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Re: GRs, irrelevant amendments, and insincere voting

On Wed, Nov 05, 2003 at 12:22:03AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:

> > What I have trouble understanding is why you might classify that sort of
> > approach as insincere.  It's not as if we have some shortage of people
> > wanting to talk about things on our lists.  Nor is it the case that
> > there wouldn't be anything new to talk about.

> I beg to differ.  After catching up on the list I see that a couple of
> people claim to have ranked option C below further discussion.

> Option C was proposed as "AMENDMENT BR3" to this mailing list[1].

> There *was* no discussion of it, really.  It collected its seconds, and
> there was a side discussion between Manoj Srivastava, Richard Braakman,
> and some other folks about whether the DFSG and Social Contract were
> separate documents or not (which was no more a failing of amendment BR3
> than it was of BR2, the amended form of Manoj's proposal which ended up
> on the ballot as Option A).

> No one stepped forward to proclaim their opposition to the proposal, and
> no one solicited any more discussion of the subject than I supplied in
> my rationale.

> I conclude from this that we have a system where people are perfectly
> comfortable with voicing no challenge or opposition to a proposal; they
> just rank it below "further discussion".  Given that ample opportunity
> for further discussion was afforded, then yes, I question the sincerity
> of that ranking of preferences.

> Can people *really* prefer "further" discussion when they do not avail
> themselves of any discussion in the first place?  Think about the
> literal meaning of ranking the preferences that way.  "I'd rather see
> further discussion of this subject than see Proposal Q implemented."

One need not be in *favor* of further discussion to consider a given
ballot option *worse* than further discussion, which is all that's
expressed by such a preference.

A lack of discussion may mean that voters consider a given option so
self-evidently bad (or good) that they don't believe any discussion is
needed.  If all options fail to meet the required majority (or
supermajority), then they know they were wrong, and they can then take
the opportunity to discuss further.

Is there any particular reason you think proposals *need* to be
challenged or opposed in the discussion process?  You yourself submitted
a number of amendments on the last GR, commenting in the process that
you were making sure the ballot options reflected the range of views
that voters *might* reasonably hold -- clearly, they could not all have
reflected your *own* views, or there would have been no reason to submit
them separately.  If ballot options can be submitted for consideration
by developers who can't even argue wholeheartedly *for* them, why would
anyone need to argue *against* them?

> That doesn't leave people a way to say "hell no, I oppose Proposal Q,
> and, for that matter, no amount of further discussion will persuade me,
> so I'd rather not see that either".  In such a case, the right thing to
> do under the Condorcet Method as I understand it is to leave both
> "Proposal Q" and "further discussion" unranked.

> But strategic voters won't do that, because they can disadvantage an
> actively disliked option more by ranking it below "the default option",
> which is a Debian innovation.

So the system is biased against the closed-minded? ;)  It does easily
allow expression of the opinion "I would rather have another opportunity
to dissuade my peers than have this option implemented", or "someone
needs to do a better job of persuading me before I'll think this is a
good idea".  For those who really do believe strongly that they don't
want further discussion, it's always possible to submit a ballot option
to that effect; but even in such a case, I think it would be rare for
someone to actually believe that further discussion is *equally as bad
as* an option that they consider completely unacceptable.  For
expression of the default option, "Further discussion" seems reasonably
apropos to me.

> There may be ways to rectify the problems I perceive by modifying the
> SRP itself, in conjunction with eliminating the default option, but my
> thoughts in this area are not well-developed yet.  Two factors I am
> trying to keep in mind are: 1) limitations on the amount of labor the
> Project Secretary can be expected to undertake just to run a vote;
> 2) the possibility of simply shifting "insincerity" elsewhere in the SRP
> rather than eliminating it.

Eliminating the default option would take with it both any
meaningfulness of supermajority on multivalued ballots, and the most
sensible quorum implementation I've ever seen for on-line voting.  I
don't think the insincerity introduced by not letting voters express
that "further discussion" is totally unacceptable to them is worth that

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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