I seem to have been banned from the WMLProgramming mailing list, ending the 9 or so years that I've spent there. I'm not entirely sure why - my last posts there weren't particularly controversial, pointing out that lots of transcoder products include features to add navigation bars; and suggesting that the developer community engage more with operators to minimise the damage done by irresponsible deployments.
Most likely, the list moderator (Luca Passani) has lost patience with me. Luca, I, and others have been debating lots of the issues around transcoding over the last 6 months. We frequently disagree on the detail of how to approach it, though when it comes to the basics I've long felt that we're in agreement: this is a serious problem and one that needs to be dealt with. My willingness to debate the issue politely with Luca has led to my being categorised a "bad faith arguer" - the implication being that I don't actually believe the points I'm putting forward, but choose to do so to annoy or otherwise aggravate.
Absolute poppycock, of course. I'm saying this stuff - and putting my own time into the W3C MWBP Group - because I actually believe it (and have done for some time). Despite what Luca might wish to present, like many complex issues this isn't black and white, but nuanced: there are many opinions, and many subtleties. Recently I've been disagreeing with Luca on the likelihood that, say, OpenWave develop features in their products that they promise to never deploy. Do this mean I blindly support transcoder vendors in what they're doing? No - at the same time I'm arguing with Charles of Opera that transcoding of HTTPS links is dangerous from a security perspective.
The standards of acceptable behaviour on WMLProgramming seem one-sided. On the one hand it's acceptable to call the W3C participants "fuckers" or "assholes", those who debate with you "collaborationists" and "morons", or transcoder vendors "arrogant bastards that need to be treated as the beasts they are". It's considered an adult approach to "keep telling them how much we hate them until they don't cease and desist". It's OK to call the W3C fuckers "because they deserved it". And arguing in bad faith is only possible, it seems, if you're on the other side of the table from Luca.
At the same time it's unacceptable to politely and repeatedly disagree with Luca on these issues. When I do so, it appears that I become the enemy; it's asserted that I'm only arguing to distract from the issue, my motivations are questioned, it's snidely insinuated that I might be on the payroll of operators or transcoder vendors... all fairly childish and unpleasant stuff, and not a tactic that's confined to me (an ex-Vodafone employee expressing an opinion, for instance, was dismissed as a "troll")
This double-standard is annoying to have to deal with, but I worry that when this childish and abusive view is presented as being representative of the "development community" (if there is such a thing), it does us all harm. I find it embarrassing to be associated with: this is not how I want my position presented publicly, and I know I'm not alone in thinking there must be a more adult way to discuss these issues. I don't accept the line that the seriousness of the issue justifies a "no holds barred" approach: governments debate much more serious problems (nuclear proliferation, say), without resorting to name-calling.
When Luca threatened to ban me a couple of months back, I was touched to see a few messages of support pop up on the list, asking him to reconsider. At the same time I've been told off-list that at least one message of support didn't make it onto the list. It looks like there's some level of censorship going on, without accountability or objectivity. Dissenting views are important for debate, and we're unlikely to persuade the transcoder industry to self-regulate without talking to them about it. To this end a place where all parties can meet and discuss openly in a civilised environment is important: I don't think WMLProgramming is that place.
All of the above is a bit sad really - WMLProgramming is a collection of some very knowledgeable and talented folks, and with write access removed I'll be unable to contribute, or to correct some of the more outlandish assertions that pop up there with worrying frequency. At the same time, I'll have a bit more spare time (which is welcome right now) and a reason to investigate some of the other fine mobile development resources out there like mobiforge or the BetaVine forums. I'd be interested to hear about any others that might be lurking out there...