governance-issues

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Issue Summary 2007-02-28

Editor

Ernest Prabhakar

Contributors

  • Andy Mabbett
  • Joe Andrieu
  • Phae
  • Ryan Cannon
  • Colin Barrett
  • ... Please add yourself.

Preamble

Over the last year, a few people (AndyMabbett, JoeAndrieu, ErnestPrabhakar, JamesCraig, ManuSporny) have raised issues about how the Microformats wiki, mailing list, and community are governed. This page is here to discuss ideas for documenting, formalizing, and/or improving our collective governance.

Abstract

Governance has been defined as "the traditions, institutions and processes that determine how power is exercised, how citizens are given a voice, and how decisions are made on issues of public concern." In the context of Microformats, it covers:

  • Rules (both written and unwritten) expected of community members
  • Formal process for change requests for known format problems (i.e. abbr-design-pattern) by voting, with leeway for admin vetoes.
  • Who the various Admins are
  • What powers Admins have
  • Rules for how/when Admins can/should use those powers
  • How to questioning/appealing a decision by an Admin
  • How to become an Admin
  • How to question/change any of these

While not all of these need to be explicitly spelled out, a healthy community our size requires a broad shared understanding of these facts -- as well as acceptance of them as "legitimate."

Who Are Admins

  • 2007-01-04 raised by DrErnie on Microformat Issues, before this page existed, and moved from there
    1. As discussed in [1], there exist various concerns about the lack of clarity regarding governance of the list, wiki, and the specifications themselves. While agree that there does need to be some form of strong leadership to preserve the integrity of the community, I agree with Colin Barrett when he said:
"I think there should be bit more visible superstructure around just who is in this "cabal". It seems to me like the Editors/Authors of the various specs form the majority it of it, but perhaps that should be made a bit more apparent, and the "powers" of an editor (essentially, the ability to veto changes to the wiki, it seems) outlined a bit and some information about how to become an editor (AFIACT, make numerous, quality edits to the Wiki that the other editors approve of)."
An entry has been added to the FAQ regarding Who controls microformats?.Dr. Ernie 08:48, 2 Feb 2007 (PST)

Mailing List Unmoderation Discussion

Discussion from mailing-list-unmoderation.

