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Re: Formal Recorded Complaint

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2007 15:51:05 -0700
Cc: Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>, John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>, steve@w3.org, timbl@w3.org, jbrewer@w3.org, 'wai-ig list' <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org, public-html@w3.org, www-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <2A7F3452-26E9-4998-8A5A-4F1C4F3A4578@apple.com>
To: Sam Ruby <rubys@us.ibm.com>


On Jul 30, 2007, at 3:06 PM, Sam Ruby wrote:

> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>> On Jul 30, 2007, at 1:21 PM, Sam Ruby wrote:
>>> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>>>> On Jul 30, 2007, at 12:28 PM, Sam Ruby wrote:
>>>>> The first thing I would like to point out is that I've seen  
>>>>> nobody questioning the competence of anybody who has  
>>>>> participated this working group.  Nor are we talking about  
>>>>> classing 'troll' behavior here.  We are talking about people who  
>>>>> have value to contribute, but seem entirely unable to disagree  
>>>>> without being disagreeable.  Putting forward a counter argument  
>>>>> isn't sufficient for such people, they seem compelled to do so  
>>>>> in a manner that shames the person who advanced the other point  
>>>>> of view into silence.
>>>> While the issue you raise can certainly be a problem, the RFCs  
>>>> you linked are not designed to deal with overly heated but valid  
>>>> and on-topic discussion. They are designed to deal with outright  
>>>> trolling, and the means to address it is banishment from the  
>>>> group. Quoting from RFC 3683:
>>>
>>> permanent banishment from the group should never be the first  
>>> recourse.
>>>
>>>> "Notably, in a small number of cases, a participant has engaged  
>>>> in what amounts to a 'denial-of-service' attack to disrupt the  
>>>> consensus-driven process. Typically, these attacks are made by  
>>>> repeatedly posting messages that are off-topic, inflammatory, or  
>>>> otherwise counter-productive. In contrast, good faith  
>>>> disagreement is a healthy part of the consensus-driven process.
>>>> For example, if a working group is unable to reach consensus,  
>>>> this is an acceptable, albeit unfortunate, outcome; however, if  
>>>> that working group fails to achieve consensus because it is being  
>>>> continuously disrupted, then the disruption constitutes an abuse  
>>>> of the consensus-driven process. Interactions of this type are  
>>>> fundamentally different from 'the lone voice of dissent' in which  
>>>> a participant expresses a view that is discussed but does not  
>>>> achieve consensus. In other words, individual bad faith should  
>>>> not trump community goodwill."
>>>
>>> Compare that last paragraph to the email posted by John Foliot on  
>>> this very subject not ten minutes before yours.
>>>
>>> What we have is not a 'lone voice of dissent'.  What we have is a  
>>> consistent and persistent pattern of abuse of the consensus-driven  
>>> process.
>> Actually, that paragraph is saying the 'lone voice of dissent' is  
>> the bad case, whereas an ongoing failure of different significant  
>> constituencies to achieve consensus is unfortunate but acceptable.  
>> And that's what I am seeing here. We have significant groups that  
>> disagree on the best way to approach the design of accessibility  
>> features.
>
> I've reread and reread that paragraph, and still come to a different  
> conclusion.
>
> "disruption constitutes an abuse ... Interactions of this type are  
> fundamentally different from 'the lone voice of dissent'"

On the ohter hand, immediately after mentioning the 'lone voice of  
dissent' it says "In other words, individual bad faith should not  
trump community goodwill".

> This paragraph goes out of its way to say that one can responsibly  
> be the 'lone voice of dissent', and that any process that values  
> consensus should respect your position; it is only those that seek  
> to disrupt a consensus driven process by driving out those that  
> disagree that need to be dealt with.  The reason for this is simple:  
> it is precisely to enable those that wish to champion minority  
> opinions.

Actually, I don't think the paragraph has anything to do with driving  
out those that disagree with the majority. It's about what it  
describes as 'denial-of-service' attacks, in other words, repeated  
messages that are off-topic or deliberately inflammatory. It takes  
some pains to distinguish this kind of process disruption from good  
faith disagreement or failure to reach consensus.

> Further information on the term: http://tinyurl.com/2pu6lz
>
>> It's important to keep in mind that when people disagree, there are  
>> often different perceptions on different sides of the argument,  
>> especially in media like email and IRC that don't convey emotional  
>> cues very well. What you see as process abuse, others may see as  
>> vigorous discussion that ultimately leads to a better spec.  
>> Similarly, sometimes individuals may perceive a conversation as a  
>> series of unwarranted personal attacks on them, where others may  
>> see that individuals remarks as trolling or needlessly disruptive.
>> The first recourse in a dispute, ideally, should be for the parties  
>> to talk directly to each other. Especially if the event that upset  
>> you happened in a non-interactive medium or at a time when you were  
>> not present. I hope we all consider this option before kicking  
>> problems upstairs.
>
> First, I will note that I'm active on this conversation *precisely*  
> because I am not embroiled in the accessibility discussion.

Did you contact any of those who are involved directly, before making  
your recommendation to the chair to deal with the situation by  
establishing and enforcing policies for removing participants?  
(Personally, I'm not even sure who is involved, besides John; I don't  
know who exactly he thought was rude.)

> With that out of the way, I will say that if I was the subject of  
> persistent ridicule such as I have seen here, the last thing I would  
> want to do is subject myself to more of the same.
>
>> And if that step doesn't work, then I think privately asking the  
>> chairs for mediation would be a good next step. Broadly general and  
>> widely cross-posted complaints are not as likely to make the  
>> group's work flow more smoothly. On the contrary, they may make  
>> disputing parties feel more defensive and dug into their positions.
>
> mediation would address the specific technical issue, not the  
> persistent abusive tone.

Mediation is a method for resolving disputes. The dispute can be  
technical, or about perceived lack of courtesy and professionalism.  
Specific technical issues should ideally be addressed by normal group  
process, but more personal conflicts (like what you describe as  
"persistent abusive tone") are better resolved privately, if possible.

>> Let's try these kinds of approaches before we even bring up the  
>> idea of a process for kicking people out. The responsibility for  
>> making this group effective lies with all of us.
>
> That option needs to be extremely rarely used, but needs in place  
> nevertheless.

I'd strongly prefer to see us solve problems that may drive away  
valuable participants in some other way than deliberately kicking out  
other valuable participants. And I don't think bringing up banning  
policies is very productive when we haven't yet tried any other  
approach.

Sincerely,
Maciej
Received on Monday, 30 July 2007 22:51:38 UTC

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