[Noisebridge-discuss] consensus process meeting project postmortem (worth reading)
jim at well.com
Mon Feb 14 18:20:38 UTC 2011
seems to me the problems are not a matter of
the process of consensus but of discussion and
people in general. Seems unfair to castigate
poor, defenseless consensus for people getting
off on acting out.
On Tue, 2011-02-15 at 00:18 +0700, Danny O'Brien wrote:
> On Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 1:42 AM, jim <jim at well.com> wrote:
> > My take on the Consensus discussion meeting of Friday
> > 20110211 was similar to Patrick's. It seemed a good
> > discussion.
> > Here are some points that I recall.
> > * No one presented an example showing that the consensus
> > process is broken. The examples presented illustrated that
> > the consensus process has been working (examples included
> > accepting new members and one or two other things that i
> > have forgotten).
> I think there may be some deep deep history to this. I defer to people
> who have been around longer than me and have attended meetings more
> regularly, but complaints about consensus going haywire (as much in
> the sense of actually causing acrimony rather than not being used or
> being able to come to decisions) go back a long way:
> This is a thread from 14 months ago that refers to a previous bad
> period six months before that.
> One of the first meetings I attended a long time ago (but in the new
> space, so it can't have actually been that long) was pretty
> spectacular, with people who seemed to know each other well arguing
> flamboyantly and without much aim (shouting, threatening to block,
> personally insulting their "opponents" in creative and apparently
> well-aimed ways). I didn't know anyone involved and to me as an
> outsider it mostly looked like Defcon-ic pranksters enjoying
> themselves a bit too much at the expense of some quiet onlookers. The
> quiet onlookers, though, looked highly pissed off. I'd come in late
> too, so I wasn't sure how long this had been going on.
> Now I know more people in the space I don't know whether it'd look the
> same to me now, but I think some of the reputation for dysfunctional
> consensus comes from this kind of socially uncomfortable meeting as
> much as it does from it being a hard way to get things done.
> Moxie and Patrick have I think alluded to meetings that were more
> recent that were also painful in this way, but I have to say the
> meetings I've attended recently have been uneventful and kind of fun
> in an amicably bureaucratic kind of way.
> > * A question is whether people are avoiding the consensus
> > process because it's burdensome.
> > * Is there a contradiction between doocracy and consensus?
> > If someone does something doocratically, they haven't
> > gotten consensus. The example was moving furniture to a
> > drastically new configuration. The result seems to have
> > been an unpleasant surprise to some people. Should there
> > be consensus on taking drastic actions? Is the act of
> > moving furniture part of a conversation? I.e. others can
> > move the furniture back or to a different place.
> > * For what issues should we apply consensus? This question
> > was not answered.
> > * We want to invite ideas of all kinds.
> > * We want to avoid talking on and on without taking action.
> > * Voting lets us make a decision based on a majority (or
> > probably more correctly "plurality") that are for a proposal;
> > it seems a quick and simple means of making a decision.
> > Objections to voting are that those who vote are not
> > necessarily informed, or not well-informed, and also that no
> > accommodation is given to those who are opposed.
> > * Consensus lets us make a decision if no one is opposed.
> > One value is that if no one cares, why not agree, and
> > anyone who is opposed will have some reason, i.e. will be
> > informed at least with respect to some affect of the
> > proposal. Another value is the protection of minority
> > interests from being overrun by a possibly uncaring majority.
> > Note that if no one is opposed to a proposal, decisions
> > can be made very quickly. If someone is opposed, the cost
> > is putting up with discussion and it is probably a case-
> > by-case issue, depending on the importance of the objection
> > (and possibly the person objecting).
> > -------To be clear, here are some terms and definitions:
> > "Process" is a sequence of steps taken to achieve some goal.
> > http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/process.html
> > "Consensus" is a process.
> > The steps for consensus are to present a proposal for some
> > decision and ask if there are objections; if there are
> > objections, the group must resolve the objections so that
> > no objections remain in order to make the decision; if
> > objections cannot be resolved, the group cannot make the
> > decision.
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making
> > "Doocracy" is a style of working together without formal
> > process. Someone may suggest some action, but should do
> > so with the willingness to do the action, asking for help
> > with some parts of the action. Someone can just perform
> > an action without prior notice or discussion. Those who
> > dislike the result are welcome to undo or modify it. There
> > is a claim that this doing and undoing business is a
> > conversation.
> > http://www.communitywiki.org/cw/DoOcracy
> > "Conversation" is communication between people. Note
> > that communication may be non-verbal.
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversation
> > "Anarchy" is a philosophy for holding together a group
> > without a formal authority. Some people at noisebridge
> > believe in anarchy: "anarchists love rules, they just
> > don't want rulers" (an approximate quote from someone's
> > post to the noisebridge-discuss list.
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism
> > "Voting" is a process of polling a group to determine
> > how many are for, against, and neutral with respect to
> > some proposed decision. Determining outcome can be by
> > majority, where some percent greater than 50% (e.g. 60%
> > or 2/3...) is required to decide, or by plurality, where
> > the greatest number of "for" votes, no matter that the
> > number is a majority. Note that Noisebridge seems to
> > use plurality, not majority, for choosing board members.
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_system
> > On Sat, 2011-02-12 at 13:29 -0800, Patrick Keys wrote:
> >> I'm starting this new thread for everybody to benefit, share opinions,
> >> and hopefully gain interest in joining a subsequent consensus process
> >> meeting. It's been decided off-list that consensus process discussion
> >> should remain on this main discuss list because everybody at noisebridge
> >> has a stake in how we reach consensus at noisebridge.
> >> My personal take-away from the consensus process meeting was many
> >> things, as follows (PLEASE COMMENT ON ANY AND/OR ALL OF THESE!):
> >> * people claim the noisebridge consensus process is broken but nobody
> >> knows exactly why
> >> * the hassle of the consensus process results in circumventing the
> >> process in favor of the do-ocracy
> >> * do-ocracy is also referred as "autonomous action" or perhaps even
> >> vigilante action
> >> * a random sample based on the consensus process meeting is that half
> >> the people that participate at noisebridge aren't noisebridge members
> >> * everybody at noisebridge can participate in the consensus process but
> >> only members can block an item up for consensus
> >> * the only benefit of being a noisebridge member is the right to block a
> >> consensus item
> >> * some people at Noisebridge will block any consensus item based on
> >> their personal general opinion against consensus
> >> * comparing bringing an item up for consensus versus just handling a
> >> matter do-ocracy style, there is absolutely no incentive at all for
> >> bringing an item up for consensus (quite the opposite!) because that
> >> could just result in a block of the item.
> >> * although we have weekly meeting notes, the details of any consensus
> >> item and the reasoning of any consensus decision are ultimately at the
> >> discretion of the weekly meeting note-taker.
> >> Patrick
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