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Re: Criteria for a successful DPL board

On Mon, Feb 12, 2007 at 11:00:36AM +0100, Raphael Hertzog wrote:
> Composition:
> ------------
> * Around 10 members representing if possible the various tendencies that
>   exist within Debian.

One thing that needs to be clarified is the explanation of this number of
members. There are several kinds of problems you are trying to address
there, let me try to break it down into parts:

* the possibility that N is better than 1
  * whenever that sole person is bogged down with <whatever>,
    simple redundancy might allow someone else to react instead
  * whenever that sole person is sufficiently perplexed about an issue,
    more eyes on the problem might help clarify what should be done
* the possibility that N+M is better than N
  * whenever the 'standard' set of people handling matters become
    less effective or ineffective for whatever reason, the extras kick in

If I missed anything major, please add :)

Now, conventional wisdom says that optimal teams (that's teams rather than
just groups) are composed of 5 or 7 people.

Your ten people would mean that we have 5 or 7 people as N,
and another 5 or 3 people as M.

Now, I don't think that any of the above points are investigated in the
project, neither qualitatively nor quantitatively. Some semi-obvious
complaints would be (broken down analogously):

* N isn't necessarily better than 1
  * simplistic redundancy leads to a dispersion of responsibility, so you
    might actually end up with nobody 'picking up the torch'
  * more eyes might add more confusion to the issue rather than
    aid clarification
* N+M isn't necessarily better than N
  * the extras aren't necessarily available or suitable for ad hoc inclusion
    into the process

Yet, I think we've long had enough of the initial option (having 1 leader),
and the most recent couple of attempts show that there is a general will to
go ahead with changes.

> * Ultimately, this might mean that the board should be fully elected.
>   However this is not going to happen this year since it requires
>   constitutional change. I'd rather try first and make the change during
>   the course of the year, even I can prove that the DPL board is a good
>   principle. That's why I'll try to have a diversified board.

This has the semi-obvious pitfall of conflating the eventual success or
failure of the proto-board with the prospect of the idea of an elected

Because of the reasons said in my last two sentences, I think it's actually
a good time to go with the 'high road' there. We need to start figuring out
a way to elect a leadership rather than a single leader. Now is as good a
time as any, given how we all know how we collectively take a lot of time
to decide things.

I would lean towards separating the aspect of good representation from the
aspect of good leadership. The former can and should be left to the proposed
social committee - over there it's a crucial aspect (IMO), and over here
it's a bonus that can be worked around. To be clearer, let me give two
different examples:

* A larger leadership team is elected, and this set of >5 people turns out
  to include various candidates who have various opinions. As they form
  a leadership team, these opinions escalate into internal disagreements.
  The team starts deciding things based on internal discussion, which is
  probably a representative set of inputs to begin with, but this discussion
  isn't necessarily useful, because it looks more like a quarrel and ends in
  a vote that can well tend to be contentious.

* A smaller leadership team is elected, where people are elected on a
  joint platform or mutually supported ones. They can still have various
  opinions, but they don't differ as much. As they form a leadership team,
  they start to 'click' better. The team starts deciding things based on
  internal discussion, which is more monotonous. The team depends on general
  population input in order to argue for different opinions (those which are
  not held by any of the members of the team). In cases where the situation
  warrants it, this team ask the soc-ctte for opinion on wide-reaching
  issues (those that require more input and more consensus, rather than more

Both of the above ideas have other pros and cons:

In the first case, election is easier, because we just scoop off the top >5
on the vote result, and throw them in; in the second case, the election is
tricky, because how do you regulate nuances to make sure no incompatible
people are thrown together?

In the first case, you get a better sampling due to more people, but you
also get all the problems that redundancy brings; in the second, you skip
most problems with redundancy, but also lose if a common problem plagues the
whole team (e.g. if most go AWOL simultaeously).

In the second case, how do you trust the team to call upon the committees
sufficiently and appropriately, and how do you expect them to make a proper
decision based on that input? Conversely, in the first case, how do you get
respect and/or accountability for decisions made with a lot of internal

So, I'm thinking a compromise on the second case should do the trick:
* elect the top-leader as the first on the vote tally, regardless of
* have a 3- or 5-member leadership team, selected by the top-leader
  but composed from the rest of the winning vote tally, where by "winning"
  I mean those top 3 or top 5 who win over NOTA
* this selection must be based on a public pre-vote and post-vote discussion
  on platform compatibility, with veto rights by someone, maybe secretary?
* add a modicum of constraints on the process to ensure it works
* top-leader is the team tie-breaker in internal votes
* top-leader is also constitutionally bound to report all leadership issues
  that at least a handful of developers consider contentious to the
  tech-ctte and/or soc-ctte and wait for input, in order to handle all the

That sounds plausible to me. The most obvious problem would be if the
second-best elected person is skipped due to platform incompatibility, even
if they lose by just a handful of votes, but hey, it's not really such a big
deal, there's always next year, and the other constitutional methods of
doing what they want. It's also no less fair than the current system, anyway.

Please excuse my occasional over-use of 'you' in the above text,
I meant it generally :)

     2. That which causes joy or happiness.

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