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Re: Discussion: Possible GR: Enhance requirements for General Resolutions

> On Fri, 02 Jan 2009, MJ Ray wrote:
> > Don Armstrong <don@debian.org> wrote:
> > If an option can't get seconds enough to pass K (or Q), it doesn't
> > have support in the DD population or the proposers are lazy, and don't
> > want to find enough support. In either case, people's time shouldn't
> > be wasted with the effort required to run a vote and vote in it.


> In the past, I've seen considerable resistance to vote topics being
> discussed outside -vote, unless they're by one of a few popular DDs.
> Do supporters of nQ expect this situation to change, only those
> popular DDs be able to propose GRs, or can someone suggest acceptable
> ways of recruiting seconds outside -vote?

Do you advocate the current situation to NOT change?  Indeed the whole
purpose of this proposal is that things MUST change.  It seems quite
clear that recent (ab)uses of the GR process have had little positive
and immense negative affects on the project.  And I don't mean that in
the sense that "My Favourite Option May Have Lost" -- I mean that it
created massive division and even outright hostility between members of
a project that was only just beginning to show some signs of healing
from the rifts created by previous votes.

Do you really think it would have been difficult to obtain 2Q seconds
for a resolution to recall the previous vote, and postpone it until
some of the more obvious glitches had been better ironed out?  Release
early and often is not a principle we should transmute to calling votes.

We seem to have totally lost the goal of making decisions that affect
many or all developers by consensus.  The process of building consensus
revolves around satisfying the concerns of people who see problems with
your planned course of action to arrive at a Better Solution.  If you
can't get the consensus of around 30 people to begin with, it doesn't
take a degree in advanced math or political science or military strategy
to arrive at the conclusion that you are a LONG WAY from having the
consensus of the whole project.

By way of example, this proposal was not some off-the-hip idea of
Joerg's.  It has already been discussed to the point of little (or
rather no) objection in another forum, and has in-principle support
from quite a few people.  You'll note it was not proposed as a vote,
even though it could easily get the required number of seconds to do
so, but rather as a discussion point to further build that consensus
among a wider forum, and hone some of the little (but important)

That you seem to now be waging a 'campaign' against it, does seem to
indicate that you have quite missed the point.  How about we drop this
war-word 'campaign', and you instead come up with a concise list of
your concerns, so that we make take them to build a better proposal
rather than load them into a vote option as ammunition to try and
shoot it down.  I don't want this to get just enough support to
squeak by, I want everyone to agree on the problem and give their
best to finding a solution that they like.

I think your comparisons to local government councils as 'similar'
organisations is a misdirection.  You say any constituent may take
something to the council which they must then vote on.  A better
comparison of that scope would be the tech-ctte.  Any developer
can take a matter to them.  The similarity is that both groups of
'voters' are an 'expert panel' anointed by their peers to make
such a decision.

A better comparison to the case we are concerned with here would
be a referendum or plebiscite, where every constituent, informed or
not, is called upon to cast their lot for one option or another.
I don't know of anywhere else in the world where such a small
minority can call for a poll of that magnitude.  They are very
expensive to run, in every sense of that word, and so come with
very great risks for all concerned.

I don't believe the initially proposed levels of 2Q and Q are too
high, or will prove stifling for genuine issues that concern the
project as a whole.  If anything I believe they are still too low
for a consensus based system to resort to a vote, but it is a
conservative step in the right direction, the effect of which we
will be able to then gauge.  If it really is a terrible mistake,
and proves so in practice, I likewise don't think we'll have any
trouble finding 30 seconds for a resolution to reverse or modify
it in some more suitable way.

As a further practical proof of practicing what I'm hoping for here,
you may note that I say this not as a member of the self-select few
that are regulars in these forums, but as a concerned member of a
project who just wants to Get The Things Done That We Are Supposed
To Be About.  Minimising the number of votes we hold where the
options have been composed by small warring factions that are hostile
to each other's opinions seems to be a good start to minimising the
time I must waste being conscripted to one militia or the other,
against my will and better judgement, for the final bloody showdown.

What if you hold a vote and nobody shows up, eh?  I can think of
quite a few people who have only voted recently because the tally
had made quorum after they wished that it wouldn't.  Giving them
options where none of them express their true opinion is not a
very effective decision making process.  That isn't democracy,
it's an inquisition.

