[IAEP] [Sugar-devel] [wiki bug] Roadmap Sugar Labs - Ambiguity detected on how to make Decisions

D. Joe sugarlabs at etrumeus.com
Tue May 9 10:14:51 EDT 2017

On Tue, May 09, 2017 at 04:04:05PM +1000, James Cameron wrote:
> > 
> > 2017-05-08 15:20 GMT-05:00 James Cameron <[1]quozl at laptop.org>:
> > 
> >     On Mon, May 08, 2017 at 06:28:00AM -0500, Laura Vargas wrote:
> >     > 2017-05-07 21:59 GMT-05:00 James Cameron <[1][2]quozl at laptop.org>:
> >     > > Please instead build trust.
> >     >
> >     > Interesting point of view. Still, please elaborate in this
> >     > suggestion. How to achieve this?
> > 
> >     As there is only one board member asking this question, I'm inclined
> >     to be brief. 
> > 
> > Making "decision making process" understandable and friendly should
> > be relevant not only to current board members but also to everyone
> > in the community.
> >  
> > 
> >     ;-)  I don't feel I will be heard. 
> > 
> > Your opinion is very relevant for our community.
> No doubt about relevance, but conflicting opinion may reinforce errant
> behaviour rather than improve a situation.  The rebound effect.
> I have seen no other interest than what you have expressed.

Speaking as a relative newcomer to the community, I find this interesting.

Let me say that as, perhaps, the tip of an iceberg of people who may be
interested in the results if not in the minutiae of the process, at least. I
say tip of the iceberg because, inevitably, for any one person who speaks up
there are several who lack the time, inclination, or temperment to wade into
a discussion like this.

As for procedures, one thing I realized a while ago about group decision
making mechanisms that is valuable is that they offer clear, specific ways
to differentiate "people just talking" from "people vested with specific
powers who are talking their way towards a definite decision".  The process
of requiring a second, for instance, helps differentiate a motion from just
another thing that someone has said, a casual proposal, whatever the venue.

Another problem though is that many of the processes for group decision
making are repurposed from things used for in-person deliberative bodies,
where the act of being physically present in that certain place in that
certain time, and in a certain part of the room, standing, and recognized by
a chair, is itself a much stronger marker that decisions are being worked
towards.  In contrast, when we use always-available electronic
communications, many of these signals are lacking or are obscured,
especially when we also try to be inclusive of many voices, including those
(like mine) that have less legal standing and responsibility for making

These problems tend to compound themselves because traditional
debate-centered decision making mechanisms apply the idea of a motion, and
of a second, and of a vote recursively--amendments to motions are in turn
meant to be proposed by still further motions, that in turn require seconds,
and that in turn require recognition from the chair and debate and calling
the question and so forth, ad infinitum.  Rarely have I seen anyone outside
of national or state legislatures wield these tools well, and even then,
the process and the results are not that satisfying. Many a group has, for
instance, Robert's Rules of Order specified as the reference for how they
run their meetings, with no person in the group having first clue as to what
they entail.

I have speculated to myself a bit about how experience with
Westminster-style governments might inform ones awareness of and familiarity
with these sorts of procedures but, like James, I'm not sure how much it
profits us to dwell on that as a model, other than in a cautionary sense.

One model for group decision making that I do like, that seems to work
reasonably well without nearly so much overhead as traditional
debate-centered deliberations is the consent agenda mechanism. 

You can search for resources on your own for explaining "consent agenda" but
by way of brief introduction, the process works something like this: Most
business is proposed, discussed, and if necessary, modified outside of any
formal deliberation time.  Before an official meeting, a deadline is set. 
Any action to be taken *must* be proposed as an agenda item prior to this
deadline. Discussion doesn't have to take place beforehand, it's just that
the ultimate success of an agenda item may rest on how well one has prepared
others for that agenda item.

In the official meeting, reference is made to the agenda. A call is made as
to whether anyone needs further to discuss any of the agenda items.  In
normal operation of this system, all that discussion should have taken place
beforehand, but this call serves as a final notice and as a sort of safety
valve.  Should additional discussion need to take place, the item is pulled
from the agenda for separate treatment later in the meeting.  Once all the
items that are pulled have been pulled, the remaining agenda is put to a
straight up-or-down vote.  Since objectionable items should have been pulled
already, the agenda should pass quickly and with no fuss.  Done. If it
doesn't, and if the votes are public, it becomes extremely clear who, if
anyone, has approached the previous steps in bad faith.

The body then must debate and decide what action, if any, to take on the
pulled items.  If time is of the essence, a debate and a vote can follow. 
If the positions of everyone who can vote are established and immovable and
not in accord, just go to a vote and be done with it.  If there is time for
further discussion and consensus building, the item can be made part of a
later consent agenda.


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