[Numpy-discussion] What is consensus anyway

Nathaniel Smith njs@pobox....
Tue Apr 24 19:45:46 CDT 2012

On Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM, Charles R Harris
<charlesr.harris@gmail.com> wrote:
> I think we adhere to these pretty well already, the problem is with the word
> 'everyone'. I grew up in Massachusetts where town meetings were a tradition.
> At those meetings the townsfolk voted on the budget, zoning, construction of
> public buildings, use of public spaces and other such topics. A quorum of
> voters was needed to make the votes binding, and apart from that the meeting
> was limited to people who lived in the town, they, after all, paid the taxes
> and had to live with the decisions. Outsiders could sit in by invitation,
> but had to sit in a special area and were not expected to speak unless
> called upon and certainly couldn't vote. So that is one tradition, a
> democratic tradition with a history of success. We are a much smaller
> community, physically separated, and don't need that sort of exclusivity,
> but even so we have our version of resident and taxes, which consists of
> hanging out on the list and contributing work. I think everyone is welcome
> to express an opinion and make an argument, but not everyone has a veto. I
> think a veto is a privilege, not a right, and to have that privilege I think
> one needs to demonstrate an investment in the project, consisting in this
> case of code contributions, code review, and other such mundane tasks that
> demonstrate a larger interest and a willingness to work. Anyone can do this,
> it doesn't require permission or special dispensation, Numpy is very open in
> that regard. Folks working in related projects, such as ipython and pandas,
> are also going to be listened to because they have made that investment in
> time and work and the popularity of Numpy depends on keeping them happy. But
> a right to veto doesn't automatically extend to everyone who happens to have
> an interest in a topic.

Consensus-seeking isn't about privilege or moral rights. It's about
ruthless pragmatism.

The end of your message actually gets very close to the position I'm
advocating -- except that I'm saying, instead of trying to judge which
people are worth keeping happy by looking up their commit record on
projects you've heard of, you're safer erroring on the side of
assuming that anyone taking the time to show up probably has some good
reason for doing so, and that their concerns are probably shared by a
larger group.

You wouldn't refuse to try a chef's cooking until she's proven herself
by washing dishes -- why the heck would you demand that people perform
"mundane tasks" before you're willing to trust they have some insight?
Acting as maintainer isn't a privilege -- it's a gift you give. So is
feedback. Ignoring it is just a way of shooting your own project in
the foot.

- N

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