Debian isn't a democracy either, but this tendency is moving us
in the wrong direction toward one.  It's been a repeated failure
often enough now that I believe the time and clues are upon us
to do something about it.  This proposal seems like a small and
effective technical measure to push the line of least resistance
back toward consensus building.  Because of that I support it.

> Secondly, does the above mean that all votes that include options
> which don't have either an organised campaign group or a clear
> majority are wasted efforts?  Do we have a shortage of available
> vote-runners and if so, why aren't we recruiting a democratic services
> team instead of only one new Secretary?

Universal suffrage is a system that works where the cost of getting
everyone's opinion is prohibitively high to do in any other way.
We don't have that problem.  Though we may be about as physically
separate as any other organised body has ever attempted to be,
the cost of communicating in a richer manner than an up or down
poll is exceedingly low.

Any option that doesn't have the support of at least 30 people is
clearly in no position to consider itself a "General" resolution.
>From that starting point, simple logic says it must either accept
that it is a minority opinion, or that minority must expend some
effort to build a stronger consensus.  A vote is either premature
or destined to fail.  The notion that some minority opinion may
actually be held by a silent majority and that majority may then
be disenfranchised at some vote by a better organised opposing
cabal as a matter of process is a red-herring so far as I can see.

If a true majority actually do disagree with some poll that was
organised without their knowledge, or feel that they were hoodwinked
as to the true nature of some resolution, then they likewise will
have no problem raising the needed number of seconds to make whatever
correction is required in a subsequent resolution.  Awareness will
have been raised.  Maybe late, but certainly not never.  We've done
this before, so it's hardly a hypothetical method of correction.

Since the people who originally founded this project, and established
its most fundamental principles from the outset, are now quite clearly
a very endangered minority, I do respect what I perceive to be your
intention to protect the voice of minorities.  But I don't think a
low threshold for a project wide vote is in their interests nearly
so much as a consensus based system that places a high value on
resolving very strongly held objections.  There aren't many such
systems that we can just copy, and this isn't so easy as just getting
a simple mob majority on your side, but making it just a little more
difficult not to try does definitely seem like a step in the right
direction to me.

Of course I've been wrong before, but we aren't getting rid of the
undo button here.  Just making a few more people think that little
bit harder about what the real feeling of the project might be on
some issue that we need to take a formal stance on.

If it all goes badly, I'll buy beer for the people who tell me they
told me so, and we'll undo it, but I honestly don't think it will.

If 30 people can agree that all their concerns have been met, that
certainly adds orders of magnitude more thought about the issue
than if just 5 had thought about it, which greatly increases the
chances that it might have actually covered the concerns of the
people who will first hear about it when the call for votes goes
out.  And isn't that what we really should be trying to do with
every vote?  Most parliaments won't put an issue up for vote if
it is not clear they have the numbers for it to carry.  It wastes
time that could be used for other things people do agree on and is
just a general embarrassment to the proposers.

If it was my call, I'd have probably proposed a number closer to
half the people in the keyring to put any non-emergency[1] action to
a vote, and a significantly higher number than that for it to pass.
But I can accept that may be an overreaction on my part, and that
certainly it is wise to trial any such change conservatively.
2Q isn't a very imposing barrier, but I think it is probably about
the minimum that has any chance of having some notable effect that
we might later reflect upon to judge its efficacy.

When was the last time we had a vote that didn't leave some relatively
large proportion of developers feeling deeply unhappy about the result?
I really want that to stop.  I hope everyone else does too.  But mostly
I hope we discuss how to fix that to death _before_ the vote on any
solution is taken, and by the time the poll goes out we'll all already
know and be happy with the outcome.  I'd have no problem with us
preemptively applying the new conditions of this proposal to the vote
for the proposal itself (it's a superset of the existing rules so we
could easily do that by consensus with the final proposer/seconds).
That seems like an easy first test to shake out the fear from the
genuine uncertainty.  If it results in an even better proposal than
what the first 5 people agree on that would certainly give me some
early confidence that we've really done something intelligent and
valuable here.  If it falls down under it's own rules, maybe we'll
learn something useful from that too.


[1] I do believe that stopper votes on the actions of delegates and
    the like should retain a low enough threshold that they may be
    initiated quickly, but Q does not seem like an imposing level
    for that if there is a clear outrage over some action.  Other
    votes have far fewer excuses to ever be called in haste.

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