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Re: Judging consensus at in-person meetings (was: Re: Bug#844431: Revised patch: Oppose)

On August 21, 2017 6:16:51 PM EDT, Sean Whitton <spwhitton@spwhitton.name> wrote:
>[moving to -project; please drop CCs on follow-ups]
>Hello Ximin,
>Thank you for writing this.
>On Mon, Aug 21 2017, Ximin Luo wrote:
>> I don't think using the opportunity of in-person meetings to judge
>> consensus is such a great thing. This has been a common theme
>> cropping up in FOSS environments, pushed by certain groups and
>> justified by the observations that "only strong opinions are visible
>> [in email threads]". Much of the time, these groups overlap greatly
>> with people that are used to doing things in a physical setting,
>> including making decisions by judging crowd consensus.
>> Debian is primarily an online organisation as Bill says, these are
>> roots, this is how it became so big, and this is where the vast
>> majority of productive work is done. I think discrediting all of that
>> simply because "some people are loud on mailing lists" is really
>> short-sighted and distorted. [...]
>Russ didn't discredit "all of that" -- he just pointed out that
>/sometimes/, online discussions can obscure a consensus that is quite
>obvious in person.

Among those present.  I'm not sure the background here, so it may not be relevant to the specific case, but judging consensus for a group that's primarily an online organization is inherently exclusionary.

At most it's a consensus of people in the room.  You can't realistically claim a new consensus about something in Debian as a whole based on in person discussions.

>> Personally, and I'm sure many people are similar, I prefer to have
>> long technical discussions like this in writing via email, and not
>> face-to-face. I'm a very slow thinker, I don't make very good
>> decisions in the fast-paced context of a normal physical
>> conversation. If I sometimes seem like I do, it's usually only
>> I've thought about the problem beforehand and have my main points
>> decided.
>> Physical discussions encourage non-technical interactions - if you
>> pick the right words and presentation, you can make a crowd empathise
>> with you for largely non-technical reasons. I don't think this is a
>> good thing, we should recognise that this happens and not allow it to
>> take over Debian's decision making processes.
>> Online technical discussions are safer against these sorts of
>> effects. [...]
>Right, I agree that these effects could do a lot of damage to Debian.
>In this case, the discussion /did/ occur online, in the bug.  Only two
>things happened offline:
>- some brainstorming of the patch I initially proposed
>- the judgement that consensus existed
>The first one of these is not itself part of the decision-making
>process; my posting of the patch to the bug is.
>The second was based on offline interactions, but it was a judgement of
>a consensus that existed /before/ DebConf.  It wasn't that anyone used
>non-technical interactions to /create/ the consensus.
>> Indeed in this thread there were lots of good points brought up
>> criticising the wording of this policy, that nobody thought about
>> during physical discussions at DebConf (which I didn't participate in
>> for these reasons).
>I agree that online discussion was best for bringing out all these
>points.  But bringing out those points was not about judging consensus.

Even in the IETF, which meets three times a year in person and is largely made up of people that get pay and travel to attend, they still require consensus judgements to be made via mailing list.

Limited participation forums aren't good for consensus determations.  This includes the discussion of if there is a consensus (rough or not).

Scott K

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