
>the project to be.

I cast my voice/vote with Poul on this.

Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven/Asmodai                  asmodai(at)
The BSD Programmer's Documentation Project <>;
Network/Security Specialist        BSD: Technical excellence at its best
Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds.

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