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Re: Bits from the DPL For December 2019

On Thu, Jan 23, 2020 at 08:26:45AM -0500, Sam Hartman wrote:
> 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.

OK, I see now where you're coming from. I guess that *could* work,
although it's certainly not the approach that I would take.

>     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?

That's one way of putting it, yes.

> 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.

So, I don't think Debian is "routinely [...] a deeply frustrating and
painful place to work". We have our disagreements from time to time, but
we do have ways of resolving them, even though some of those ways are
rather hardhanded. Having been on the "losing" side in a major change of
policies in Debian in the past[1], I can state from personal experience
that such a time is, indeed, not fun. But our conflict resolution
systems are set up so that all sides of the argument will have their
position heard *before* we make a decision. This creates such conflict
resolutions long and, yes, sometimes somewhat draining. But I am
absolutely of the opinion that it is necessary to do it that way.

It seems to me like what you're advocating here is to avoid conflict and
disagreement. I don't think that's the right thing to do.

Do correct me if I'm wrong, though ;-)

[1] I was heavily involved in the m68k port up to about half a decade
    ago (IIRC), and was strongly disappointed by the decision in 2005
    which essentially reduced the value of the m68k port for the rest of
    the project. It felt to me like the ground was removed from under
    me, when the decision happened. And while I would have preferred
    another outcome at the time, I do think today that the way in which
    the whole conflict was resolved was, ultimately, done very well, and
    it has been a very big part in allowing me to resign myself to the

> 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.

Not necessarily.

I pushed for a Debian Code of Conduct, because I believed that it would
help the community move forward. I organized a "Community BOF" at
DebConf15 to discuss further ways in which the community could perhaps
move forward even more. Although not much came from that, I do think
it's never a good idea to rest on one's laurels in this area, and that
we may end up doing more at some point in the future.

But being told that the real issues you're trying to bring to the
discussion are non-issues for the original poster and that therefore
you're wrong for even trying to bring them up, can be extremely
distressing and demotivating. I've had that happen to me a few times
over the past year, and I think it has contributed to my being less
involved in discussions in Debian.

> 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.

I don't see it that way.

What I saw in that thread was people going off on a tangent. One person
said "don't do this". Another person said "I can do this because X".
Another person said "you can't do this, because Y". After three emails
of doing that you end up with a discussion that isn't about the original
point being made anymore, and I agree that such cases are not helpful.

However, such side discussions are not meta-discussions. They are
tangents, and tangents are almost never helpful.

A meta discussion is where one person says "we should come up with a way
so we can fix X", and another person says "I agree we should fix X, but
these Y and Z situations are really other cases of the same problem (and
in my opinion worse ones), and I think we should look at how we can make
sure we also fix Y and Z".

This can bring with it some level of frustration to the person
originally starting the discussion, but it is not necessarily a problem.
In fact, it could be providing another point of view that the person had
not even thought of, changing their minds as to what needs to be done.

[...don't disagree with the rest of what you said...]

To the thief who stole my anti-depressants: I hope you're happy

  -- seen somewhere on the Internet on a photo of a billboard

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