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Re: Question for Matthew Garrett (was Re: Bits (Nybbles?) from the Vancouver release team meeting)

On Tue, 2005-03-15 at 11:46 +0100, Andreas Schuldei wrote:

> As a matter of fact, the result of the meeting was not known beforehand.
> The proposal was formulated in Vancouver and after the meeting. None of
> the participants knew what the result would be. Only by knowing the
> result beforehand would it have been feasible to include the people
> who now feel at a disadvantage (the porters) into the meeting. But
> no one knew.

I'm not claiming that it was deliberate. I don't believe in an evil
cabal that runs Debian for its own needs. I don't claim that there was
an active conspiracy to hurt the porters. What I /do/ think is that
proposals with that level of detail should not be made without
consultation of those directly affected.

> Your (and some other people's) perception of this being a
> done deal might be caused by it being very detailed. But that is just a
> sign that it was pondered profoundly. Reading debian-devel, I see
> that lots of people don't misunderstand the proposal but see it as a
> headway and useful.

I don't perceive it as a done deal, though a large number of people
obviously have done. I said that it appeared like a done deal.
Communication is not just about presenting facts. The way that they're
presented is equally important.

> > I also have concerns about the organization of the meeting. The first
> > public announcement appeared two days before the meeting took place. Up
> > until shortly before this point, even the DPL hadn't been told that it
> > was going to happen. Meetings of this sort are obviously useful tools,
> > but organizing them without notifying the rest of the project does
> > nothing to improve the transparency of our decision-making process.
> The reason for the perceived secrecy was confidentiality: One of the
> participants hadn't cleared his attendance with his company yet and
> was uncomfortable with it being announced in advance of that. This
> would not have kept us from properly informing the DPL, of course. I
> know that I would have liked to be told if I had been DPL. I am sorry
> to say that I simply forgot to do so and I apologize for that: It was
> not done intentionally. As an excuse I would like to point out the
> short time span we had to make this happen and the amount of
> coordination and work required.

Having spoken to the person concerned, it sounds like there was some
miscommunication there - he was under the impression that all he'd asked
for was for his name not to be mentioned. Regardless, I don't think
that's a good excuse. More warning and a more thorough description of
what was planned for discussion would have allowed made it possible for
people to raise their views beforehand. 

> > Frankly, to a large extent this meeting was everything Debian
> > /shouldn't/ be. We've had conclusions reached without the decision
> > making process being made clear[2]. We've had no opportunity for people
> > to raise potential issues in advance. The way this was carried out does
> > nothing to improve communication or consensus.
> I disagree. The release process had been extensively and productively
> discussed on wiki.debian.net. There all kinds of issues were addressed
> and the participants were involved. Numerous potential issues were
> raised and discussed in advance. 

Sorry? The wiki.debian.net page on the release consists of a huge number
of mutually contradictory proposals, with no indication as to which
would be seriously considered by the release team and with no
significant critical analysis. Wikis are not discussion forums. They are
information repositories. They're certainly not a substitute for mailing
list discussion.

> Then the proposal is announced and some people get worked up about
> it. I hope this to be less of a problem in the future, when people not
> only look at the technical merits of a proposal but also at the
> intentions and problems people had to overcome on the way.

Do you understand why some people have become worked up about it? Do you
believe that this response is reasonable?

> As Debian works today, there was little hope to make a proposal like
> this without a massive flame war.

I agree that it's unlikely that we'd have avoided some amount of
argument about the idea of not releasing some architectures. I think the
"cabal" arguments could have been avoided entirely.

> > [1] The text has actually been altered since I was sent a copy to
> > approve, and it's rather less objectionable now - however, I wasn't sent
> > a copy of the updated one.
> It changed all the time. (c:

It seems a bit odd to modify text that people have already agreed to...

> We (Debian) had experience with real life work meetings before and I
> organized some of them myself (for debian-edu and
> debian-installer). Usually we announce the meeting on the mailing lists
> to give everyone interested the option to come, and be it on their own
> costs. But the initial setting was more difficult this time: Besides
> the above quoted initial confidentiality, some people involved here
> were more touchy: Both James and Ryan are frowned upon by some
> people in the project and the purpose of the meeting was therefore
> both work and social acclimatisation of the group since some had not
> met before. Communication issues between release and ftp/buildd people
> were involved when Sarge got delayed and it was therefor one desired
> goal to provide the two teams with a better base to work on in the
> future. Anyone involved in release work therefor got a personal offer
> from Steve (and Colin?) for travel support [1], taking care not to
> hurt any feelings.

I'm not quite sure what point you're trying to make here. I don't think
anyone is unhappy with the idea of a meeting between the release team
and the ftp-masters, or the idea that it's good for people to meet each
other. People /are/ unhappy with the lack of publicity for the meeting,
and people /are/ unhappy with the lack of consultation before
announcement of conclusions. I'd like to see more meetings like this -
I'd just like to see them handled better.

> But:
> - The wording on this announcement could have been done more smoothly
>   and clearly. Unfortunately the people who noticed beforehand did not
>   give a heads-up. 

Sorry? I raised these concerns with Steve before it was published. I'm
not sure how much more of a heads-up I could have given.

> - Extra care will be taken next time when people need extra time to
>   make arrangements (for example with their employer). The same thing
>   goes for the invitation, which should have been more public.
>   Both decisions were influenced mostly by empathy with individual's
>   circumstance. This (need for individual confidentiality vs project
>   openness) is a hard thing to do right and is where we need to pay
>   even more attention next time.

If you had the opportunity to go back two months and organise this
meeting again, what concrete differences would you make?

Matthew Garrett | mjg59@srcf.ucam.org

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