[Numpy-discussion] What is consensus anyway

Charles R Harris charlesr.harris@gmail....
Wed Apr 25 07:03:25 CDT 2012

On Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 4:07 AM, Nathaniel Smith <njs@pobox.com> wrote:

> On Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 4:02 AM, Charles R Harris
> <charlesr.harris@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > On Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 8:56 PM, Fernando Perez <fperez.net@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> >>
> >> On Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 6:12 PM, Charles R Harris
> >> <charlesr.harris@gmail.com> wrote:
> >> > I admit to a certain curiosity about your own involvement in FOSS
> >> > projects,
> >> > and I know I'm not alone in this. Google shows several years of
> >> > discussion
> >> > on Monotone, but I have no idea what your contributions were
> >>
> >> Seriously???
> >>
> >> Please, let's rise above this.  We discuss people's opinions *on their
> >> technical merit alone*, regardless of the background of the person
> >> presenting them.  I don't care if Linus himself shows up on the list
> >> with a bad idea, it should be shot down; and if someone we'd never
> >> heard of brings up a valid point, we should respect it.
> >>
> >> The day we start "checking credentials at the door" is the day this
> >> project will die as an open source effort.  Or at least I think so,
> >> but perhaps I don't have enough 'commit credits' in my account for my
> >> opinion to matter...
> >>
> >
> > Fernando, I'm not checking credentials, I'm curious. Nathaniel has
> > experience with FOSS projects, unlike us first timers, and I'd like to
> know
> > what that experience was and what he learned from it. He has also
> mentioned
> > Graydon Hoare in connection with RUST, and since Graydon was the prime
> mover
> > in Monotone I'd like to know the story of the project.
> Yeah, I don't want to get into resumes and such here, since it'd be
> hard to avoid turning it into one of those "whose has a bigger FOSS"
> pecking-order contests, which I find both unpleasant and
> counter-productive. If I've learned anything useful from experience,
> then I've already tried to summarize it here (and really, experience
> may or may not guarantee any kind of wisdom). If you want to swap war
> stories, ask me some day over a $BEVERAGE :-).
Well, you have already appealed to the authority of greater experience, so
it's a bit late to declare disinterest in the subject ;) I mean, at this
point I really would like to see how big your FOSS is.

> After sleeping on it, I was wondering if part of your objection to the
> consensus stuff is just to the word "veto"? Would you feel more
> comfortable if it was phrased like, "the maintainers have noticed that
> trying to pick and choose on contentious issues tends to come back and
> bite them, so they've decided that they will not accept changes unless
> they have reasonable certainty that all substantive objections from
> the userbase have been worked through and resolved"? It means the same
> thing in the end, but perhaps makes clearer how the "power" actually
> works.

I don't agree here. People work on open source to scratch an itch, so the
process of making a contribution needs to be easy. Widespread veto makes it
more difficult and instead of opening up the process, closes it down. There
is less freedom, not more. That is one of the reasons that the smaller
scikits attract people, they have more freedom to do what they want and
fewer people to answer to. Scipy also has some of that advantage because
there are a number of packages to choose from. The more strict the process
and the more people to please, the less appealing the environment becomes.
This can be observed in practice and the voluntary nature of FOSS amplifies
the effect.

But in the end, someone has to write the code. Steve McConnell (Code
Complete) estimates that even in carefully planned projects code
construction will take up 60-80 percent of the time and effort. And if the
code isn't written, nothing else matters much. That is why people who write
code are essential to a project, no amount of structure will take their
place. And here again the voluntary nature of FOSS comes into play, folks
can't be ordered to do the work. It can be suggested that certain things be
done, and the desire to work with the group will lead people to do work
they wouldn't consider doing for themselves, but unless they are interested
in a particular feature they won't generally be motivated to sit down and
devote the effort needed to get it done just because someone else wants it.
And they will rightly be offended if anyone demands that they volunteer
their work to implement some feature in a particular way. They have to be
led there, not pushed.

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