At the weekly Stan meeting the issue of decision making was introduced. I (Breck) have proposed that we adopt from the various suggestions of Karl Fogel’s book Producing Open Source Software.
I extracted portions of Fogel’s book into a summary of decision making systems that have historically worked in this Google Doc. Reading the first two pages or so will help understanding the resulting conversation but go ahead and read the whole thing anyway if you care about this. Please read it all if you are going to comment.
I’ll try and summarize the major points of the conversation. I thought it went well.
I presented the above summary as the template for how the Stan community should structure decision making. There a suggested continuum between benevolent dictatorship and consensus-based democracy. I dismissed the benevolent dictator possibility from the start and I think there was consensus that we had no such person.
The rest of the conversation then focused mostly on who the electorate was for a consensus-based democracy and how voting would work. Positions/issues that persisted through mild cross-examination include:
There was considerable enthusiasm for discussing worst-case-scenerios where issues were decided by voting. Voting according to Fogel is destructive and to be avoided because it creates winners/losers while consensus even with reservations is superior because it is a universal agreement in the end.
Light weight approval was discussed where positions are adopted if 2-3 yes votes or 10% of electorate approves for communal decisions that should not be made unilaterally.
Electorates in open source projects tend to be git committers or maintainers (committers + non committers who are important for project decision making). There was some consensus that it made sense to have an “exec board” for the big decisions and a standard committer electorate for technical decisions.
A good part of the discussion involved the possibility of degenerate electorate members. There was a high expectation that a veto option would be used quite often. The counter argument here was that people who would abuse a veto should not be in the electorate in the first place.
There have been some acrimonious events in the past that inform 4). My personal belief is that better governance would have helped in those situations but I wasn’t a part of it so what do I know.
The current non-system we use benefits those who keep raising issues until they are adopted to just end the discussion.
Much discussion around more/less formal processes to govern inclusion into the electorate. Fogel’s book suggests that the electorate pick members of the electorate in secret and invite new members if there is some enthusiasm (3 votes) and no objections. Other proposals included at least 1 accepted pull request and a 6 month probationary period.
I rely on my colleagues to further elaborate and cover what I missed.