Governance and responsibility

Eric S. Raymond esr at
Sun Sep 25 15:41:06 UTC 2005

Ian Jackson <ijackson at>:
> What's really going on here is that the OSI Board are a self-appointed
> bunch of people who reckon that they've got the moral authority to
> tell other people what to do. 

We wield only the moral authority people choose to give us.  We neither
have nor seek anything more.

> For both this reason, and because self-interest ought to suggest to
> the OSI Board that they want to retain people's respect, it is
> important that the OSI Board do more than pay lip service to the
> idea of open consultation and consensual, community-based
> decisionmaking.

Were you present at our last public Board meeting at OSCON?

> Whereas, in fact, the apparent official position of the OSI Board is
> _opposed_ to consensual, community-based decisionmaking !

Our "apparent official position" is that we're here to get a job done
that the community has entrusted us with.  "Consensual" decision
making is a tool that sometimes helps get that job done, but at some
other times interposes an excess of content-free yattering that
interferes with the job.  We try to choose the right tools at the
right times.

This isn't "opposed".  I'd call it "realistic".  Personally, I am for
community-based decision-making whenever it is practical, but I
understand that there are hard limits on that practicality.

>    They won't even pay lip service. 

My policy is never to pay "lip service", but instead to speak the
truth as I understand it.  The day I begin lying to anyone is the day
I no longer *deserve* any moral authority.

Here's some truth.  Sometimes broad consensual process is appropriate.
Sometimes it is not.  Part of the Board's job is to make the judgment
of whether or not it will be appropriate on any given issue to come
before us.  If you believe we're calling these badly, you can argue
that case in a civil way or you can leave -- but the fact that we
*must* make those judgments won't go away, because the option of
deciding everything by what you or someone else might define as
"consensus" is not practical.

>                 Board members are explicitly rejecting the
> notion that they have any responsibility to behave - in this public,
> governmental role - as we the people expect them to.

Absolutely not.  We take very seriously our responsibility to embody
and express certain core values of the community (in particular, those
values expressed in the OSD).  We are constantly aware that unless, 
broadly speaking, we do behave as "the people" expect, we will shortly
cease to have any influence at all.

What we reject -- and will continue to reject -- is the theory that in
order to act legitimately we must be executing *somebody else's*
definition of a "consensual" or "participatory" process.  We don't
have time or energy for the infinite regress of ratholes any
organization will fall into if it buys that line.  We couldn't even
attempt this and still get anything done. so I'm not going to pretend we
should try.

Or to put it another way...what OSI has is a responsibility to
earnestly pursue the community's *goals*, not to be strapped to some
politically-correct notion of the right process for getting there.  If
you think our results are broken -- that is, we're not serving the
open-source community's best interests as well as any organization
with as little actual power as we have can reasonably be expected to
-- *then* is the time to question our judgement about how and when
to use "consensual, participatory" decision-making.

Or you might consider standing for a Board seat yourself.
		<a href="">Eric S. Raymond</a>

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