Mattia Rizzolo writes ("Re: Replace the TC power to depose maintainers"):
> We have a very similar case within the MIA team [...]

Thanks, yes, I remember reading about that.  I think less-severe but
still very bad situations are probably more common :-/.

> > 2. Provide a new process for deposing a maintainer, or appointing
> >    co-maintainers.
> Agree.


> > For each such dispute, we should pick a panel of randomly chosen DDs,
> > and have them decide (with a time limit).
> No randomness please.  Probably all bodies in Debian are either elected
> or appointed (by previously elected bodies).  We all know that there are
> DD with a known bad track at mediations which would be totally unfit for
> such a role.

By the time it has come to selecting a jury, I think the time for
mediation has probably ended.  At the very least by invoking a formal
process , the complainants have significantly burned their bridges.

I agree that there are DDs who are totally unfit for a role on such a
jury.  But that is why juries are a panel, rather than an individual.

I think we have few enough unsuitable DDs that the risk of a jury
panel containing many unsuitable people is quite low.

There are good reasons for selecting from a much bigger pool, rather
than electing or appointing a standing panel:

I want the panel deciding on such a maintainership to be able to
easily identify with complainants as well as maintainers.  That means
they ought to be people who have, the rest of the time, less special
authority.  (Although of course already DDdom is quite an

I would like to have such cases judged by people who don't bring
baggage of their own previous arbitrations or leadership decisions
(outside of maintainership).

I would like the arbitration panel to be as representative of our
whole developer community as possible.

I would to avoid the arbitrators being self-selected: that will select
for people who are forthright, confident and prepared to fight, who
will sometimes have a very different view of the interactions in the
contributor/maintainer power relationship.

> > By a simple majority, the panel either reaffirms the maintainership of
> > the existing maintainers/uploaders, or transfers formal maintainership
> > to people nominated[2] by the complainants.
> This sounds a nicely cut idea to me, except for the randomness above.

How would you choose such a panel ?

I am somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of doing this like the DAM
team.  Many of the volunteers we would get would be less than ideal.
The same applies to elections.

Juries are a very good fit for this.  Each jury decides a specific
question, relating to specific people, and is then disbanded.

> > [2] Nomination of the new maintainers should be done at this stage.
> >     Thus a a frustrated contributor who, if the petition fails, needs
> >     goodwill of the curent maintainer, can ask others to front the
> >     complaint and argue the case.  This helps minimise the justified
> >     fear of retaliation.
> Fear of retaliation in such a place is IMHO everything but justified.
> Or at least it shouldn't be...

If you are a contributor to a package, you're probably also a user,
and you are probably an advanced user perhaps with unusual use cases.
You rely on the package in Debian supporting your use cases.

If you get into a nasty dispute with the maintainer, this is at the
very least going to become more difficult.

Of course fear of retaliation ought never to be justified.  But we
know that people with power will often use that power to defend their
own position.  Of course people vary and Debian maintainers have in
part been selected for altruism or idealism.  But I don't think Debian
package maintainers are so much better people than anyone else that
this isn't a problem.

To avoid seeing bad actions, we should arrange our social structures
so that bad actions are not invited, or not effective.  Simply saying
"people should not do bad things" is hopeless.

Or to put it another way: everyone has the capacity for good and evil.
All of us should structure our society - and specifically, we in
Debian should structure our project - to bring the good out of people,
and to discourage the evil.  The best principal way to discourage evil
is not to punish it, but simply to make doing good more effective.

Of course this thread is about what to do in situations where that has
failed.  But even having an effective response to such failure itself
makes the failure less likely.

Or to put it another way: accountable leaders are better leaders.


Ian Jackson <>   These opinions are my own.

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