Server WG Governance

inode0 inode0 at
Mon Apr 21 20:15:30 UTC 2014

On Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 2:57 PM, Stephen Gallagher <sgallagh at> wrote:
> On 04/21/2014 03:42 PM, inode0 wrote:
>> On Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 2:08 PM, Stephen Gallagher
>> <sgallagh at> wrote:
>>> 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.
>> I think some variation of consensus decision making would be a
>> very nice fit. While I am a pretty big fan of the process in
>> general I'm normally not so fond of using a unaminous voting rule
>> but that is a detail you can think about. Other groups do use other
>> less absolute voting rules, like unanimous - 1, which allows for a
>> small bit of dissent without derailing the decision.
> The problem with that approach (as I see it) is that it doesn't
> address the marginalization problem. The point of a consensus vote is
> that it ensures that no member of the group is being ignored (or if
> they are, it's ultimately because they themselves have refused to meet
> in the middle). Consensus - 1 still leads to "sides" and just moves
> the target.

The consensus building process still applies though so the larger
group still works with the lone dissenter to build consensus. It just
avoids being forced to remove the dissenter in order to proceed from
the equation which I think would be quite problematic on a body
constructed like the Board for example. And while talking about the
application of this to the Board I think it might be more difficult to
implement in large part because many issues that come to the Board
touch directly on the core values of Fedora and hence call out for
principled and in some cases hard line stances.

>> The one abstract concern I have about consensus decision making is
>> that it might tend to water down the difficult decisions that
>> really need to be made at times leaving the governed body with
>> either the status quo or something quite different from what was
>> proposed to begin with.
> I'm actually not sure that's a bad thing. If a "hard decision" needs
> to be made, and the group can't come to consensus about it, that says
> to me that the decision wasn't fully thought-out. There is always a
> slight risk that eventually we'll miss out on a major shift, but I'd
> like to think that the process is sufficiently lightweight that we
> would be able to return to the question and answer it differently.
> And if the result is to get something quite different from the initial
> proposal, that says to me two things: 1) The initial proposal wasn't
> good enough and 2) nine intelligent individuals ultimately decided on
> something they could all live with. Knowing what I know about Fedora
> Contributors (namely that we are all ultimately on the same side and
> want to see Fedora and FOSS succeed and thrive), I can't really see
> any alternative decision going too far afield of what we hope to achieve.

Yeah, I'm not sure about this concern either. Having not seen this in
action in the sort of situations I'm thinking about I just have some
concern. You make a good case.

>> I'll be watching with great interest as I too have considered
>> proposing something based on consensus decision making for one of
>> the other governance bodies in Fedora.
> This is the tricky part. A consensus-based model is *very* difficult
> to shoehorn into the system after the group has been established for a
> long time. I think we have an opportunity to do so in the Server WG
> right now because at least so far, we've managed to reach consensus on
> almost everything anyway; we haven't really had to deal with splitting
> on major decisions and fighting for swing votes.
> But with groups like FESCo, the Board, FPC, etc. (not singling any
> out), there's a long and entrenched history of majority-based
> decision-making. The unfortunate side-effect there is that it has on
> some occasions led to individuals or factions being unable to work
> together (which is ultimately disfunctional).
> I think that if such a system was to be implemented, it really needs
> to come close to the beginning, before such enmities have formed (or
> else the effect will likely be that no decisions are ever reached,
> because neither consensus nor the emergency ban will be possible).
> Certainly, if any of those groups want to move towards it anyway, I'd
> happily support them on it.

In the case of the Board I don't really think it has the history you
suggest. I believe for many years and even of late most decisions are
not opposed. Even many with some dissent I think we could reach
consensus on if we were willing to spend more time doing so. Anyway,
thanks for the thoughtful comments and I'll get back out of your way
here. Good luck with this if you adopt it.


More information about the server mailing list