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Re: Technical committee resolution

Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> writes:

> You don't need to read my mind, you can read Ian's recent post on the
> topic, eg:
>     http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2008/03/msg00000.html

I'm not sure that Ian deciding that he doesn't think the tech-ctte is
functional or fast enough and hence isn't going to even give it an
opportunity to be functional is particularly persuasive.

> Otherwise you could have a look at the ctte's open bugs, such as #436093.

Well, I actually agree with the sentiment expressed in that bug, namely
that it would be nice to resolve this without needing a formal vote.
However, what apparently happened was that the discussion seemed to reach
a more cordial point and then died without anything actually being

I don't think there's any specific governance problem here so much as a
lack of aggressive follow-through on closing issues.  I'm not sure that
replacing members of the tech-ctte would help with that.  Could you
explain how you anticipate your proposal would have helped in this
particular case?  Do you believe that this issue wasn't resolved because
the tech-ctte members have been serving for too long?  And if so, why?

> Or you could look at the tech-ctte's lack of ability to help resolve
> contentious issues in general, such as the conflict involving Sven the
> year before last,

I don't consider this a good example of anything, or a good basis on which
to make any future decisions.  This was a special case in many directions,
a nasty social problem far more than a technical problem, and something
that eventually required the involvement of practically every governance
team in Debian to reach even a partial solution.  I don't think it's a
good idea to lay that one at the feet of any particular Debian governance

> or the tech-ctte's involvement in technical improvement of Debian before
> a conflict exists.

Well, with my Policy delegate hat on, I'd certainly welcome more help in
that area, but on the other hand I'm not sure I see any specific need for
the tech-ctte as such to get involved.  What's needed here more than
anything else is simply more *people* who are actively doing more *work*,
not more formal authority.

For example, there are currently insufficient Policy proposal reviewers
active on debian-policy to even reach seconding thresholds on anything
other than the most obvious or important proposals.

Some of this problem rests with me for not more actively soliciting help.
I'm working on fixing that, although currently I prioritize my work as a
Lintian maintainer over my work as a Policy delegate and Policy has been
losing to Lintian frequently lately.

And again, I'm missing the connection between cycling the tech-ctte
membership and improvement in this area.

> Or you could look at the value of past decisions made by the ctte, via
> the ctte web page www.debian.org/devel/tech-ctte.

What that page says to me is that people aren't using the tech-ctte.  In
part, I think that's actually a triumph of other problem resolution
mechanisms.  We resolve most of our problems through significantly less
confrontational methods than a tech-ctte vote.  However, to the degree
that the paucity of decisions is due to a lack of confidence in the
tech-ctte, I agree that's a problem that would be nice to fix.

Judging from the current tech-ctte bug queue, it doesn't look to me like a
lot of people are trying to use it to make decisions.

> At present the technical committee is both one of the most powerful
> bodies in Debian -- it can overrule any maintainer on any topic; and the
> least accountable -- it can only be overruled by a supermajority vote,
> and changes in the committee can only be proposed by the committee
> itself.  In practice that means removals only happen when someone has
> been demonstrably absent for a long time and has no interest in
> remaining on, and additions only happen when enough people are removed
> that it becomes a problem.

This makes it sound like you think there are specific people on the
tech-ctte who shouldn't be there and people who are not on the tech-ctte
who should.  Is that the case?  Have you raised those proposals within the
existing framework for making those changes?

> I've brought problems before the technical committee in the past -- both
> what should be done in response to the "editorial amendments" GR [0],

> [0] http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2004/04/msg00009.html
>     http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2004/06/msg00033.html

It doesn't look to me like you successfully brought this problem before
the tech-ctte, actually, although that may be nit-picking.

> and a dispute of severities with Branden [1], in both cases resulting in
> no action or assistance from the ctte [2];

> [1] http://bugs.debian.org/96761

This should be 97671.

> [2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2004/06/msg00033.html
>     http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=97671#156

Here, the tech-ctte specifically voted that precise bug severities were
not a technical issue and they weren't interested in taking this on.  I'm
pretty sympathetic, as that whole thing looked like a tempest in a teapot
to me.

I'm not seeing the compelling justification here for a change in the
composition of the tech-ctte based on lack of action on a dispute over
whether a bug that everyone agreed wasn't RC should be either serious or

> having been on the ctte for two years, and tried to make some changes
> from within it [3] I still don't think bringing issues before the ctte
> is something I could recommend as productive, and without either any
> external accountability, or the ability to get new blood onto the
> committee without existing members disappearing or being effectively
> indicted for gross incompetence, I don't think that will change.

> [3] http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2006/02/msg00002.html

I gotta say, I'm not seeing any of these ideas as horribly compelling
either (particularly the rotating chair; I don't see the point unless
Bdale isn't doing a good job or wants to hand it off to someone else).

(2) here is again a question of follow-through, and I don't see how your
proposal addresses that.  The problem again is that someone has to do
work, and you can't, in general, find people to do work by doing
governance shuffling.  Someone still has to step up and do the work.  Ask
on debian-devel for someone to do the NMU.

I think you've identified some clear issues with the tech-ctte, namely
it's underutilized and it has problems with follow-through and closure.
However, I don't see how your current proposal addresses those problems.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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