  • I'm glad to see this issue getting traction. However, I'm curious why Ernie's standing in the community is relevant to the issue of unmoderating Andy. Tantek, could you explain why that has been presented as an integral part of this decision making process? Clearly, personal clout always shapes one's ability to influence the community; however, I doubt it should be officially incorporated in these "proceedings". Shouldn't every member of the community have an equal hearing under whatever governance procedures we use? JoeAndrieu 09:38, 19 Mar 2007 (PDT)
Tantek also said: "Ernie, as someone who has made overwhelmingly positive contributions to the microformats community, IMHO the occasional OT post is reasonable'".
  • I believe the statement was added to give context to the appealing member of the community. i.e. Ernie is a long standing, good contributor, as opposed to someone new who has no experience with this particular community or someone who has had little or no interaction with the community until now, and also negates it being a personal statement (rather he is interested in community as a whole, instead of being a friend of the Andy and having a personal goal, for example). Basically, he is a person with a certain amount of credibility and trustworthiness. Phae 10:25, 19 Mar 2007 (PDT)
  • Agreed, Phae, Ernie is such a person and that is Tantek's point. But should one need to be a "friend of the court" to bring an action? That practice reinforces a culture of privilege that has historically proven antithetical to transparency and equality, both characteristics of good governance, IMO. It is great to see the powers-that-be responding to Ernie's request. It is also a bit frustrating that only those deemed meritorious by the peerage can call forth due process and that Andy's own efforts to speak on his behalf--referencing my previous request to do the same--were summarily dismissed by Tantek because they were "adversarial." Any robust governance should, IMO, work independent of privilege and be capable of addressing adversarial situations without arbitrary limits on the speech of those whose liberties are under challenge.--JoeAndrieu 14:18, 19 Mar 2007 (PDT)
    • Point taken and appreciated, but this is the first incident to come to this kind of a situation where someone else has felt the need to step in, and just happened to also involve someone that is felt to be a member of good standing. I'd like to hope that if another member of the community had felt a similar way and had chosen to bring it up, that it would also have been dealt with in this open manner (and I'm sure this incident will be brought up in the future). Hopefully this incident will be a good test case to better structure future interactions with administration. I can't personally comment on Andy's own appeals. Phae 14:45, 19 Mar 2007 (PDT)
    • Agreed. The first efforts to work through a process like this are bound to be less than ideal. However, I'd like to get on the record two main points that appear problematic.
  1. my previous request to do the same was not, in fact, dealt with in this open manner. Rather it decayed into a defensive debate about governance generally, leaving poor Andy stuck in moderated censure. Perhaps I'm not the most diplomatic sort, but the issue on the table is not about me. It is about Andy's continuing moderation.
  2. The unmoderation wiki page for Andy is effectively a public hearing on Andy's standing and privileges in the community, especially with Tantek's request that no replies be sent to the email list on the topic. I find it particularly disturbing that Andy's efforts to contribute to that hearing have been repeatedly dismissed by Tantek (see the history for a complete list). While It probably wasn't the best form for Andy to edit my comment directly, he should, IMO, have a way to voice his opinion on the matter. He's been threatened with a ban if he does so on the mailing list. Is there another venue that is more appropriate than the wiki page taking input and votes on his unmoderation?--JoeAndrieu 20:19, 19 Mar 2007 (PDT)
  • Shouldn't this point be moot? According to the terms of the moderation, it will be lifted "if he successfully sends only topical / positive / improving email to the lists for one week." Once the week passed, this moderation ought to have been lifted automatically, and should not require a vote, right? --Ryan Cannon
    • At least one message was rejected during that first week, thus moderation was left as is, with the attention of the admins etc. focused on other higher priority matters. Given the higher quality of messages *with* moderation (as compared to before), some have made the statement that moderation is "working" and thus should be kept. Tantek 08:58, 22 Mar 2007 (PDT)
  • I dislike moderation because I find it causes me to be hesitant with my own contributions in some cases. Since I don't often know how long a message has been queued its hard for me to judge if my reply would be helpful, or if the moderated poster has already moved along with the rest of the discussion so I err on the side of moving onto something else. doesn't hurt me, but I feel sometimes it might not help with the overall discussions depth or conclusion. . Thus, I think the burden should be heavy to continue moderation for any length of time without a decision to unmoderate or outright ban. ChrisCasciano 11:40, 23 Mar 2007 (ET)

Examples

Note: This is not to take a position on whether or not any of these decisions were appropriate or inappropriate. Rather, the existence of these events demonstrates the need to document why and how such decisions were -- or should be -- made and/or appealed.

Proposal

  1. Create a publicly-visible microformats-admin mailing list, for easily identifying and contacting all admins
  2. Document a forum/mechanism/process where individuals concerned about admin actions can legitimately raise their concerns, to ensure substantive issues are addressed
  3. Maintain a governance page that captures and describes
    1. the identity of current Admins
    2. how to contact them
    3. the process for becoming an Admin
    4. the specific kinds of behavior warranting Admin intervention
    5. how/when suspended/moderated individuals can return to "good standing"
    6. how to appeal an Admin decision/action

Petition

We acknowledge that the microformats list and wiki is not a democracy, and that one of the key goals of microformats is to have as little process and structure as possible. However, at the same time we believe that the "dictatorship" needs to not merely be, but be seen as "benevolent." This includes some minimal level of transparency and due process to ensure that there are legitimate ways for ordinary members to speak out if they feel (rightly or wrongly) that a particular administrative action was unwise or unfair. Whether that is similar to the #Proposal above, or a counter-proposal by the admin team, we believe that something is necessary.

Please add your vote here

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