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

Martin Steigerwald <martin@lichtvoll.de> writes:
> Russ Allbery - 28.10.17, 16:13:

>> There wasn't *anything* "left out" of that discussion.

> In my opinion this is a pretty bold statement.

> If everyone has been heard, noticed, felt and valued, if everything has
> been covered, then why are we discussing it… yet again now?

Those are not equivalent statements.  In that sort of discussion, it is
literally impossible to make everyone feel valued, since at least some
people on each side will only feel valued if their preferred option is
chosen.  That's therefore not a reasonable thing to attempt to achieve; we
can try to maximize the number of people who feel valued, but there are
usually at least some people involved in this large and sprawling of a
decision for whom "valued" is synonymous with "agreed with."

There are two primary reasons why we're continuing to discuss this.  One
is that the decision went a direction that a lot of people didn't, and
don't, like, and they're still unhappy about it.  There's really nothing
that can be done about this; any other decision would have had exactly the
same consequence, just with a different set of people.

The second is that there is a very strong tendency for humans to confuse
"you have heard and fully understand everything I said and simply don't
agree with me" with "you haven't heard me."  I think everyone does this to
some extent.  We're all firmly convinced that our arguments are the best
(since if they weren't, we'd hold a different opinion), and therefore if
someone doesn't agree with us, it must be because they just haven't
*really* heard and understood our arguments.  It's very, *very* hard to
not believe this.  And a *ton* of that happened, and continues to happen,
with systemd.

But... it's just not true.

I'm quite confident that everyone on the TC who made the systemd
discussion fully understood the arguments for the opposing side.  We
simply didn't agree.  And we have to find some way, as project members and
as human beings, to accept that and live with it.  Part of living with it
is not trying to come up with *yet another* phrasing of the argument that,
this time, the other side will *finally* understand.

This phenomenon is not at all unique to Debian.  It happens in all
political discussions.

> I certainly think that the CTTE process can be improved upon. Is it bad?
> I do not know and does it really matter to decide? I am sure everyone
> involved is doing their best. We always do.

> Can it be improved upon? Yes, is my answer.

I'm certainly happy to agree with this!  There's hardly any human process
that can't be improved upon.

My key point here is that if you think there was some other way that the
systemd discussion could have been held, some additional work that could
have been done, such that everyone would have been happy with the
outcome... well, sadly, I just don't think that was on the table.

There are certainly things we could have done better, mechanically,
culturally, interpersonally.  But there was no *argument* left out of that
discussion that would have convinced people, and there was zero chance
that we weren't going to come out of that decision with some very upset
and angry project members.

> Does the everyone involved with CTTE process drive conflict resolution
> processes to their completion?

I don't think the type of conclusion that you're talking about here (I
sense that you're talking about something other than a mechanical
conclusion of a defined process) is something that exists with truly hard
decisions.  This feels like an argument for always making decisions by
consensus, and the sad fact of the matter is that some decisions cannot be
made by consensus because there is no consensus and *will never be a

In those situations, in practice, this line of argument is an argument for
not making a decision, by perpetually postponing the decision because the
conflict resolution hasn't completed, because some people are still
unhappy.  And not making a decision is itself a decision, often a rather
bad one.

The other point I want to make here is that the systemd discussion was one
of the most exhausting and time-consuming things that I've ever been
involved in.  I'm sure some people in that discussion didn't feel listened
to for various reasons, and maybe in a few cases that was because they
truly weren't listened to.  (Perhaps because they were making other
versions of the same arguments other people were making.)  But at least
speaking for myself, there was not the *capacity*, emotional or temporal,
to engage in more detailed personal discussions with yet more people to
make sure they felt fully heard.  This is some of the "being human" part
that I was talking about in my other message.  Making people heard can be
incredibly time-consuming and can require a ton of emotional energy, and
TC members, like all project members, are volunteers.  Often with very
limited quantities of time they can spend on Debian.

You're asking more than I think you realize by asking people to ensure
everyone in the project feels fully listened to.

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

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