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Re: Announcing the elephant in the room BOF

Hey Steve

On 2019/08/01 04:38, Steve McIntyre wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 30, 2019 at 02:04:22PM -0400, Sam Hartman wrote:
>> I feel like I ought to step forward and take some of the blame/credit
>> for pushing for the Elephant in the Room BOF to be widely announced.
>> I did not ask for this BOF, but once I became aware that it was going to
>> happen I took a strong position that it should be widely announced.
>> My position when talking to the organizers and DC committee is that if
>> we were going to have the discussion it should be widely announced.
> I'm curious - who exactly were the stakeholders here? I've heard
> rumours about a "Boycott Debian" group, and found their website where
> nobody claims to be a member. Were we just trying to appease this
> anonymous set of people for some reason?

The day before the session, I emerged from having the Debbug and was
still busy finding my feet but there were a bunch of distinct groups who
had conversations about this during that day that I tried to follow.
Some of this branched off and since I couldn't be everywhere I couldn't
follow all of them.

After lunch time, a group of people were talking about scheduling a
session about this "elephant in the room" that we haven't talked about
yet. That is, the problems associated with having a DebConf in Israel. I
learned that some of the people in that particular conversation had just
learned about the "boycott Debian" campaign, although I've been familiar
with it for a bit before DebConf but since it seems (at least from the
research I've done on it so far) to be one person who's basically
driving it with a few scattered supporters so I haven't paid much
attention to it, also because I don't think Debian should be boycotted
(although, one person who's been in touch with that group told me that
they are considering changing the name to something else, but I digress).

So the idea was to have a session where people could air out their
viewpoints and have some frank discussion about it. I didn't have much
hope for the session to be very productive, mostly because it's
impossible to have a good discussion in 45 minutes even if it was just a
handful of people. I didn't do a headcount but I think there were more
than 20 people in that room? During the session most people who got to
talk (which wasn't even everyone in the room), only got one chance to
speak. I think it turned out better than I originally had expected but
some people said that they didn't feel like they were heard out.

Sorry, I already drifted off again.

In terms of planning the session, the day before after lunch time, the
group I stumbled in to was already talking about planning a session.
They decided to go ahead with it whether they would be allotted an
ad-hoc slot or not. I could understand some push-back from the content
team because it was a last-minute request for the last day where there
isn't much leeway to move things around at all. It came down to
scheduling the session before lunch or after lunch. The only time that
ended up vaguely working ended up being before lunch and since I felt I
needed to be there as a member of the DebConf committee, I had to cancel
the session that I was planning to lead during the same time. In
hindsight I'm still not sure if that was the best of ideas, I received
some pushback for it, but I think I would've regretted not attending the
elephant-in-the-room session, I think I would always prioritise the
place where people are airing concerns that I'm at least partially
responsible for above others.

So the talk slot info got populated and added by someone in the content
team and it was requested by a whole bunch of people that this schedule
change be announced in the DebConf announcements. In another discussion
with an entirely different group of people, it came up whether the
announcement should even be sent. One person from the DebConf committee
was 100% against this announcement being sent, so I thought it best to
put it off for a few hours. Later after some more discussion at the
hotel another was for it and another seemed undecided (there were 3 DCC
members present at DebConf). So far we've announced everything that
people have submitted to announcements (often verbatim, including
spelling and grammar mistakes), so I wasn't willing to block the
announcement unless there was either some sort of DCC consensus,
override by DPL, good reason from the local team or good reason from the
DC20 team or any particular steakholder that could provide a good
objection (yeah, I'm the one with the send button so in a pinch I have
to come up with some good framework that I feel I can defend
afterwards). At that point, the DPL told me that as DPL, he's asking me
to send it. It wasn't an override of a delegation (since the delegation
hadn't come to any conclusion) and I also specifically checked with the
DPL whether that was the case, at which point he confirmed that it was
just a request form the DPL and not an override. The person from the DCC
who was against this being announced noted an objection again and at
that point I felt that we were at the point where it should be
announced, and I sent it out.

> From being present in the room for the discussion, I'd say that we had
> a reasonable, tolerant, respectful discussion around DC20. But I'd be
> hard-pressed to say that we actually achieved anything with
> it. Instead, I'm concerned that by shoe-horning this session in at
> such short notice we maybe just gave oxygen to a toxic argument. I've
> spoken to multiple people (some present, some not) who share those
> worries. :-(

One concern I heard was that if this session didn't take place, the
topic would've exploded at the DC20 BoF later that afternoon.
Fortunately it didn't, but we'll never know if having that session
earlier has helped. Even though I do want everyone to be heard, I'm glad
that the topic didn't end up hijacking the DC20 session, which it easily
could have. I was honestly surprised that it didn't even come up, and
that's not to say that people are satisfied that they've been heard, I
think it was just for respect out of the local team who already has a
tough job.

>> Also, I honestly do believe this discussion needs to happen.  I think
>> that we ended up shutting this down a bit too prematurely after the
>> decision was announce.  I think people have not been fully heard on this
>> issue, and I think that is harmful for our community overall.
> So where does it go from here?
> Lots of project members were not in the small session that we
> held. I'm not necessarily convinced that all arguments always need to
> be heard, but even if we concede that point I don't think we achieved
> that either.

It depends, I've been in discussions around this topic for more than a
year now and can tell you that there's little resolve around this.
People are generally comfortable with where they've drawn the line in
the sand on this and don't want to budge. Even getting agreement on what
the issues are regarding a DC in Isreal within the DebConf Committee was
hard, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't listen, respond and act
when the people in our community speak out on the topic.

There's a lot that I'm not sure if I should even mention in this email,
but I've also heard about 2 possible GR's around this. I haven't seen
any exact text yet but I hope both don't get very far.


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