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Re: Coming up with a new Oracle (was: Re: First call for votes for the Lenny release GR)

On Mon, 05 Jan 2009, Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho wrote:
> The big goal, for me at least, and hopefully for the other participants, is an
> eventual agreement on what the constitution says, or alternatively, a broadly
> accepted amendment of the constitution that clarifies unclear matters and
> settles the major disputes.  Now is not the time to start the formal process
> for amending the consitution, but we may as well explore the issues while we
> concentrate on other matters.

I certainly agree to that goal, but I doubt that the matter will advance
much when the discussion is buried in a big thread and that we are very few
in this discussion. (The recent mail from Ian Jackson counters somewhat
this argument, it looks like some other people are still following)

> It may be that -vote is not the correct list for this discussion.  If so, we
> may as well move it to another list.  Moving it to private mail, as some people
> have suggested to me, would be counterproductive, as private discussion leaves
> no public record and it is also not open for non-participants to become
> participants.

-project would probably be the right list until we have a real
proposition to put to vote.

> > Your lawerish-like interpretation of everything that happens in Debian
> (I assume that was a typo for "lawyerish".)
> For the record, I am offended by this description (not so much the reference to
> lawyering, though I'm sure you intended it as an insult, but that you seem to
> think I interpret the bug reports I receive in a lawyer-like fashion).

It was not meant as an insult. I wanted to tell that the comparisons you
made to countries/institutions and the like do not help resolving our
issue because we do not face the same problems and don't have the same

> Now, it is quite possible for reasonable people to come to different
> conclusions of fact and interpret the Constitution differently.  In the case of
> such a situation, we need some oracle, one that everyone respects, that
> pronounces the Official Truth and the Official Interpretation.  The current
> Constitution says that this Oracle is the Secretary, but since it is obvious
> the position of Secretary is no longer generally trusted with that power, we
> come back to the issue at hand - and to the initial paragraphs of this email.

The constitution should really be clear so that interpretation is almost
never needed. We should fix the constitution so that we can leave the duty of
interpreting the constitution to the secretary. We just need to make it
clear that the secretary doesn't have to interpret the foundation
documents to handle his secretarial work and that he must apply 3:1 ratio
based on what the GR says (explicit supersession or not) and not on what
he believes it means in practice. If he believes that there is a
discrepancy, he should point it out and help the proposer to fix it if he
wishes so (by rephrasing the text to make it more clear what the real
intent is).

On Tue, 06 Jan 2009, Ian Jackson wrote:
>  B. Developers are to interpret: this is I think the only workable
>     option and given that we have several times now had a GR whose
>     outcome was essential identical to that of the Developers in
>     question, I think we might be able to get a supermajority.

I agree with this conclusion and appreciated your analysis on this, as
well as your point of view as one of those who created the constitution.

>  GR process
>  - The Secretary should have a duty to help formulate clear
>    resolutions.  Eg, add to
>       5. Has a duty to assist drafters of General Resolutions
>          to clearly and effectively express their intent;
>          this duty extends to suggesting alternative wording(s)
>          which the proposer may (but need not) make into
>          a formal amendment and accept according to A.1(1) and (2).
>    I think this will ensure that the GRs - particularly ones which
>    amend the Constitution - are interpreted the way the proposers
>    intended.

Looks like a good idea.

>  - The Secretary should explicitly have the power to delay a GR
>    vote by up to (say) two weeks for the purposes of
>       - running related votes concurrently
>       - assisting drafters as above
>    unless the DPL objects, and may delay it by a further two weeks
>    if given explicit permission by the DPL.

The secretary probably delayed several votes without this explicit
authorization but it's probably nice to make it explicit.

>  - To help voters choose, the following people should be able to
>    require the Secretary to quote on each GR ballot form a URL
>    of their choice, to be used by them for disseminating their vews on
>    the vote:
>        The Proposer of each resolution or amendment
>        The Project Leader
>        Each Delegate or group of Delegate(s) named or overruled
>        A nominee of the Technical Committee
>        A nominee of each Trusted organisation designated according to 9.3

I agree with the intent but I don't agree with the list of persons you
selected. I would restrict it to:
- The proposer of each resolution or amendment
- The seconders of each resolution or amendment

The GR ballot should only give the URL on vote.debian.org where you would
find links behind each proposer/seconder. Ideally those links point
directly to the debian-vote archive so that it lets people jump into
discussions directly and form their own opinion.

>  Technical Committee
>  - Specify who decides whether a decision is technical.  Currently
>    this is semi-implicitly left to the Secretary but in the past these
>    questions have generated a great deal of useless side chatter in TC
>    discussions, sometimes in cases where there was a mix of technical
>    and nontechnical content.
>    I would suggest writing that the TC itself may decide this.  If the
>    TC gets it wrong and does something outrageous the Developers
>    should be able to get a 2:3 to overrule that decision so they can
>    overrule the actual decision too.
>    In mixed cases given the TC's lack of willingness to touch
>    political hot potatoes we can probably trust the TC to only rule on
>    technical issues.

Looks ok.

Anyway if the 2 parties in the dispute agree to defer the resolution to
the technical commitee, it can probably judge something that is not 100%

>  - Fix the TC supermajority requirement (which was broken -
>    accidentally changed from >=3:1 to >3:1 ie usually >=4:1) when the
>    voting system was redone)
>  - Increase the TC maximum size.


Raphaël Hertzog

Le best-seller français mis à jour pour Debian Etch :

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