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Re: [all candidates] beyond tech: how do you deal with humans?

On 2013-03-19 03:26, anarcat wrote:
You all have an impressive technical curriculum. Your deeds in Debian
speak for themselves. However, the role of a project leader is unusually

Well, sure I could sell myself technically as

- studied informatics at Edinburgh University
- phd in machine learning
- postdoc research
- work freelance, e.g. debugging TCP on mobile operators' networks
- strong interest in free software
- enjoy learning new languages, most recently improved my Erlang

but equally I could give you a non-technical CV

- studied philosophy, dead languages, history at Cambridge University
- moved to France for a few years
- now freelance, e.g. customer-facing projects in Indonesia, Romania, Kuwait - participated in research projects on corporate ethics and on social investment
- strong interest in early music
- enjoy learning new languages, most recently improved my Spanish

In fact, you will have to abandon significant technical
tasks to tend to more "administrative" or "leadership" tasks the DPL
role requires.
Why are you good candidates for that role? What social skills do you
bring to the community in terms of mediation and leadership?

Quoting a previous answer in https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2013/03/msg00009.html :

"I have already been working as a leader within DebConf for a number of years in a way similar to how the DPL acts within overall Debian. Although it rarely makes a lot of noise on the main Debian lists, DebConf is a big subproject within Debian. It handles a large budget every year and in addition to ongoing team members it recruits large number of temporary volunteers from existing Debian contributors and from people interested in contributing to Debian. I have learnt a lot from working to coordinate the many required tasks among these volunteers, many of whom are new each year, to make sure that each conference is ready on time and within the available funds -- and from mediating when there have been conflicts."

How would you have dealt with the difficult decisions the previous DPL had to make regarding various conflicts or problems that occurred during
his mandate(s)? Would you have intervened? How?
Could you give an example of such a situation where you have
successfully mediated a (potential) conflict? Which tools did you use to
deal with the situation?

As above, this has been part of my role in DebConf, as well as in other positions unrelated to Debian.

However, I don't really think it's fair to comment on specific examples of past conflicts on a public list. Even for ones that were public at the time, I don't feel it would be helpful to start posting links to bad situations people got into in the past.

Typically the most useful "tools" have been patience, calmness, listening to what each side has to say and making an effort to understand each side's motivations.

Often in Debian conflicts develop slowly from negative interaction methods. For example, even if a team is making perfect technical decisions, a lack of transparency in how it makes its decisions, or a perceived lack of openness to listen to others' suggestions, can lead to resentments building up and then unwarranted accusations being made. We should all be vigilant to try to help fix negative communications before they build into a problem.

While the DPL can be part of solutions to conflicts, there are a huge number of subgroups within Debian that contribute through almost independent processes to parts of the overall project, with their own particular styles and conventions. We shouldn't try to move to central coordination (and slow down development), but try to make sure that each team works better. I listed a few ideas about that in my platform.

If we can show more clearly that high-profile Debian teams aim to continually improve their transparency, communication and openness, and that they gain from this, I hope this will set an example for good practice that will gradually flow through to every subgroup working within Debian.


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