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Re: Both DPL candidates: handling social conflict

Hi Lars,

On 13/03/14 at 09:05 +0000, Lars Wirzenius wrote:
> We have, from time to time, situations within the project where
> people's feelings are strong and raw at the same time. These might
> turn into outright flame wars, but even before they go that far, they
> can be damaging. For example, most of the init system discussions of
> the past couple of years haven't been flame wars, but they have been
> divisive and have caused hurt feelings and generally made Debian be
> less fun for a lot of people.
> Some of these situations are traditionally difficult for us to deal
> with. Clear trolling, or name calling, or unambiguous flaming is easy
> to deal with. Where we typically fail, as a project, is dealing well
> with situations when people mainly talk past each other, not listening
> to the other parties, and are entrenched and uncompromising, leading
> to quite voluminous discussions that often don't make any progress.
> My question is: what do you think we, as a project, and you, if
> elected as DPL, can do to handle such situations, and ideally prevent
> them? I am asking a general question, not specifically about the init
> discussions.
> In previous years we've had a number of discussions about this, and in
> those a "social committee" has been proposed. What do you think about
> that?

You use the init discussions as an example. I'd like to stress that many
people (inside and outside Debian) have been extremely impressed by the
init discussion on the -ctte@ list. The Technical Committee provided an
in-depth technical review of the various options, and many people told me
that they read those discussions and learned a lot of things about init

That discussion gives good examples of recipes for successful discussions
in Debian: focus on the technical issues, on the goals, on the interests,
understand and respect the points made by other participants, etc.
I actually recently read "Getting to YES"[1], which makes a lot of good
points about ways to have productive discussions/negociations.
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_to_YES

Over the years, the tone of discussions inside the project has clearly
improved a lot. More recently, we have been giving more positive
feedback on particularly well-written emails, which is a very good habit
as it helps to set examples for others to follow. The Code of Conduct
will also contribute to improving the atmosphere within Debian, by
setting clear guidelines on what is the expected behaviour.

I think that we are generally on a very good trend regarding improving
the atmosphere within Debian and having productive discussions.
To improve further, I think that we should focus on advertising positive
behaviour, rather than spend too much time fighting negative behaviour
(by implementing a social committee). The atmosphere within a project is
not something that one can decide, but rather something that evolves
like cultural changes, slowly and over time.


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