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Re: Question restated

On Tue, Mar 05, 2002 at 08:26:39AM -0500, Dale E Martin wrote:
> True, point taken and I do feel you've been doing a good job as SPI
> treasurer, BTW.  And I think you've done an amazing job with X, too,
> despite being harsh with people from time to time - you've definitely
> backed up the talk with action.

Thanks for the (mixed) compliment.  :)

> Certainly, I expect our leaders to fall somewhere _between_ human and
> maniac ;-) And one of the things I'm struggling with is that our project
> could use a strong and vocal leader, and I know you would do that for our
> project.  On the other hand, I don't recall "frequently pisses people off"
> as one of the "7 habits of highly effective people" or whatever, and so I'm
> mulling it over a bit.  I didn't ask the original question, and I'm
> guessing there are a few others out there who have the same questions and
> concerns.

Maybe; but I think you're exaggerating the importance of tranquility
(or, more problematically, the façade of it).  I interpreted the results
of last year's DPL election, where I came in second behind Ben Collins,
as something other other than an utter rejection of me as a candidate.
Certainly, there are times when I -- like most people -- could turn the
temperature down.  As I said and you acknowledged, I'm striving to do

However, cooperative software development is an inherently contentious
process.  Put differently, no cooperation is perfect.  Our project
comprises people with vastly different skill sets, levels of competency
in given areas, personal philosophies, and different degrees of realism
about their strengths and weaknesses.  In such an environment, conflict
is inevitable.  Sometimes you can flame the hell out of someone and they
don't take offense.  Sometimes you can treat a person with kid gloves,
and they throw a temper tantrum because they didn't want to be wrong.
It's human nature.

I'll note that flamewars on the linux-kernel list that happen to involve
luminaries like Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox tend to covered in digests
like _Kernel Traffic_ more often than other flamewars.  No doubt both of
these gentlemen have stated things just a touch more harshly than they
needed to from time to time; you don't (or, at least, I don't) perceive
this undermining their esteem in the community, or causing people to
question their qualification to retain their leadership roles.  And note
that, for the foreseeable future, Linus is going to have a higher
profile than the Debian Project Leader.  So, given the broader audience
that is no doubt less accustomed to the rough-and-tumble of open
development, I'd think the factors that concern you would be even more
in evidence.  But as far as I can tell that isn't the case.

Ultimately, this isn't the Enterprise crew on Star Trek: The Next
Generation, where interpersonal conflict is rare in the extreme.  This
is real life, and I have confidence in the vast majority of Debian
Developers to handle conflict in a mature fashion, and not get overly
panicky when conflict does arise.  Most of the time.  The rest of the
time, I try to extend the same kind of tolerance for exceptions and
stress that I expect from others.

I can't realistically promise you a Utopia; none of the candidates can.

> I do recall Bruce Perens having some fairly shocking outbursts, the most
> shocking of which was when he quit the project.  I'd say that was in a
> class of its own, actually.

Yes, and Bruce continues to command deserved respect in the community,
and from his employer.  Something to think about; while some people are
better than others at controlling their tempers, let's not sacrifice our
rationality to producing self-fulfilling prophecies about those tempers
causing real and permanent damage.  If we nurture an attitude of
tolerance for our imperfect humanity, we're likely to be the
beneficiaries of that tolerance, sooner or later.

> While I'm sure that Ian, Wichert, and Ben have had their own moments,
> none of them have stuck in my mind.  Your vocal personality, on the
> other hand, is what defines you in my mind in addition to the good
> work that you've done.

I've gotten into flamewars with each of these guys over various
technical issues, and they can give as good as they get, believe me
(again, I'm not going to give you URLs).  You know what?  These things
blow over.  I haven't lost respect for any of these guys and, as far as
I know, they haven't lost respect for me.  I continue to work
harmoniously with these guys as Debian Developers and SPI Board Members.

I can't answer your implicit question about why my vocal personality --
assuming you mean just the part that writes angry mails on occasion --
sticks out more in your mind than it does for the others.  It could be
an example of self-reinforcing sampling (you already have a conception
of me as a hothead, so you're more like to note and recall the incidents
when I act like one).

To be honest, as far as emails go, I think I'm much more deserving of a
reputation for the following:
	1) Writing one-line jokes to discussion lists, some of which are
	funny and some of which fall flat;
	2) Writing long, speculative, philosophical emails like this

I'm willing to resign myself to the fact that the emails where I answer
people's questions, help them out, or work with people to solve problems
in my packages or theirs are unmemorable.  Certainly, I am constantly
reminded of the number of people who don't read my FAQs or my long,
detailed, completely calm messages about the SDL library problems last
fall.  ;-)

> I'm not interested in such an activity either.  But I do realize the DPL is
> kind of a figure-head for the project, so to some degree personality is
> important to me in making my own choice.

It can and should figure to some degree in every voter's deliberations.

> > Project Leaders aren't angels, and shouldn't be held to unreasonably
> > strict standards of conduct.  More to the point, I don't think the current
> > crop of DPL candidates should be held to higher standards than the
> > former officeholders have been. 
> Does that mean that we're supposed to go by precedent?  If so, we'd better
> start being _really_ conservative in our choices, don't you think?
> (Playing devil's advocate here.)

Er, no.  Like I said, we haven't had a disaster for a DPL yet, why
should we expect one now?

> > I agree that it was moment of weakness on my part -- and I'll work to
> > minimize those in the future regardless of the outcome of this election
> > -- but I'd like to ask you if you think this sort of email is unique to
> > me among the Debian Developers generally or among past and present Debian
> > Project Leaders in particular. 
> My own impression is that Bruce is the only other DPL that has come close.

"Come close"?  You mean you think I top Bruce when it comes to emails
that are flaming jets of fury?  You're *really* trying to get me to
sling mud, aren't you?  :)

> Each leader has had their good and bad points, and not all of them were
> very public in their execution of their duties.  Perhaps to the point that
> they seemed ineffective (I don't mean all of them here, but I'm not going
> to name any names).  What makes you an interesting candidate is that I'm
> sure you would be noticable as a DPL :-)

Well, you can be sure that I'm going to work very, very hard to be
noticeable for good reasons, not bad ones.  Debian has been the center
of my intellectual life (sorry, my heart belongs to my wife :) ) for the
past four years.  I identify very strongly with the Project and
absolutely do not want to do anything to harm it.

> As I stated early, I feel that having a strong and vocal leader would be
> good for the project at this point in time.  It's ready to be shaken up bit
> as we're getting pretty far into a period of uncontrolled growth, and we
> need to address some things.  The statements you've made are actually the
> kind of reassurance that I was looking for.

Thank you; I hope I do not disappoint.

G. Branden Robinson                |    The errors of great men are
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    venerable because they are more
branden@debian.org                 |    fruitful than the truths of little
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    men.         -- Friedrich Nietzsche

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