There has been much discussion of the “low signal-to-noise ratio” on the wp-hackers list of late. Not that we need to move that discussion off wp-hackers, but I wanted to compose some thoughts in my own forum where I can moderate the comments to my heart’s content. This turns up an unfortunate reversal: you don’t have to read any of the comments I didn’t like, but I have to read them all. I wish moderation worked in reverse.

The wp-hackers list now serves something near 1,000 email addresses. I don’t know how big it was when I joined two years ago. I do know that the list traffic has grown to become nearly unbearable. I know that there are busier lists. I am speaking not just about the amount of traffic, but the productivity of the list as a whole.

If productivity is the wrong measure of value for wp-hackers then my nephew is a monkey and I’ll unsubscribe forthwith. By productivity I mean the production of worthwhile code, whether it be core or themes or plugins, and the dissemination of information leading to same.

I would be overjoyed to wake up tomorrow and find wp-hackers messages flooding my inbox if they were mostly productive. The banter, the academic opinions, the griping and nagging and off-topic fussing, these are the things that turned me from a hopeful reader and a contributor into a pessimistic lurker.

It has been said that wp-hackers has followed the typical evolutionary pattern of an open-source software mailing list community. This is probably true—I can’t speak from experience because I have participated little in other OSS projects—but I’m not willing to let it go at that.

Today it was proposed during the IRC meetup that we monthly post a set of rules or guidelines and be more strict about curtailing off-topic and counterproductive list activity. Assuming the manifestation of rules can proceed trouble-free, I’m happy with that.

There is just one thing I want to make clear about wp-hackers: a hacker is not someone who discusses or pays lip service or dissents or casts a vote or says what can or should be done. Hackers aren’t committee members. Hackers are more interested in proving what can be done than arguing about it.

Many important contributions have been made by people who had no interest in hacking or coding or tweaking. I do not mean to exclude them and I do not mean to glorify the archetypal geek who knows no social graces. All productive contributions are welcomed.

Case in point: this post is far too long-winded and unproductive for wp-hackers. It would be a blatant waste of time to send it to the list. To compound the sin, that waste would be multiplied by each and every response. As if it weren’t bad enough, I am afraid to think of how much time some people spend composing rubbish like this.

Let the rules say things like “think before you send” and “consider the size of the audience.” What I want to get across is that sometimes it’s better to self-publish than to use the list. If anybody has trouble setting up a blog, I’ll tell you where you can get one… real cheap.