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Secrecy of member expulsions (Re: [all candidates] Removing or limiting DD rights?)

[Moving this to -project]

Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
On Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 05:37:18PM -0400, Chris Knadle wrote:
> Technically the DAM has the ability to act to remove a DD (per Debian 
> Constitution 8.1 item 2), but the information I can gather so far seems to 
> indicate that the DAM won't expell a DD for disciplanary problems.

FWIW, that is not correct. There have been other cases of member
expulsions for, as you put it, "disciplinary" reasons, but for various
good reasons not all of them are discussed publicly --- one thing is
expelling a developer, another is putting that up to ever lasting public
shaming on the web.

I don't disagree with you and the follow-up from Chris on this. However, I see a false dichotomy between keeping [some] expulsions secret and "publicly advertising" expulsions, or "public shaming". The missing option is very simple - for example, I don't advertise that I finished high school, but I won't hide that to anyone who asks me. We can publicly discuss expulsions without maintaining a members expulsion list.

Let's assume all expulsions were rightful to simplify this discussion. If a member is expelled and we publicly confirm that, there are definitely costs for that member. But there are also benefits; not only will any mistreated contributor have his faith in the project partially restored, but:
  1. Other organizations (free software or not) will be warned to consider granting power to the problematic individual more carefully.
  2. In the long term, if members realize that we stop covering up their errors, they should start behaving more cautiously.
Unless the project wants to consider only the interest of its members, I'm unconvinced that the cost outweighs the benefits.

The question here is far from Debian-specific. Ongoing technological advances have great impacts on reputation. Society as a whole has to evolve:
  1. Individuals need to become more responsible.
  2. At the same time, organizations need to appreciate the limits of reputation:
    1. Everyone does errors sometimes.
    2. The majority of us evolve - I am certainly not the same activist than I the one I was 10 years ago.

That being said, I think there's a potentially very problematic edge case: mental illness. Some of our members don't hide they are or have been mentally ill. Perhaps surprisingly, these aren't part of the contributors I consider most problematic. But I can remember very well one case of a contributor going from a respected member (who I assume  - without much actual knowledge - was once very productive) to... a pure jerk. I'm certainly not the only one remembering this case, and while I never personally knew the contributor and I am not God, the contributor becoming mentally ill seems like the most probable explanation.

I am far from knowledgeable on psychology and mental illness, but I hope this member has recovered today, and the impact of an organization finding out about his behavior may be much more severe for him than an organization finding out about a softer case of expulsion, say one mostly caused by immaturity. If that individual was to approach Debian admitting having suffered from mental illness and requesting evidence of his actions to be removed, I'd be sensible to his request. On the other hand, it may be that the best solution is for the expelled individual to disclose his health status as much as possible. I suppose people more knowledgeable in social sciences could have a more informed answer than mine.

Thanks to Steve for bringing up this topic and all candidates for their answers - and their candidacy!

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