Orchestrated Agreement Is Often OK

There’s a difference between [all the developers from a single company] actually being decentralized and simply striving to appear that way. Under certain circumstances, having your developers behave in concert can be quite useful, and they should be prepared to coordinate behind the scenes when necessary. For example, when making a proposal, having several people chime in with agreement early on can help it along, by giving the impression of a growing consensus. Others will feel that the proposal has momentum, and that if they were to object, they’d be stopping that momentum. Thus, people will object only if they have a good reason to do so. There’s nothing wrong with orchestrating agreement like this, as long as objections are still taken seriously. The public manifestations of a private agreement are no less sincere for having been coordinated beforehand, and are not harmful as long as they are not used to prejudicially snuff out opposing arguments.

— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

3 thoughts on “Orchestrated Agreement Is Often OK

  1. Hmm; for me personally, I feel more excluded because (in the cases I notice) it’s rather obvious that there was previous co-ordination, so my first thought is instead “they’re already committed to this, the discussion is just a sham pretending this is a community.”

    The recent K9O drive is an example of this for me.

  2. If all of those people agree, how does that make the discussion any more of a “sham” than if they discussed it in public and agreed? Do you think that there any more or any less chance of you changing things? Surely there would be less chance of you changing them if there were no public discussion?

    I’m not sure how you see K9o as an example of this. What is your expectation of how this should work? Someone says on a mailing list: “Hey, I had this neat idea that we should coordinate releases of various products at a single point”, and then lots of senior Mozillians go “wow, I hadn’t thought of that, what an excellent idea”, and then we do it?

    I’m certainly not of the view that we currently do enough discussion in public, or that the boundaries between paid an unpaid are as low as they should be, but I also think that senior Mozillians should be allowed to do their job of setting strategic direction.

  3. (Sorry about the slow reply)
    I’d rather see more of the initial discussion – most importantly, the initial disagreement that is bound to exist as the ideas get fleshed out – publicly. That way everybody can get convinced that the idea is good at the same time, instead of a subgroup which is more familiar with it and more convinced. The late-stage discussion _feels_ like (without necessarily _being_) a sham because of this group that had a head start and is more likely to be able to draw upon the private discussion to refute points raised – it’s the unbalance that is off-putting.
    Senior Mozillians certainly should be setting the direction – that’s what they do – but that should not absolve them of making sure the community is on board. People are different, and herding cats is hard, but that’s among the reasons Mozilla’s success is particularly outstanding.