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How It Is

Boundaries

Not being an asshole starts with recognizing that you’re not special at all.

My friend and coworker tipped me on to this post about The Asshole Filter which begs the question: “Why is everyone I deal with an asshole?”

The post goes on to talk about how the issue is that if we draw a line in the sand but then allow people to cross that line, or worse reward them for doing that, we’re hurting ourself. In the example, a fellow named Fred used to accept personal emails about a project but now asks them to be sent to a group email.

[…] some people use fredsstaff@fredsconvention.tld and some people use Fred’s personal email.

Who uses the officially designated email address?

• People who feel strongly about following rules.
• People who feel following the rules is generally a good idea.
• People who respect Fred’s request because they’re generally respectful.
• People who respect Fred’s request because they like Fred personally.
• People who don’t want to antagonize Fred.
• People who realize the problem Fred is trying to solve and want to be cooperative to reduce the burden on Fred.
• People who feel it important to respect role boundaries.
• People who are concerned that overwhelming Fred will cause their request to get lost.

Who uses Fred’s personal email address?

• People who can’t be bothered to learn and follow procedures.
• People who feel rules are for other people.
• People who feel they should get to cut in line.
• People who don’t feel keeping track of what other people prefer is all that important.
• People who aren’t troubled by the thought of pissing off Fred, either because they don’t care whom they piss off or because they think Fred is of no account.
• People who feel entitled to get their way.
• People who feel satisfaction when they find an illicit “shortcut” to getting what they want, that “suckers” are too “chicken” to use.

In short, the decent, cooperative, law-abiding people all use the departmental email address, even though it doesn’t work a well as they might like, while the assholes continue emailing Fred directly.

Did that just sound familiar to a lot of you who are thinking “I can just email Mika about plugins…”

People often ask me why I sound angry when I tell you “Please email plugins@wordpress.org, don’t tweet/DM/Slack me asking for status. Just use the email and sit on your hands a bit.” I’m actually not angry. I’m annoyed. There’s a huge difference.

Angry me logs off and calls it a day.

Annoyed me rants a bit to someone who understands, or maybe says something passive/aggressive on Twitter about “Please use the plugins@ email…”

In both cases, though, I probably waste at least an hour of my time not getting to the things everyone wants be to get to. In both cases, I feel incredibly disrespected and used. Yes, used. Because even when my friends say “Hey I have a quick plugin question…” the answer has once been a quick one. That question? Someone asked if he could adopt the plugin of a friend of ours who had died.

First of all, that’s just an unexpected question by anyone’s standards (and it’s why we came up with a policy about handling death among developers). Second of all, it’s a touchy subject on it’s best day, so asking how to handle it was respectful. Third… He actually asked if he should just email the group.

This was someone who clearly understood the reality, the situation, and the fact that there will always be exceptions.

The sidebar of this issue is that, even if I ask someone to email a group, nine times of out ten it’s me who replied.

I can give you a really long explanation, including how I plan to use those emails to train up new reviewers so you don’t have to wait on me, but let me ask you this instead.

  • Are you more or less important than everyone else who is waiting for their plugin to be reviewed?

In general, if you get the ‘snippy’ reply of “Dude stop fucking things up and use the right channel” then I’ve already asked you, at least once, to “please” use the email. I’m very careful to ask nicely since I know there’s no possible way for everyone to know things. Mistakes are totally okay in my book. Intentionally trying to jump a queue just makes you an asshole, no matter your intentions. You’re disrespecting everyone, me and every other plugin developer out there, by demanding you get attended to first.

Okay.

So what would be a good reason to ping directly? Well about the only reason people do it that I consider thoughtful and respectful is this:

Hey it’s been a week and I didn’t hear back about X. Did the email get lost or are you guys super backlogged?

And maybe…

I think [plugin reviewer] is treating me unfairly. Can you help or do you know who can?

Both of those are totally perfect reasons to step off book. One is you not being sure if the email was received. The other is an issue with someone who might read the email.

But do you see how they’re both asking, briefly, without a lot of drama or accusations, a simple question? Well. Not a simple question. But they’re asking in a way that shows they understand the situation of the world in general, they understand they’re asking for an exception, and they will respectfully accept the answers.

By the way. The answer to the first one is 90% ‘backlogged’ and 10% ‘goddamn email!’