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Re: Process is no substitute for understanding

Anthony Towns writes ("Re: Process is no substitute for understanding"):
> Elitism isn't exactly Right: you want the system biassed in favour of
> good ideas (and good arguments and rebuttals), not in favour of smart
> people. Sure, any successful system will *look* like it's biassed in
> favour of smart people, but that's only because they come up with more
> of the smart ideas. It's a correlation effect, not an engraven-in-stone

I think that by biassing the system in favour of smart people we will
bias it in favour of good arguments and right answers.  Ie, we can
make the correlation between smart people and right answers work for
us by putting an expert in charge.

I'm not suggesting that the policy czar should always go with their
own opinion.  Certainly there should be discussion; anything else
would be madness.  But I think we can safely leave questions like how
much discussion, and, following discussion, what the right course is,
to the maintainers of the policy manual.

> And the problems with engraving a couple of names in stone as the be-all
> and end-all Masters of Policy is that when they get sick of it, there's
> no easy way for someone to take it over ("Hey, you're not elite enough to
> do the job!", "I don't have enough time to do all this", and so on),

Not at all.  The Project Leader can - and should - replace or
supplement policy maintainers who are not doing a good job either
because of temporary or indefinite lack of available effort or for any
other reason.  There's no reason that has to be difficult.

>  and when the Czar actually makes a mistake there's no easy checks
> and balances so s/he can just say "Ooops" and avoid masses of
> flames.

Of course the policy maintainers can just change their mind !  Now
perhaps we've got into a culture in the project where people are
discouraged from changing their mind, but that would be a separate

If a mistake has been made the easiest way to fix it will be just to
persuade the policy maintainers that everyone disagrees.  If the
policy maintainer refuses to budge in the face of unanimous opposition
they should probably be replaced, surely ?  Of course if the
opposition isn't unanimous then perhaps there is a real technical
dispute at stake, and if the discussion is no longer fruitful then the
technical committee should decide.

>   Or, for that matter, to object to where other people want to
> take the project without being accused of abusing his power and
> being an obnoxious dictator. There are examples of these from the
> ftp team, the new-maintainer team and the last policy Czar. So I
> dunno. Czardom doesn't seem like a particularly rewarding
> environment either.

For any kind of decisionmaking there will always be hotheads who claim
that someone is being an obnoxious dictator.

It's not as if there aren't volunteers to do the policy maintainership
job this way.


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