Server WG Governance

Stephen Gallagher sgallagh at
Mon Apr 21 19:08:00 UTC 2014

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At the risk of starting two out-of-control threads in one day, I
wanted to bring up a discussion I had with Karsten Wade last week at
Red Hat Summit. We were discussing various governance methodologies,
specifically that of FESCo, the Board, the WGs and CentOS.

There are some very interesting ideas that the CentOS Board has put
into place, the most relevant I think is their mechanism for
consensus-based decision-making[1]. I'd like to describe it a little
bit here and note how I think in many ways this is pretty much how we
in the Server WG have actually been operating thus far and that we may
want to actually formalize it.

The short version of the consensus-based voting is that all decisions
require that all participants can live with the result and that every
 member of the voting population (in our case, the nine sitting
members  of the WG) can block it.

A blocking vote requires a clearly-expressed statement as to why they
feel that the choice in question violates the criteria of the project
(in our case, it violates our Mission, Vision, PRD or Technical
Specification, or that of the Fedora Project at large).

Voting in CentOS requires at least three +1 votes and zero -1 votes
for any motion to pass, and with at least 72 hours given for
non-present members to express their dissent.[2]

If a blocking vote occurs, this changes the dynamics of the
discussion. In traditional majority votes, the result is usually that
two "sides" emerge, each trying to swing a sufficient number of the
other WG members to their point of view. However, in a consensus-based
process, the behavior is that now the remaining members of the group
must find a compromise (or correct a misunderstanding) in order to
proceed. The benefit here is that the dissenter is treated as someone
to work with, rather than to work around.

Karsten also noted that there is a proviso that if one person is truly
unable or unwilling to meet in the middle, the rest of the board can,
with a unanimous vote, remove a member. So when casting a blocking
vote, it becomes paramount to negotiate to the best solution, because
failing to do so may carry with it the risk of losing a beneficial
member of the group. In essence, a true blocking vote (as opposed to a
+0) is saying "I am willing to leave over this; convince me or come to
a middle ground".

So, with all that being said, I would like to point out that I think
we've actually pretty much done exactly this all along, but without
formalizing it. I think the only decision we've ever made (following
the creation of the PRD) that had any dissenting votes was over the
selection of which database to use as the DB Server Role.

We have so far done an excellent job of reaching consensus (and as a
result, I find that our group has managed a pretty excellent working
relationship with little bad blood). I'd like to strongly recommend
that we formalize this approach, modeled after the CentOS governance.
I think that as long as we behave in this way (where consensus is not
only desired but mandatory), we will keep this group effective and



p.s. Part of this is also driven by my concerns in other groups in
Fedora where a tradition of "armed camps" seems to have grown up
around all votes.
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