Voting Resolves Very Little

The hardest thing about voting is determining when to do it. In general, taking a vote should be very rare—a last resort for when all other options have failed. Don’t think of voting as a great way to resolve debates. It isn’t. It ends discussion, and thereby ends creative thinking about the problem. As long as discussion continues, there is the possibility that someone will come up with a new solution everyone likes. This happens surprisingly often: a lively debate can produce a new way of thinking about the problem, and lead to a proposal that eventually satisfies everyone. Even when no new proposal arises, it’s still usually better to broker a compromise than to hold a vote. After a compromise, everyone is a little bit unhappy, whereas after a vote, some people are unhappy while others are happy. From a political standpoint, the former situation is preferable: at least each person can feel he extracted a price for his unhappiness. He may be dissatisfied, but so is everyone else.

— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

5 thoughts on “Voting Resolves Very Little

  1. No offense, but these Karl Fogel posts really should not appear on Planet Mozilla. They are fairly irrelevant, and if anyone should be familiar, they should just read his book instead of being inundated with daily, free publicity tweets.

    Thanks.

  2. Fairly irrelevant? The book is called “Producing Open Source Software”. What is it that Mozilla does again?

    The book is available for free online; this is hardly plugging a paid product. I’m posting the quotes because I think what he has to say is highly relevant to what we do. Certainly, several of them have provoked interesting discussion.

  3. I like the quotes, and find them more interesting and relevant than a lot of other stuff on Planet Mozilla.