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Re: soc-ctte discussion at DebConf7

On Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 02:37:46PM -0500, Manoj Srivastava wrote:
>         The first set of comments I have is related to efficacy, and,
>  perhaps, the notion of fairness.  There is a fundamental difference
>  between a technical committee and a social committee: a technical issue
>  is likely to be far less subjective


Ruling based on the technical details of a question is apparently no defense
against accusations of subjectivity anyway.  Nor are any of our existing
poor methods for dealing with social problems any less subjective, so I
don't think this is a reason not to proceed.

> and while there are tradeoff aspects to technical problems, it is far
> easier to come up with reasons for the trade offs, and a rationale for
> selecting one option over the other, and do so in a relatively objective
> fashion.

The weighting of the trade-offs is always subjective.

The technical committee works not because it's more *objective*, but because
it's configured so that its particular subjectivity is biased in favor of
institutional stability (= the status quo), which means developers are more
likely to be accepting of such decisions because on some level the TC's bias
shares an overall alignment with their own.

>         I have seen no discussion on how the soc ctte is going to go
>  about ensuring that such cultural differences are noticed, or taken
>  into account in the resolution process; or that any thought has been
>  taken to address cultural diversity in the dispute resolution process.

I frankly think this is a red herring.  The society that the social
committee is purposed to serve is not Chinese, or American, or
Middle-Eastern, or French, or Indian, or German, or Japanese; it's Debian as
a society per se that must be served by this committee.

Now each member of the project is going to bring his or her own cultural
preconceptions to the table, to be sure[1], and the overall Debian culture
is certainly going to reflect to some degree the mother culture of the
predominant subgroups (whether that's predominance in terms of numbers,
contributions, key positions held within the project, or volume of mailing
list posts).  But I think it's the responsibility of each individual
developer to integrate themselves into the overall community, and that it
should not be the role of the social committee to inject an artificial
measure of "cultural sensitivity" beyond what the project as a whole is
actually capable of sustaining.

And OTOH, I think to some degree recognition of cultural differences falls
out *naturally* from any social committee whose charter includes
rapprochement instead of just judgement and sentencing.  If rapprochement is
your goal, all the cultural background that contributes to explaining *why*
an individual views a situation the way they do is much less important than
understanding *that* they understand the situation in that way.

>         Are we planning on taking into account things like cultural
>  differences? Or is the decision going to be that the majority rule (or
>  the dominant culture) be the governing one?

Do you take into account cultural differences every time you send a mail to
a mailing list or reply to a bug report, or do you allow your cultural ideas
to dominate by virtue of your position of authority (as a package maintainer
or as a community "elder")?

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
vorlon@debian.org                                   http://www.debian.org/

[1] There have been a number of mailing list threads over the past year that
have opened my own eyes to just how different American culture is from
French and Belgian culture in some ways, in spite of these countries
supposedly sharing a common overall Western heritage

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