[Ubuntu-US-CA] Team organization and dispute resolution

Abhejit Rajagopal sirgogo at gmail.com
Thu Sep 24 02:39:06 UTC 2009

Hello all,

I've been following (kind of) the discussions via the mailing list, though
not really involved. I'm not really sure where I stand on the particular
issue, but I’m proposing a process of resolving issues.

 Rather than electing a “council,” we should focus on “group votes.” I agree
that Neal, Nathan, Robert, Grant, and Joe have all demonstrated themselves
as quality leaders, but electing a council in my opinion will create a
different atmosphere in the group; one in which members, especially
newcomers, may feel the need to seek the approval of the “council.” Instead
of dealing with issues with a council, we should appoint a “secretary” of
sorts, an active member that attends IRC’s. Serving one month terms, it’s
the secretary’s job to detail the results of the IRC meeting (propositions:
A, B, C…). The secretary, at the end of each IRC would confirm the “minutes”
and subsequently publish them in the mailing list, or the website. Minutes
would detail “New Issues,” “Old Issues,” and “Propositions.” After reading
the minutes, a member could vote on propositions using a polling applet on
the website. Both IRC and the mailing list can be used as media for
discussion of issues.

The method may seem elementary, but I feel group voting is the best way to
not delegate too much power to any one member. Certainly, most of the
members present will respect the opinions of those who have contributed in
the past; but this method ensures that no one person’s voice is muffled.

