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Re: Let's Stop Getting Torn Apart by Disagreement: Concerns about the Technical Committee

Gunnar Wolf <gwolf@debian.org> writes:

> It's easy to reach a technically sound decision, but it's hard to uphold
> it without someone somehow getting sore about it. I don't know how
> inevitable this is, but I recognize it happens in many different
> areas. And a few sore people "hurt" more than a silently sympathetic big
> crowd.

I think there are several principles that I suspect most people bring to
TC decisions.  Certainly, I did.  I think it may be helpful to look at
them and realize that they're *inherently* in conflict.  In other words,
it's clearly possible to find cases (and we have found cases) where it is
literally impossible to satisfy all those principles at the same time.

Off the top of my head:

1. Make timely decisions so that tense situations that are causing social
   and technical friction are resolved as quickly as possible.

2. Ensure that every party in the conflict is completely heard and
   understood before making a decision.

3. Avoid forcing people who are already burned out on a problem to do
   *significant* emotional and mental work to write up their positions,
   arguments, rebuttals, and defenses.  I cannot overstress just how much
   energy and time this requires to do properly, particularly for
   volunteers.  Being a party to a TC bug can easily start to feel like
   you need to take time off work to respond properly.

4. Make a decision in a way that doesn't drive any party away from Debian
   (on either side of the conflict).

5. Make the decision that leads to the most technically correct
   distribution and the best and most usable result for our users.

6. Avoid letting someone's heartfelt unhappiness not force an incorrect
   decision when they are (however sincerely) in the wrong (either
   socially or technically or both).

7. Be transparent to the rest of the project and available and responsive
   for questions from other project members who have concerns about the
   process or outcome.

8. Make a decision that upholds the aspirational, ideological, and ethical
   standards of the project.

If one thinks through all the ways in which these principles can come into
direct and painful conflict, I think it becomes clearer just why this can
be so hard.

I think it's also worth remembering that *every* community finds this
hard.  I think it's safe to say that every legal system, appellate
process, or conflict resolution mechanism known to humans fails at one or
more of those principles much of the time.

We should always try to do better.

We should avoid expecting ourselves to be superhuman.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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