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Time for compassion and the Init GR



Early morning, Wednesday, November 19, the results of the GR on init
system coupling will be announced.
No result will make everyone happy.  In fact, that morning, some of our
developers, users and contributors will be really unhappy.

I would be dishonest if I said I didn't hope to be happy and reassured that
morning.  I suspect we all hope that the project will agree with our
position on this complex and emotionally intense issue and reassure us
that  our values are close to those of the project; reassure us that
this is a place where we can safely work together.

I don't know who, but I know that for some of the people I care about in
the project--people whose opinion I value--that morning will bring
disappointment, sadness, frustration and fear.  I may well be one of
those people.

However, Wednesday November 19 and every day after, Debian needs to work
together.  Today, now, before the results are announced, we have an
opportunity to extend compassion and empathy and remind ourselves of the
spirit in which we'd like to work together.

I'm hoping that we can all take a few minutes to gain empathy for those
who disagree with us.  Then I'm hoping we can use that understanding to
reassure them that they are valued and respected and their concerns
considered even when we end up strongly disagreeing with them or valuing
different things.  Towards that, I ask you to take a few minutes to
consider how you will feel if the option other than further discussion
that you least favor is selected by the project.  Actually, for some of
us, the prospect of months of further discussion of this issue itself is
likely to have its own negative feelings.  For the moment though, I ask
that you focus on one of the other options.

What do you feel?  Disappointment that the project didn't value
something important to you?  Fear about whether Debian will meet your
needs as an OS and community?  Sadness?  Frustration?  Fear when you
consider whether you'll be able to get your work done?

What actions could other members of the project take to turn some of
those feelings around without compromising their beliefs, changing their
mind, or giving up on the values that are important to them?  I'll
answer this question for myself in a moment; if you cannot think of
things that  would help you, perhaps some of the things that would help
me would also be valuable to you.  If not, you could find someone you
trust and value and work together to see what you could ask for to
receive emotional care.

It's almost certainly true that others in the project--people you have
worked with over the years--will have similar feelings if their least
favored option is selected.  Some of those people probably disagree with
you.
I'd ask you to consider extending other members of the project the sort
of care that will help you--the actions you were thinking about in the
previous paragraph.  My hope is that by doing so we can all treat each
other with respect and value without compromising our positions.  In
many cases, it may make sense to extend that care now, to commit now to
an attitude of care and respect even when we might be the ones needing
that care in a couple of weeks.

For myself, here are things that  I'd really value in a situation where
I'm feeling disappointed, sad and afraid that my values might not match
the project's:

* Not talking about these tradeoffs in terms of what's right and wrong,
 but acknowledging that different members of our project have different
 values.  User choice isn't bad any more than combining software to
 reduce code size is bad.  There isn't a right answer.  As Russ has
 explained a number of times in the TC, on debian-vote and on his blog,
 this is about tradeoffs.  I'm sure some people will be happy if the
 project's values are aligned with theirs.  When they take that as far
 as saying the project made the "right decision" or rejected "bad
 options," they are not valuing the contributions of those who disagreed
 with them.


* People who disagree with me taking the time to understand my
  position.  "Hey, Sam, what you seem to be saying is this...for these
  reasons.  Have I got it?"  That is, people taking the time to make
  sure they understand me without trying to persuade me.  I'm not asking
  for agreement, simply that I'm valued and my opinions are valued
  enough to read, understand and confirm that understanding.  I feel
  reassured that someone took the time to consider what I had to say
  even if they came to a different conclusion.

* When true, reassurances that we share common values even in situations
  where  we disagree about how to balance tradeoffs.

* Offers to work together/to listen to  my opinions in future.  "Hey,
  Sam, I
  realize the decision didn't go the way you were hoping, but  I'm
  interested in figuring out how within the scope of what we did decide
  we can best address the concerns you had."  I really hope that folks
  who value user choice will be willing to work with those who are
  trying to introduce improved ways of doing things regardless of what
  we decide.


* Reassurances that  I'm acting in good faith/that it's clear we're all
  working to build the best Debian we can even when we have  different
  ideas of what that is.


Don't be afraid to offer the sort of care that you'd like to receive in
public mail.  -project seems relatively quiet at the moment.  Yeah,
feel-good messages do take up space in the inbox.  However, even if we
managed to generate 1/100th the messages that this discussion has
already taken reminding ourselves that we're a community, filled with
heart-felt desires to respect and value each other, I think it will be
worth it.

Also, I understand that this issue is really important to a lot of us.
I've heard implications from people on multiple sides of the issue that
they are not sure they will be able to stay involved/contribute at their
current level if it turns out their values and the project's values are
significantly misaligned on this issue.  I'm always sad when I hear
that people feel the need to leave a community.  Recently, I was really
touched by a note about the importance of happiness.  Unfortunately it
was on debian-private so I cannot point to it here.  I can say though
I'd be even more sad to hear that someone stayed against the calling of
their happiness than finding a community that is aligned with their
values.  Change happens.  We refine our values as we grow.  I for one am
committed to respecting both Debian and any who choose to leave.  I hope
we treat each other with respect and value when our paths cross again.
The free software community and the broader IT community are bigger
places with room for a lot of values.  If another project/community
works better for you, I hope you find value in contributing there.  I
hope that project and Debian learn from each other, and I hope that the
experience you found in Debian brings value to you in the future.

Thanks for listening to me, and I hope that together we can reaffirm our
commitment to our users and free software in a wonderful community.

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