Banning for meta-discusion [was RE: [uf-discuss] previouslynon-referenced in the spec"References"]

Joe Andrieu joe at
Thu Jan 4 02:33:35 PST 2007

Tantek Ç elik wrote:
> On 1/3/07 5:07 PM, "Joe Andrieu" <joe at> wrote:
> > Tantek Ç elik wrote:
> > For the record, I do object.
> Joe, thanks very much for your input.  You are the only 
> person (in email or
> IRC) who has objected to banning Andy.
> However, even as a lone voice (perhaps especially), I respect 
> your objection.

Tantek, I appreciate that, and the considered response.  As others have
said, it is a delicate situation and I do believe that you and the
others involved in moderating our group have the best interests of the
project at heart.

> Thus I have moderated him instead of banning him.

>From a functional standpoint, there really isn't much difference.  The
ban was stensibly for discussing governance issues.  From various
party's comments, including your own, I think it is clear the ban was
more for reasons of etiquette, decorum, and public disturbance.

Frankly, I find those latter reasons much firmer grounds for banning or
moderating someone. Shutting down a sincere desire to address governance
issues instead comes across as autocrative and unresponsive to community
input. Banning someone who riles everyone up is just being a good

> > I understand that you are doing what you
> > feel is the best interest of microformats. However, the 
> mailing list 
> > is the only commons that speaks to the entire microformats 
> community.
> The mailing list is only one commons that speaks to the 
> entire microformats community.  E.g. anyone can write a blog 
> post on their own blog and tag it with "microformats".  Folks 
> that are steadfastly following microformats are also checking 
> all blog posts tagged with microformats:

This is interesting, and if blogs are a primary vehicle for the uF
commons, it should be highlighted as such (and this is the first I've
heard of that option).  I for one, do not post uF related content on my
blog. I post it here. Because that's where most people involved with
read it. The folks who read my blog read it for other reasons.  I know
IRC is also a commons of a sort, one that seems to be effective for
those who use it.  However, I think it is a true statement that the
largest % of uF users/contributors use this list as their primary
touchpoint.  As such, it would seem to be the primary commons.

> > It
> > seems to me that if someone has an issue with governance, 
> the commons 
> > is the right place to make a case, especially as there is no other 
> > vehicle for doing so.
> The issues are about one individual's 
> disruptive/noisy/distracting behavior in particular 
> unfortunately, which he is then attempting to defend by 
> hiding behind governance pedantics.

Countering disruptive behavior is governance.  Andy felt like you were
slapping him down and I think he reacted in part to say "What gives
/you/ the right?"

That's a reasonable question of governance:  What rules are in place
that explain why the behavior is unacceptable?  And how is it to be
judged that such rules are violated.

My own frustrations mostly stem from the fact that, IMNSHO, far too many
decisions are made by a small number of people without any legitimate
process in place for building or judging consensus.  The addition of
"place" for hCard is a great example.  That was a significant change in
semantics and there was not a consenus about it.  Rather, those who have
the functional capability simply updated the wiki.

Brian responded to this earlier saying he felt it was appropriate
because it reflects common usage.  But that really isn't what a standard
is.  The problem before the metric system was that every jurisdiction's
common usage for various measures was different. No interoperability.
Same thing with timezones before standardization.  In fact, microformats
and the semantic web are ALL about creating interoperability. For
example, the restrictions on the namespace are all geared to /forge/ a
consensus standard taxonomy.  If that "standard" can change at the drop
of a few emails, it really isn't much of a standard.

>From a different direction, if we had good version control, with
explicit approvals, it would be extremely easy for me to support quick
revs and updates based on usage.  As long as I can know that the hcard
in question is v2007.a or later, I can be assured of certain semantics.
As it is, I can't even tell if it /is/ an hcard (rather than a local
class name that looks like an hcard)

But we have neither quality versioning nor explicity processes for
approving and designating "official" microformats.

Everything is essentially at the whim of our fearless leaders.

> > Governance so far has been autocratic and sometimes heavy 
> handed. Your 
> > categorization of these topics as "meta-discussion" only reinforces 
> > the feeling that microformats is run by a cabal that refuses to 
> > address and incorporate feedback from its constituents.
> Though I think "refuses" is a bit strong - I accept your 
> feedback and will seek to improve this.

To clarify, "reinforces the feeling" was meant to soften that a bit.
There is a feeling that things are a bit autocratic, that if a few
people agree it’s a good thing, then nobody else's opinion really

> Note that the overall challenge here is one of balance, and 
> priorities.

I agree. And I give you credit for your efforts on this.

> When only one disruptive individual has problems with 
> governance, rather than the community as a whole, then it 
> tends to lead one to believe that the problem may be more 
> with the individual than with the community or the governance.

More than just Andy has expressed frustration. I think he's just been
the most vocal and annoying. ("Annoying" here is based on observed

> > We have no formal
> > mechanisms for approving or changing microformats, nor do 
> we have any 
> > formal mechanisms for engaging on governance issues.  These are 
> > serious shortcomings.
> I'm not sure I agree that these are shortcomings.  If the 
> alternative is bureaucracy which slows everything down, and 
> spending time on developing bureaucracy rather than 
> developing microformats, then I reject this as a shortcoming. 
>  We as a community may be judged for that, but it is my hope 
> that our positive achievements overall will greatly outweigh 
> nitpicks of governance.

Tantek, there is no governance for uF other than by cabal, which
historically has proven useful only in a limited scale.  The
alternative, of determining a means of governance, need not create a
heavy bureaucracy, in fact, it can be liberating.  Frankly, a more
decentralized approach would do uF good. And that would require a small
set of explicit procedural standards and a huge release of authority.
The obvious and/or naïve bureacratic options could easily create a mess
of burdensome procedures, but there's no reason we would have to be
naïve or choose the obvious.

> That being said, I still believe it is important to track 
> *any* outstanding issue - even meta-issues like governance, 
> so that we as community don't forget them, and have the 
> opportunity/reminder resolve them, even if it takes a while.  
> I encourage you to add such issues that you see to the 
> general issues page:

I'll do that.

> > Again, I encourage you to read the Clay Shirky
> > article[1].
> It's a good article.  I've read it before and at your 
> recommendation just re-read it.  Thanks for the link and reminder.

Excellent. I'm not always the most eloquent and I thought Clay did a
great job.

> > I'm also frustrated by the lack of engagement on governance 
> issues and 
> > the wily-nilly approval/change process, but there's been good work 
> > done by this community and there's reason to hope that these issues 
> > will eventually be addressed.
> Joe, I very much appreciate your statement of hope, and in 
> return hope that I and others in the community don't let you down.

I'll stick around and see how I might help. I figure either we'll find a
way together to evolve uF to something that can both scale and be
robust, or another project will emerge to fill that void. Frankly, I
think it would be easier and more productive to work with what is
already working so well.



Joe Andrieu
joe at
+1 (805) 705-8651

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