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Re: Let's Stop Getting Torn Apart by Disagreement: Concerns about the Technical Committee

>>>>> "Ian" == Ian Jackson <ijackson@chiark.greenend.org.uk> writes:

    Ian> Sam Hartman writes ("Re: Let's Stop Getting Torn Apart by
    Ian> Disagreement: Concerns about the Technical Committee"):
    >> I am discussing how we handle conflict because I hope we can do a
    >> better job of helping people feel valued even when we do not
    >> agree with their technical positions.

    Ian> You've perhaps heard me say this before, but I think the TC
    Ian> process lacks structure and that if the TC set out the process
    Ian> more formally, things might go less awry.  (And also it would
    Ian> involve less of an investment of energy by all the partipants,
    Ian> particularly the respondents to a complaint.)

I thank you for presenting this again.  This time, you focused more on
what you were hoping for out of the proposal rather than on your
preferred details, and I got a lot more out of it.  It's easier for me
to start out thinking about goals, and you spent more time (or at least
I spent more time reading) about your goals in this version.

    Ian> One of the most toxic things that can happen in any kind of
    Ian> dispute is for there not to be a clear understanding of what
    Ian> the rules are, within which the dispute will be conducted.  Ie,
    Ian> who is allowed to do and say what, and when.

I think it would be quite valuable for the TC to spend some time
documenting what people can expect.
I think it would be valuable to spend a lot of time thinking about how
we can avoid the need for a defensive reaction from people responding to
a complaint.

That said, I actually think in some cases we need to spend more energy
rather than less.  Minimizing energy spent on the process is not one of
my goals.  I think that the TC in particular may need to spend more
energy to have a chance of people feeling valued even when there is

Interestingly, the one area where I think conserving energy is important
is the one you call out: minimizing the energy people need to spend
responding to a complaint.
Even there, I think that in a case where the TC thinks it is likely to
ask a maintainer to make a change (or override the maintainer) it is
reasonable to expect the maintainer/respondant to spend enough time to
explain their position well enough that the TC understands it.

    Ian> When people disagree about the metarules, community
    Ian> disintegrates because people feel that not only are their
    Ian> opponents disregarding their needs, but they are also playing
    Ian> foul.


    Ian> I know that some people disagree, but I think that the TC
    Ian> should take on much more of the trappings of other formal
    Ian> dispute resolution mechanisms that we find in wider society.
    Ian> Particularly, the TC should be more like a civil court or
    Ian> tribunal.

    Ian> Courts are of course stressful, but I think that stress is
    Ian> usually the result of the underlying dispute.

There's a time in my life where I would have been in complete agreement
with you.

I've spent enough time working with dispute resolution processes that
work like courts or tribunals to have high confidence they wouldn't work
better than what we have.

As a distant third-party observer, I  can look at a court transcript and
have a positive reaction.  It's fair and just.  All sides were

However, like in our process, courts do not optimize for the
participants feeling valued, for the participants feeling their concerns
were considered.  I feel concerned thinking about us moving closer to a
court process, because I don't think it would address the concerns that
led to me writing this thread.  I think that people would be very likely
to walk away from the process hurt and less likely to stay in our

I also think the court emphasis on justice and "right" is harmful.  As I
said in my blog entry, technical correctness is an important factor, but
I think it is a less important factor than maintaining our community.
However, because of who we are, we tend to emphasize technical
correctness.  I think that our natural tendencies plus a court/tribunal
process would be a very bad combination in terms of compassion for our

I do appreciate you taking the time to share your desire for clearly
defined expectations for what people can expect in the process.
I hope the project can do that for us both.


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