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Re: Candidate questions/musings

On Wed, Mar 24, 2004 at 12:50:26AM -0600, Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> > No, the problem is that if you try to lead people you'll quickly get
> > someone accusing you of, eg, trying to herd them like sheep. Or
> > otherwise implying that you're a disrespectful fool, incapable of
> > dealing with people. Or not transparent enough. Or too busy with
> > bureaucracy. Or something else.
> 	Pardon me. We seem to have gotten our wires corossed, probably
>  because I was not really thinking of the role you (or raul) played
>  in the non-free vote as leadership roles;

Why not, exactly? Bruce isn't the only person who's ever exercised
leadership in this project.

> I was quite as
> vehemently opposed to the non-free removal back in 2000 when it
> first came up; I thought we had common cause. I happened not to couch
> this in terms of leading and being a follower.

> I personally listened the arguments, and made up my own mid;
> not necesarily following anyone's lead but my own.

Listening to arguments is one way of following; presenting arguments,
and proposing solutions is one way of leading. Keeping folks on track
towards defining the problem and working out a solution is another way of
leading -- you provided a fair bit of leadership on resolving the non-free
issue too. Not all leadership need be or should be done gripping a gun.

> >> Traditionally, this is known as failure of leadershipt;
> > Yes, it's traditional to talk about "failures of leadership" in
> > Debian.  How about we work out how to stop that happening, rather
> > than just hoping we don't run out of folks to crucify?
> 	Umm, I am not sure this is something I want to be involved in
>  solving, unless I was attempting to lead, which I have no great
>  desire to do.  Good leaders are not made by potential followers. If a
>  good leader comes along, wonderful. 

Well no. If a good leader comes along, they get treated like everyone
else: namely abused and criticised, and any objections to that treatment
are casually dismissed with blase comments like "No good deed goes
unpunished". That's a long way from wonderful.

> > Do you want worthy leaders to follow?
> Those are the only people I would follow -- but I have no
> great, unsatisfied need to follow, if that is what you mean.

You seem to be claiming to be pretty uninterested in leading, pretty
uninterested in following, and pretty uninterested in doing anything
to make it easier for other people who are interested in leading or
following to do so within Debian.

That ends up making it hard for Debian to do things that require people
to actively work together -- having people who're just interested in
their own little areas and who aren't either experienced in getting other
people to support their changes, or aren't particularly good at finding
compromises to support changes other people want made means you end up
with a system that's a mismash of incompatible policies.

> 	Quite. Unless you have a bunch of followers, who cut you a lot
>  of slack, you need to convince people that what you are doing is the
>  right thing.  Until people trust you to be a good leader, and become
>  good and loyal followers, you'll hear this call for openness.

Well, no: instead of the people who you've been working with complaining,
you get a new bunch of people complaining instead. Is there some value
in having a continual stream of people complaining about things they
don't have a great deal of knowledge about or experience with?

The alternative is encouraging knowledgable people to complain when
something that's actually bad is happening, and discouraging complaints
and abuse at other times. Is there something particularly wrong with that
as a goal? Is there some reason that it's so infeasible it's not worth
trying to work out acceptable ways of achieving that?

> 	I must say that I am not sure there are a whole lot of people
>  that have thus earned my trust in their judgement.

Really? There aren't some 800 odd folks whose judgement you trust to
maintain their packages? There aren't a whole bunch of folks listed
http://www.debian.org/intro/organization who've earned your trust in
their judgement?

> >> Winning an election is rarely enough to satisfy these criteria.
> > No, elections are meant to happen after you've found people you're
> > willing to let lead you;
> 	Oh. In that case, we should stop the proceedings right now.

Uh, do you really think it's a good idea for the secretary to be saying
things like that, even without your hat on, or sarcastically?

> > and to allow us all to choose a common direction to travel in, in
> > spite of having different destinations at the top of our
> > preferences.
> I see. Not the way I see elections and voting, but what ever you say.

How about you just tell me how you see elections and voting if you
disagree with me, rather than acting upset and making me beg for your

If you feel that voting's main purpose isn't to allow us to choice one
particular direction out of multiple possibilities, what do you think
it is?

> > And in spite of us trying to be "the Universal Operating System",
> > there're very few opinions which are held universally. If we're
> > going to get anywhere, we need to work to resolve issues that we,
> > personally, might not see as problems.
> 	I personally have never been quite convinced of the universal
>  os  vision thang. 

