Friday, November 16, 2007

Drools User Mailing List Growth Problems

As the above graph shows, ignoring spikes, there has been a steady uptrend in the growth for usage of the Drools user mailing list. One of the things the core developers are proud of is our community support, we try our best to answer all emails and to date have mostly succeeded in this endevour. However it now seems there is a constant stream of emails and regrettably we are no longer able to reply to all of them, the community itself is starting to answer more of its own questions which is helping a little, but many questions are now going unanswered.

I know that myself I tend to work in bursts, scanning the unanswered messages and replying where possible. Obviously the less vague and easier to answer questions tend to get replies. So now more than ever if people need a response they need to be more diligent in how they phrase their questions and the supporting information they supply.

A little while ago we put up on the mailing list page a few pointers on how to have your emails ignored, its worth repeating those here:
  1. Start the email with "URGENT"
  2. Tell everyone how desparate you and how you need an immediate response for your really important project.
  3. Don't wait a minimum of 3 days and resend your email within minutes of hours.
  4. Send emails directly to mailing list members, especially the developers.
  5. Paste pages of code and then say "it doesn't work, please help".
  6. Paste a long stack trace and say "it doesn't work, please help".
  7. Start your email with "please sirs" or include "do the needful".
  8. Ask dumb questions that are in the manual.
  9. Ask basic java questions.
  10. Ask questions about JRules
  11. Reply to an existing thread but starting a new topic
  12. Start your email with "I'm a member of the drools mailinglist, so please answer me"
  13. General begging and pleading
  14. Say some thing to the effect of "Please tell me how I can call a function on the LHS. (hurry my assignment is due today!)"
The positive side is that it shows the Drools community is growing, so we must be doing something right, and as we become unable to answer all questions more people wil have to turn to support subscriptions from JBoss with guaranteed response times - so hopefully this will atleast make my managers happy :)


  1. hi mark,

    coming from India, one of the rules sound kinda unfair.

    it's considered nice etiquette in many circles to address people with "Dear Sir/Madam". Things are changing but a lot of guys/girls who're fresh from the university don't know of doing anything other than "Dear Sir/"

    Can you re-consider ?

    thank you,


  2. ~A,
    I think developers don`t use Sir/Madam to talk to each other.

    The drools team meant maybe the combination of the words please and sirs.

    I really like these rules, even if I broke them myself maybe once or twice. They are a great collection.

    Just wanted to recommend to put them on the mailing list entry at labs... But they are already :-)


  3. Hi A. I think its more that people like variety and humour and perhaps originality. Its a bit like applying for a job or something, if people see the same things over and over, it gets tiring, but if someone is creative about it, it gets peoples attention.

    I confess I often have been very busy of late working on new features, so I often only see things quite a few days after they were posted (hopefully I will get back on top of things again soon). I just find I don't work well without isolating myself and avoiding all interruptions (so sorry if I am unresponsive !).

  4. Here's a list of tips for asking questions that are more likely to be answered: It all boils down to this: the easier you make it for someone to answer your question, the more likely it is that your question will be answered. Providing specific and complete information relevant to your problem and minimizing the amount of time it takes to provide the answer are the best ways to get an answer. Politeness and desperation don't make questions any easier to answer. Words such as please and urgent are usually a red flag that a question doesn't contain much useful information and that rather than the words themselves are the reason posts containing them are often ignored.

  5. I don't think the item dealing with politeness is intended to be culturally insensitive, but that doesn't mean it isn't.

    In many cultures its just good form to address with politeness. When requesting assistance from people considered to have more expertise, that holds even more true in many places.

    Additionally, non-native speakers of English tend to be less knowledgeable of colloquial. The same holds true when English speakers learn another language, and are aware that they are using "textbook" terms.

    We're all thankful when native speakers of a language are kind enough to overlook our errors, whether colloquial or cultural, and it stands to reason that it would be nice for us to do the same.

    And I would add one more thought: people approaching a forum for the first time are often nervous. We would prefer perhaps that all people entering a forum would show some extra politeness early on, rather than encourage people who are new to barge right in.

    So, for multiple reasons, I agree very strongly with anjanbacchu, and believe that this apparently very minor point is actually very important. Why exactly would a newcomers to a mailing list to not be more polite when they are getting to know the ropes and the community.

    Perhaps one could consider that a list like this written in another culture may specify the exact opposite, and a newcomer requesting support without a polite introduction would be considered uncivil.

    I can't resist pointing out the irony as well in saying "be polite in all these ways, but not in culturally different ways".

    With the rant over, gotta say, luvin' the drools ;-D