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Re: soc-ctte discussion at DebConf7 [was Re: Social committee proposal]

On Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 10:03:56PM +0100, Ian Jackson wrote:
> Rationale
> ---------
> There wasn't a huge amount of discussion about this; mostly people
> seemed to acquiesce to the way I put it, which is that we need some
> method for dealing with disruptive behaviour that lies between
> individuals asking for it to stop and expelling people.

Yet I wouldn't go so far to say that this was the only rationale why people
attended and supported the idea. It should be mentioned that it was early in
the morning, that people were still coming in through the initial part of
the debate, and that many people have a problem with just taking over the
podium in front of a group of people and expressing a general introductory
opinion. (Unlike you and me, perhaps ;)

While I certainly appreciate Andreas organizing the talk in the first place,
because if he hadn't, it wouldn't have even gotten into the schedule early
enough for people to generally notice it :) it does seem that we would have
been better off having someone formally steer the discussion and take
official notes (with obligatory interjections, saying "all right, now
everybody making casual comments shut up, do we agree on point X or do
we not?" :).

But it's not a big problem, we are a herd of cats after all :)

> I mentioned that I wasn't sure about it myself and that we should
> probably limit the power to apply to access to _communications
> facilities_.  That would deal with the cases of CVS repositories and
> team membership.

I think that this was mostly covered by my latest proposal, because
I phrased it like this:

  Intervene in communication processes in matters of common interest.

  The Social Committee may issue a formal request that a person refrain
  from certain acts and communications. [...]

(Did you read that diff? :) Now it shouldn't be a diff any more, I better
go rephrase and repost it as a statement.)

> The meeting agreed that a DPL delegation was the appropriate basis for
> the SC.  This would allow the process to be refined as we get more
> experience and also helpfully provides a useful appointment mechanism.

(I agreed only on the former part of that sentence, but not on the latter :)

> Straight elections were not considered to be a good appointment
> strategy, at least for any subsequent years, because most of the work
> done by the committee is in private.

This is also something that I didn't get a chance to respond to as well
as I intended, so please excuse the following rant :)

While the analysis of the tenure at the committee is certainly a useful
criterion on which the voters would decide whether a member should be kept
or removed, I don't think that it is the most important, because of the
nature of the committee - we basically want this body to elaborate and
establish certain social consensuses (consensa? sp?), and then when
necessary enforce it against people who are so out of line that they
piss off most everyone else.

For that, most of the time, you just need a few level-headed people with a
sufficient supply of common sense. They don't need a particular procedural
skill - it's sufficient if they are just guided by others. They don't need
to demonstrate that they were level-headed and common-sensical (heh) just
on the committee - I think that they should continuously demonstrate these
qualities in social interactions *in general*.

I don't want us to end up with a couple of members appointed and elected
because they're otherwise somehow popular (usually because they have l33t
technical skills :) which are cool, but mainly irrelevant here), and then
at re-election time they feel a need to demonstrate their actions on the
soc-ctte, and then the problem of private interactions comes up. That's
not necessary.

The voters will generally simply observe whether these people continued
to act sensibly on the committee, and sensibly in general, and they will
appreciate this by continuing to affirm them in the committee.
Debian is a pretty cooperative bunch (I did manage to mention that
particular point, but wasn't able to explain all what I meant by that :)
and for any soc-ctte member it will not take much effort to convince people
not to randomly replace them.

(Yet, the people should continue to have even that option, to randomly
replace people, because eventually they might get tired from seeing all
the same faces on the committee all the time :) and that's perfectly all
right, actually, because I do hope that we have a long line of other
level-headed common-sensical people ready to serve.)

> >   * The communication of soc-ctte members with people about their
> >     behaviour which might eventually become a matter of committee
> >     deliberation should be kept reasonably private, to prevent
> >     unnecessary escalation
> However, we agreed that if an SC member communicates privately with
> someone on a matter covered by the SC's remit (eg, to give advice or
> praise or ask someone to stop doing something), then such messages may
> be published without the consent of the SC member.  This allows an
> out-of-control SC member to be challenged more effectively.

Right, sorry, I forgot to say that, that just made sense in general and
I forgot to explicitly include it :)

> I think the right approach would seem to be for people to come forward to
> the DPL, who would filter the candidate list and the put it to a vote.

That might be wise from an organizational standpoint, thought I'm not
automatically convinced.

There should be at least one modification - DPL's final candidate list
should be posted on a mailing list a couple of weeks before voting,
and those people should reply, giving a bit of an explanation on their
candidacy. That would give the process a bit more transparency.

> >   * The consensus on later changes to the committee was that it should not
> >     be done often in general,
> I think in the end we agreed on:
>  - approval voting for the whole committee each year
>  - members thrown out in this way are replaced by straight appointment
>    by the DPL
>  - the DPL's replacements will not be voted on that year
> Presumably retiring members can be replaced by the DPL in the same
> way.

Hm. That seems practical, but I don't quite like it because it's introducing
a time window of indirect democracy without barriers. Imagine for example
that much of soc-ctte members retire, whether because they go AWOL, whether
because of some conflict perhaps - then the DPL replaces the majority of the
soc-ctte, and for many months they make decisions without further legitimacy.
That's unlikely to be a horrible prospect in our environment, but it might be
sufficently detrimental to the liberal minds of the people, to alienate them.

     2. That which causes joy or happiness.

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