Really? You've often said your goal is to make Debian the best OS for you,
personally. Repeating that philosophy 800 times over a fairly diverse
group -- or many thousands if you count the various contributions
non-developers make as well -- a universal operating system seems the
obvious and only possible outcome to me.

> > That includes concerns about lack of leadership, it includes
> > concerns about sexism in Debian, and it includes concerns about
> > unreasonable conduct on mailing lists.
> 	Would be nice, yes.

Would it be nice, or are you willing to do something about it?

> > Now, I don't believe I've attempted to dictate anything on this
> > issue, and I've spent a lot of effort trying to make sure that we
> > can come to a conclusion -- all the way from working through the
> > voting system changes needed to come to a conclusion on this
> 	Quite. A number of people (Raul comes to mind, and even yours
>  truly contributed a modicum of work on these points).

Certainly. Does good leadership mean ignoring anything anyone else thinks?
Does it mean not working with anyone else? Does it mean drawing a firm
line between leaders and followers, and making sure all the information
goes one way?

> >> Were it not for you stupid people out there not willing to be my
> >> followers, I would be the supreme god-king out there.
> 	I should have added a smiley there.
> > Odd, I seem to recall explicitly pointing out that we need to
> > protect ourselves from blindly following stupid whims; and I seem to
> > recall explicitly listing some of the bad ideas Bruce had.
> 	Right.

Then why rail against straw men scenarios that I've already agreed need
to be avoided?

> >> Someone who can come up with ideas, visions, and solutions that
> >> further the agendas of most people, enough so we go along with
> >> tangential tasks?
> > Think I've done that too.
> 	Umm. Well, for the sake of amity, let us leave it at that.

Are you trying to say that I've never come up with any ideas, any visions
or any solutions that've furthered Debian's agenda? Heck, limit it to the
non-free debate if you like.

Is your opinion of my efforts really that low that anything you can
honestly say would destroy any chance we currently have of working
together? Is there anything else I could assume from your lack of
agreement there?

> > So why do you feel the need to accuse me of wanting to treat
> > everyone else in the project as sheep to be herded with a few
> > whistles and some well trained kelpies?
> 	Oh, I did not so mean to accuse you, and I apologize f that is
>  what you got out of my mail.  It had not occurred to me that you were
>  speaking from personal experience when you were talking about the
>  travails of leadership in Debian (I was actually thinking of Bruces
>  Fiat's when I wrote that).

It's no good focussing so intently on avoiding stepping into some mud
that you walk into the path of an oncoming bus. That applies to both
people who want to avoid rudderless inactivity and people who want to
avoid foolish decisions being made with lack of oversight.

> > If it were the person, we'd have simply found another to fill the
> > same role, without the same drawbacks. That we haven't indicates
> > it's not the person, but the environment.
> 	The environment did not cause Bruce'shissy fits. And the fact
>  that no one else has thrown quite the same hissy fits seems to
>  indicate that it was indeed not the environment:

Really? Here's the claim: that good leaders get beaten into the ground
by the project. That's a claim about a fault in the environment. The
implication from that is that good leaders who don't have incredibly thick
skins won't participate in the first place, or, if they do, will quit
in disgust (or throw a hissy fit, if you prefer). That in turn implies
we either won't have much good leadership -- since there's no particular
reason to think good leaders will be particularly willing to put up with
abuse -- or we'll have good leadership accompanied by hissy fits.

Pointing out we don't have many hissy fits is half the case, but it's only
half. The other half you need to demonstrate is that we have lots of good
leadership anyway. 

Here's some things to think about: we're two versions behind wrt the
FHS, other distros (SuSE at least) have implemented /srv while Debian
hasn't, we've been struggling to provide good support for the latest
kernel in both the last release and the release we're working on now,
or that we're still unable to offer a live CD of our own in spite of
their utility to our users and in spite of other groups being able to
create Debian-based live CDs.

None of those things are crimes, and there's no need to find people to
blame for them, or any need for guilt or defensiveness about them, but
aren't they areas in which Debian should be leading rather than trailing?

Is it really unreasonable to consider Debian lacking in leadership in
a fair range of areas?

>  had it been, bdale
>  and wichert and tbm ought to have been deleting archives right and
>  left and stomping off in fits of pique.

Either that would be happening, or people would be complaining about
not seeing as much activity from them as they'd like.

