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Re: Senseless Bickering and Overpoliticization

Aaron Van Couwenberghe <vanco@sonic.net> writes:

> If this discussion can yield any workable political outline for Debian, it
> should be voted upon.

This mail is in two parts, and is probably too long.

The first about why I don't like voting, and the second about what we
can all do to solve the bickering problem.  If you only read one part,
I'd suggest you go for the second.

--- Part 1 (voting)

I normally keep my mouth shut when this comes up, because the view I'm
going to express is self defeating to some extent, but here goes anyway:

  Democracy is not appropriate for most of the decision making in Debian

The problem is, that having expressed that, why would I want to try
to persuade you all of that view, given that I apparently don't take
your opinions seriously anyway ;-)

Well, I do take other people's opinions seriously, but I don't think
that if ten people tell me one thing, and one tells me the reverse,
that the ten are necessarily right.

We are all here as a result of ignoring majority opinion on a number
of fronts, so why is it that people expect us to take the results of
votes seriously?

Many of us are also interested in Debian because of dissatisfaction with
the conventional structures that are used for organisations in other
fields of human activity, so why do we keep hearing about getting
Debian more like conventional politics or business?

The only situation I accept voting for in Debian is for settling
arguments on issues where there is no right choice, and any decision
is better than none.  The logo vote is a good example of that, and we
even managed to screw that up (as evidenced by the multiple votes).

--- Part 2 (bickering)

The real problem we seem to have is endless pointless discussions,
with people often indulging in argumentative posturing, rather than
actually attempting to communicate.

I think this is an inherent aspect of human communication when
conducted in public.  There is a powerful instinctive urge to make
yourself appear more clever than your opponent, especially when in
sight of your peers.

I would like to encourage people to resort to private mail when you
find yourself becoming argumentative.  Often there is a simple
misunderstanding behind these wars, which will become apparent within a
couple of mails exchanged in private, but become hidden by the
posturing when discussed in public.

I would also like to encourage everyone reading these lists to look
out for people that step across the line between discussing and
posturing.  When you see it, mail them privately, saying ``Please calm
down, and discuss this in private for a while.''

If you do take a discussion private, don't use that as an excuse to
say things that you'd be embarrassed to say in public.  Instead, use it
as an opportunity to politely ask the other party to summarise their
views, on the assumption that there has been an underlying
misunderstanding which you would like to clear up.

I find this works well, and you often find that one of you has grabbed
the wrong end of the stick, and is willing to admit it, because there
is no public humiliation involved in doing so.

It's rather nice to realise that you've avoided making a fool of
yourself in public, and can clear up the debris with a quick ``please
ignore my previous mail'' mail.

Cheers, Phil.

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