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Re: Social Committee proposal

On Sun, Jan 28, 2007 at 01:42:20PM +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> > > [...] It would be a powerful loose cannon on deck, [...]
> >
> > I must note that it would be no less powerful loose cannon on deck than
> > the technical committee,
> It maybe loose, but we know which way the technical committee is
> pointing recently, because it has a history which we can see.
> soc-ctte does not yet.

Okay. Was there reason to be skeptical about tech-ctte when it was getting
founded? Yes, even more so than this time. Should we have run away from it
back then?

> > and indeed it would be less loose because direct election would make it
> > vastly more accountable (currently we can only replace tech-ctte members
> > via proxy, and in a catastrophic scenario, that just doesn't cut it).
> Election and accountability are largely irrelevant to my complaint.

Well, they provide for a way to fix problems that may ensue.
For tech-ctte, we didn't even have that.

> > > If the point truly is that we don't have any group doing any organized
> > > thinking about this, then form such a group, but don't empower it yet.
> > [...]
> > Do you think that we could just form it by way of modifying constitution,
> > but strip out half the proposed Powers section?
> Maybe it could operate as shadow at first, with s/Decide/Advise/ or
> just remove them and rely on the 6.1.5 equivalent.

Okay, I expect you to second such an ammendment. :)

> > Where exactly in the Debian Project do we have a 'disneyland', and where
> > do we have people forcing other people to abide by their unfounded
> > social norms? [...]
> The August 2005 -private blow-up seemed like two groups (of totally
> different sizes) trying to force each other.

You mean the flamewar about how to handle a death? Where exactly was there
any forcing there? Yes, people had strong differences in opinion regarding
social matters, but how could have the existence of soc-ctte have done
anything badly in that regard?

Someone could bring it up with the committee, which would first decide
whether to deal with the issue (which reminds me - need to add some
provisions to the proposal that would prevent DoS attacks :), and then
when it did, it would likely handle the issue with much more grace.

Sure, you should reasonably expect the committee to have a hard time with
controversial issues. However, it wouldn't *invent* those same issues, it
would only deal with them once they already existed.

> > [...] In the Debian world, I don't really recall those things.
> I'm pretty sure that "norm splits" are usually totally unremarkable to
> most members of the majority in each split and they're not so common
> as to happen all the time.

Indeed. And the decisions that the soc-ctte would make would not be
remarkable in a way that they would alienate minorities, because that
would defeat the point of the committee that tends after the society
as a whole.

If they would do that, and not have their decisions reversed by GRs,
then that would pretty much reflect the will of the electorate.
If most people actually *want* to go against the wishes a certain minority,
then you're screwed already, and there's little to be done about it anyway.
At least with a soc-ctte there would remain a clear record of what happened
and a clear path of appeal.

> > It's more often that people break a modicum of social norms in
> > order to flame, prove a point, or something.
> Whose social norms?  For example, central government officers and
> farmers have different styles.  I'd rather talk like a farmer than an
> officer but others may make the other choice.

If these two approaches are wholly incompatible and cause others to think
that people are breaking a modicum of social norms - you already have a
problem. soc-ctte would merely try to handle the problem gracefully, rather
than ignoring it.

> I fear that a soc-ctte will try to enforce a particular set of social
> norms and perpetuate the harmful Rabid Right meme, which I wrote about
> recently http://mjr.towers.org.uk/blog/2007/debian#society

I don't quite see how the existence of the committee would imply a tendency
to be intolerant. (IOW I don't see the foundation of that fear.)

> > The selection of people should also happen to reflect the kind of people
> > the developer body is composed of.
> How?  Is it known how Condorcet behaves in cross-community elections?
> Will it reflect the community mix or will it over- and under-represent?

We won't know the exact specifics until something happens, yes.

There seems to be little applicable evidence to make a decent conclusion

> Really, I think electing soc-ctte is heading off into the Great
> Unknown again, because none of the surveys I've noticed
> http://people.debian.org/~mjr/surveys.html
> have produced the basic demographics about who is debian AFAICS.  So
> far, it's been how and why is debian as it is, or who is developing
> or using free software - and I doubt DDs are representative of all
> developers.  Anyone willing to fund me to collect those demographics?

Well, we won't find out who is Debian until we try to find out. :)

An election of a subset of people on the topic of society should have the
effect of narrowing down the populace's opinions on the topic into a smaller
number of categories, roughly equivalent to the number of positions on the
committee. Now, this will not be completely fair or completely precise
(and if coupled with privileges for those people, it will have other
consequences, too), but I don't see anyone coming up with a better idea.

Collecting and examining our demographic data could be useful, but it won't
help bring about any more insight if that's all that is done. The good thing
about a committee is that, in any of the proposed forms, it would make at
least a wee bit of a positive dent in the community. I think it's worth a
shot, because right now we're not really making all that much progress.

> > In normal political systems you normally elect a party, which is
> > represented by a few figureheads, and then when they come to power, they
> > distribute their vote percentage onto all their members.
> Sounds like the list proportion system, which is used for English
> regions to elect to the European Parliament.  For the UK parliament,
> England elects one person (usually of a party) for each election area
> (usually part of a county). For local councils, we elect one or more
> people (usually of a party) for each district, town or village.  IIRC,
> Germany uses a mix of one-person-per-area and regional lists.
> In short: there is no such thing as a normal political system.

Okay, I was using the wrong term there.

> > [...] in real life people are excited to get the ratio down to 200 in
> > villages, but it's usually much, much higher.
> AFAICT, my new home village has 1200 voters electing 12 people with
> platforms (no parties), so 1 to 100.  I think that's typical here.


     2. That which causes joy or happiness.

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