For Savannah Hackers: communicating with users

When communicating with Savannah users, keep in mind that you represent the GNU Project, and you need to give a good image of us :).

It may sound silly to describe precisely what "politeness" is. However it is easy to forget about it when doing maintenance work day after day; there are also various views about the extent of a site admin privileges, and we'll describe our view of it at Savannah.

Here are a few points to keep in mind. This is not an exhaustive or point-by-point manual of politeness, this is only short, general guidance -- use your common sense.

  • Greet people. At minimum type the 5-letters "Hi,\n\n" at the beginning of your mails, you can't say that it takes too much time! :)
  • When you contact somebody for the first time, introduce yourself, especially if this is outside the scope of group registrations. If you have a address, it's nice to use it.
  • Check your spelling; if you are not a native English speaker, people will be tolerant to small mistakes, but not to repetitive typos. You can install spell-checker software, but you still need to re-read what you wrote before sending it.
  • Try to discuss with people: we're here to educate people. In addition, people often take it badly when they feel they are given orders. We will remain firm on our positions, but we want people to comply with our hosting policies because we convinced them, not because we coerced them.
  • Assume good faith
  • If a mail from a user makes you angry, put it aside for a day or two, so you can calm down. Don't answer immediately out of anger, you'll probably feel sorry right after.
  • Discuss with your fellow Savannah hackers about issues you face, and give them time to answer. Often, an external point of view will help.
  • You are a site admin, but you are in no way a group admin; when you're interacting with a hosted group, always assume you have no privilege: you cannot add yourself as a member, you cannot subscribe to their private mailing lists or read their archives, etc. Doing so would be rightly considered extremely invasive by the group admins. Consider that there is a difference between what you technically can do, and what you morally can do. The moral prevails.


One admin on another forge mentioned in the past:

[Our forge] owe nothing to users. We do provide a service and we are glad to host a big amount of projects. But admins should always keep in mind we have nothing to beg.

This is IMHO a partial view: it forgets that projects also bring traffic and visibility to our website, and to our philosophy.

I'd consider the hosting/users relationship as a partnership, rather than a client/provider relationship. And I mean it both ways.

-- Beuc