>  Oooh, my cantankerousness. No, I don't suffer from such
>  hubris. Me, I am just a poor lowly developer; 

Yes, your cantankerousness; I can't think of a word that better fits a
developer that's been around since the dawn of time, who's on the tech
ctte and has been the lead policy maintainer for years, yet who hams it
up as a "poor lowly developer" when he disagrees with something. You're
a grand ol' codger, who formed his opinions in the mists of time and
who'll stubbornly stand by them come rain or shine. I mean that entirely
affectionately -- stubborn and consistent are the same side of the
same coin.

>  I am basing my
>  observation of the polarized votes that the last few GR's have
>  resulted in: I truly think we have grown too big to really have very
>  many common directions left beyond the SC.

Eh? The last few GRs have been:

	DPL elections 2003: three candidates with under 20 votes between
		them, each of whom beat NotA by at least 340 votes; and a
		fourth candidate who was soundly defeated by each of the
		other candidates

	Updated voting system: one option, voted against by only sixteen
		people of 160

	Foundational documents: three options, the winner of which defeated
		each of the other two by almost 100 votes out of 242 votes
		cast, and was voted above further discussion by 198 of those
		voters, compared to only 36 voters who objected to it.

and the non-free GR. I can't see anything particularly polarising about any of
the above votes.

> > In [3] you personally apologised for the project's aggressive
> > response to Helen Faulkner's suggestions. Are you, personally,
> > willing to make good on that apology and try to find a mutually
> > acceptable outcome on this issue without implying, eg, that people
> > who disagree with you are trying to be dictators?
> 	Strawman. Leading people in directions they do not wish to be
>  lead requires force; hence the term dictator. 

Yes, that is a strawman. I've already said I'm not interested in having
the project be led to bad destinations, and I've also said nothing
about trying to force people to accept that leadership. So how about
not assuming I'm trying to be dictatorial as well as not calling me a
wannabe dictator?

> 	I think you do need to stop thinking it is all about you:

I don't think it's remotely about me; I use myself as an example because
I'm particularly familiar with the details of those cases, and because --
if I'm correct and people are inclined to be offensive towards examples
of leadership -- it helps avoid anyone else catching the flak that goes
with being identified as a leader within Debian; being called a dictator
or a narcissist or sexist or whatever other slurs people come up with.

>  I was not attacking your purported leadership; it causes you to go off
>  putting all kinds of weird chips on your shoulder.

Really? What weird chips would those be, exactly? The only chips I can
think of is being offended at being called a hypocrite, or a dictator,
or having people start threads on how incompetent I am. I don't think
those are particularly weird chips to have.

>  You were ranting about how people wanting to lead were abused
>  for their efforts, and brought forth the example of previous leaders,
>  notedly Bruce. I recall his remark about laoding for Bear and going
>  for microsoft, whereas most of the rest of us wanted to just improve
>  Debian, and were not interested in the marketing tactics and asking
>  "How high?" when the users said jump that Bruce insisted were
>  required for shooting said bear. It really isn't all about you.

That's all you recall? I wasn't around for much more than the end, but
google knows all. There's things like:

	-- Dave Cinege goes crazy
	-- Let's add term limits to kick Bruce out eventually anyway

Or things like:




> > Would that not be a reasonable first step towards ensuring you don't
> > have cause to make a similar apology in the future?
> 	Whee--yooo-weee. 
> 	If you notice, it was not my conduct I needed to apologize for
>  before. 

No, it wasn't. But it's your conduct that you've got control of, it's
your conduct that you can change in ways that'll improve Debian, either
directly or by example.

>  I hope you are not considering doing something I shall have
>  to apologize to others for in the future.

So how about talking about what we -- you and I -- can do that would help
resolve some of these problems that have been identified by ourselves and
others, rather than coming up with clever ways of insulting each other
that we can't call each other on, or making sure we avoid interpreting
each others' comments in a positive light?

If I'm offending you, does it help anyone for you to return the
disfavour? Does it help anyone to remain courteous and on-topic in spite
of provocation, either deliberate or accidental? Wouldn't that both
make it easier for us to create a great distribution, and provide an
environment that's less rambunctious, and consequently more attractive
to potential developers like Helen? Aren't those goals we can agree on?


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

             Linux.conf.au 2004 -- Because we could.
           http://conf.linux.org.au/ -- Jan 12-17, 2004

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