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Re: Bits from the DPL For December 2019

TL;DR: I think we need a team to focus training and skill sharing even
if we try and drive community wide change.
I try to explore when splitting off meta issues is a good idea.

>>>>> "Wouter" == Wouter Verhelst <wouter@debian.org> writes:

    Wouter> I don't think any of the above is something that can be done by a team
    Wouter> of any sort. I believe our community has been slowly migrating to a
    Wouter> situation where these kinds of actions are seen as normal, and I think
    Wouter> we should work to encourage that going forward; but IMHO, delegating
    Wouter> that to a team is not going to help, on the contrary.

I hope the entire community grows at deescalation and that we all teach
each other.
However, deescalation is something you can get better at through
practice, study and investigation of techniques.
It's something that benefits from training and focus.
Thus it is something that benefits from having a group of people who
commit to spend time on the problem.
It probably benefits from the project committing money to help train
those people.

As such, I do think a team is essential.
I appreciate your reminder that eventually this is something that we can
all focus on and that any team should be leading by example and
fostering community wide change.

    Wouter> I specifically also disagree that trying to "split meta-issues away from
    Wouter> discussions" is in any way or form helpful. What may be a meta-issue to
    Wouter> you might be the core reason why someone else is upset about the
    Wouter> situation, and they may want to explain that to you to make you
    Wouter> understand *why* they are upset; being told in such a situation that
    Wouter> "we'll talk about it later" does not help deescalating things (on the
    Wouter> contrary).

I think I hear you.  Are you saying that you are concerned when we talk
about splitting off the meta issues because you worry people concerned
about these meta issues will view this as an escalation?

I think that will happen.
And so, I think that when we work with people to split off the meta
issues, we will need to actively work to deescalate the situation.
I think that splitting off the meta issues is necessary to reduce the
impact of even greater escalations that routinely make Debian a deeply
frustrating and painful place to work.

I'd ask you to consider whether you're coming at this from the viewpoint
of technical discussions and of the prevailing viewpoint from the time
the CoC was written.  I find that as the world has evolved, and as CoCs
have become more important for treating people (and not just
communications) with respect, the requirements for what we as a
community need to do have changed.  I don't know, but that difference
may be one of the ways in which we see this differently.

The importance of splitting off these issues is something I've only come
to gradually appreciate, and some of my most recent growth is based on
mail Steve wrote to a small group after the December incident.
I'll approach explaining my view from two directions.

First, in matters of behavior, the meta issues can explicitly create
situations where people do not feel welcome.
We had a thread in December where people argued that using people's
pronouns was optional.  As a community we needed to send a strong
message that was unacceptable.  We got feedback from trans members of
our community--the same people we're trying to protect--that the side
discussions diluted that message of support.

If we're going to come across as supportive when bad things happen, we
need to keep focused.

For some of the side threads I think it would have been sufficient to
just change the subject.

For others, I actually think handling them off-list and/or at a later
time with different tone would have been needed.

My second observation comes from exploration of empathy
frameworks--particularly in my case NVC.
Often when you are upset, those strong feelings get in the way of
connection--get in the way of empathy.  You cannot both go first in
building understanding.  You can give or receive empathy, but especially
when you don't have a connection now, it is difficult to impossible to
do both at the same time.

When people are upset, starting a thread is often about asking for
empathy (among other things).
Some of the side issues can come across as a refusal to give empathy
until the point of the person bringing up the side issue has been

For the technical discussions, what counts as a side issue is much more
complex and probably involves much more latitude on the person bringing
up the side issue.
I assure you it is frustrating when you bring up a current problem, and
the discussion is derailed by a blue-sky design that may solve today's
problem three years from now in an alternate universe where assumptions
are different.
In many of those cases, the person bringing up the "what if we
redesigned …" might well agree their point is a side issue.
Especially for the technical discussions, significant progress could be
made simply by changing subject lines appropriately.


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