With good spirits,
Abhejit Rajagopal

On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 7:20 PM, Jack Deslippe <jdeslip at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hey Robert et. al.
> Very well said.  Talking behind peoples' back, letting personal feelings
> dominate arguments seems to be a real problem on both sides.  I find Ubuntu
> LoCo meetings etc. very tiring.
> I would like to clearly state my own opinion of things here for the
> record.  Since I am new to the group I think I will afterwards just spend
> time watching how things evolve for a bit and then judge for myself how I
> can best add to the group and larger Ubuntu community.
> What I hope to get out of the LoCo is simply put - I wan to be a part of
> the Ubuntu community.  I want to help work on Ubuntu, spread Ubuntu and just
> have a lot fun with the peeps in the LoCo. I.e. the same reason I
> participate in open source at all.  I.e. I am interested in joining a
> community.  I do all this already by contributing patches participating in
> LUGs etc., and the LoCo presents just another great opportunity to do this.
> What I am not really interested in is in joining Grant's group or Neal's
> group or anyone's group where my efforts are ultimately judged by any
> individual.  I don't really think that we have this problem now in the
> group.  However, due to some of the complaints that have been made, mainly
> from Grant towards Neal, it seems that it would make sense to replace the
> current model (leader resolves disputes) with something more appropriate for
> a growing/evolving group in a huge state.  I.e. define a short constitution
> that describes who makes decisions, how they are made and how leadership is
> transferred from person to person or year to year.
> Personally, I am in favor of a "council" that would be informally elected
> each year (e.g. in an IRC meeting) representing different regions of the
> state and that would have oversite of the events in those regions.  Local
> decisions would be made by the local leadership (i.e. the ones that know the
> most of the area and people/groups in the area) and global decisions like
> the wiki would be made by the council in general.
> From my understanding of matters, this is not very far from what exists
> already.  I would imagine that the council would more or less end up
> consisting of Neal, Nathan, Robert, Grant, Joe.  Thus no past decisions are
> going to be overturned - and the people who have done such an amazing job
> in the past making the LoCo what is today are the ones who are still the
> leaders.  But, I think making the structure formal would prevent people from
> taking things personally, or getting their feelings hurt.  It would also
> provide a clear path for the future - i.e. the group is the structure of the
> group and not any particular person/people.  That seems like a strong
> foundation and would make me feel a lot more secure in making larger
> contributions.
> Anyway, thank you Robert for your thoughtful and heartfelt email.  I think
> it is important that the discussion remain public and free of hurtful gossip
> etc.  It is also important to recognize the amazing contributions that both
> Neal and Grant have provided for the LoCo and that the current leadership
> hierarchy is not at all unearned or unappreciated.
> -Jack
> For
> On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 4:45 PM, Robert Wall <robert at rww.name> wrote:
>> Hi everyone,
>> As many of you know, for a long while now there's been drama in this
>> group between Grant (and others) on one side, and Neal (and others) on
>> the other. It's popped up on the mailing list, it's come up repeatedly
>> in PM on IRC, and in its current incarnation, it's happening in
>> private emails between LoCo members.
>> In the run up to LoCo approval, and I guess also prompted by Eric's
>> email (which to my knowledge was entirely unrelated, but it seems some
>> people have been prompted by it), this drama has refocused and now I
>> find myself reading emails in my inbox about restructuring the team.
>> Some people want elected councils, other people want elected leaders,
>> and everyone's generally having fun criticizing our current structure
>> and proposing alternatives.
>> I have a problem with this private discussion, and I would like it to
>> stop. The purpose of this email is to explain why I think it needs to
>> stop, summarize some of the raised issues thusfar and then what I see
>> as the problem with this team, and get input from both the people
>> involved and those who have been fortunate enough to not have to deal
>> with this headache thusfar.
>> == Why private discussion needs to stop ==
>> First off, I personally believe that every single person involved in
>> all this, on both sides, including Grant, Neal, and myself, 100% want
>> this LoCo to succeed. I believe that we all have this LoCo's best
>> interests as a motivator, and that nobody is "trolling" or being
>> "poisonous" because nobody here intends to damage this team.
>> However, despite this intent, the end result of this drama and private
>> discussions is a fostering of bad will, and a sapping of energy that
>> should be directed productively. I know for a fact that people have
>> left the mailing list because of the drama that has seeped through to
>> it, and I understand why. It's taking a toll on me personally, as
>> energy that I would love to spend on LoCo advocacy, documentation, and
>> other stuff is being pushed into heated PM and email discussions.
>> Again, this is not the intention of those involved, but this is
>> ultimately the result. Everyone involved in this is responsible to
>> various extents, and I would appreciate it if this drama didn't get
>> furthered by assigning specific blame.
>> During this time, I've been asked to keep discussion off the mailing
>> list, because people feel that it constitutes "calling people out"
>> publicly. I've been told it fosters an increase in drama. Well, you
>> know what? Everyone PMing and emailing behind everyone else's back
>> fosters much, much more. It's like being back in middle school
>> sometimes, it's not productive, and it sure isn't preferential to
>> transparency.
>> == The discussion thusfar ==
>> Thusfar, the sentiment in my inbox has focused on the notion that 1)
>> individual people within this community are to blame for the drama
>> that is going on in it, 2) we need new LoCo leadership because the
>> current leadership is biased and/or not democratic and/or forcing
>> their [1] opinions on others.
>> ( [1] and it is "their"; despite various sentiments to the contrary,
>> decisions in this group are made based on input from various people.
>> Some of those people are in the minority of said people, and dislike
>> this situation, but nevertheless, discussion happens )
>> I disagree with both of these counts completely. I feel that
>> criticizing and eventually replacing our current leadership, whether
>> with a single elected person or a council, is tackling the symptom and
>> not the cause. I feel that blaming individual people here for this
>> group's problems is also tackling the symptom and not the cause.
>> == The actual problem here. ==
>> So, what do I see the cause as being here?
>> Well, let's take a concrete example here that demonstrates a lot of
>> our problems thusfar.
>> Grant and Neal (amongst others, though they're the primary
>> figureheads, if you will) disagree on whether we should have a link to
>> https://wiki.ubuntu.com/CaliforniaTeam/Projects/UserGroupContacts/Groups
>> on the wiki menu. Yes, for those who haven't heard, that never got
>> sorted out. So, how did we go about dealing with this?
>> (I'm doing this from memory, so maybe it's not entirely accurate, but
>> it is typical.)
>> - Grant and Neal discussed it in the #ubuntu-california IRC channel.
>> They couldn't come to a consensus.
>> - It was discussed privately on IRC among me, Grant, Neal, and others.
>> We eventually stopped doing that because we weren't get anywhere.
>> - It ended up on the mailing list. Problems ensued with people new to
>> the discussion misinterpreting emails from both sides, everything got
>> really confusing, and (as I said earlier) people left the list over
>> it.
>> - A couple more private messaging discussions happened. Nothing got
>> dealt with.
>> - We are here.
>> In my opinion, the frustration borne out of this and other clashes
>> between Neal and Grant, and the inability of us to resolve disputes
>> like this one, are the primary motivations behind a lot of the ill
>> will in this community, a lot of questionable behavior on both sides,
>> and, generally, The Problem That Needs Solving.
>> Usually the next step in a small team like this one would be to ask
>> the group leader to rule one way or the other, but one of the parties
>> involved /is/ the group leader, so accusations of bias and more ill
>> will would result.
>> So, we're stuck where we are now, with unresolved issues causing
>> people to blame each other for the group's problems, and a feeling by
>> some of our members that our team leader needs replacing.
>> == What do I feel needs changing in this team's organization? ==
>> I believe that we would get a lot, lot closer to team harmony with the
>> creation and use of a dispute resolution process. We need to figure
>> out how to get all of this poisonous disagreement that's built up over
>> the past months sorted out, so that people have more faith in 1) our
>> team in general, and 2) Grant, Neal, and the other people involved in
>> all this in particular.
>> So, how would this work? One way would be to make a council of active
>> LoCo team members to rule on situations like this. However, I don't
>> think that will work, because most of the active LoCo members, myself
>> included, are too personally invested in one or the other (or
>> frequently both) side of this drama to make a ruling that everyone
>> would see as fair.
>> The other common way of dealing with problems like this is to ask
>> someone outside the LoCo to come in, look at the underlying problems,
>> and work with both sides to figure things out. This has come up
>> occasionally in the LoCo the past, but I don't think it's ever been
>> initiated.
>> Fundamentally, we need to come up with some sort of process for
>> clearing the air, and I think that trying to find a process that's
>> acceptable to everyone involved in this, in public, would be a much
>> better use of everyone's time than private emails about everything.
>> I appreciate your thoughts on this matter, especially if they're in
>> public.
>> ~ Robert
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