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Re: [Debconf-team] Call for volunteers to join DebConf Committee

Hi Steve,

On Fri, Mar 08, 2013 at 12:39:34PM -0800, Steve Langasek wrote:
> While I myself would certainly not volunteer to be on the committee due to
> my direct involvement in the DC14 Portland bid, I think it would be absurd
> to exclude all Americans from the committee merely on the grounds that
> there's a bid in the US.  Nearly 20% of all active DDs are based in the
> US[1]; they shouldn't be excluded from having their preferences represented
> in the DebConf decision just because that preference might happen to be
> predictable!  The same goes for Germany, France, England, Japan, or any of
> the other countries where we have large DD populations.
> The DC14 selection committee is, well, a committee; and the best way to
> handle biases in a committee where majority rules is not by trying to make
> sure nobody with a bias is part of it, but by making sure the biases of the
> project as a whole are fairly represented on the committee.

I'm not saying committee members would necessarily would be unreasonably
biased, though some might. I'm just saying that such a guideline is good to
prevent the _appearance_ of unreasonable bias, which is a lot more common than
actual unreasonable bias and often more damaging. Similarly, not only is it
quite difficult to carefully construct a committee that fairly represents the
biases of the projects at a whole, enough people wouldn't believe the result if
you somehow managed to succeed. If you dare, look at the recent angst
surrounding the DC13 venue decision - whatever actually happened, the rancor
and accusations are the most damaging bits.

I don't think there's any current overall bias in Debian in favor of or against
either candidate country, even if you subtract out Americans and Venezuelans,
despite various individuals having strong preferences. I trust people from any
neutral country to pick whichever bid is best. I say this even as someone who
has been meaning to visit Portland for some time and will eventually do so
whether or not DC14 is there.

My comments here are not just based on general theories, but also based on my
experience on the DebConf11 herb/bursary team. Some decisions made by the team
were controversial in the eyes of those who did not receive the funds they had
requested and some of their friends. There were indeed lots of accusations of
bias, since some team members received funds themselves. It's really moot here
whether we were biased or not - this is not the place to rehash that - but even
the appearance that an impartial decider has an a priori preference or atypical
interest in a result causes a lot of grief for everyone.

- Jimmy Kaplowitz

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