GR vs consensus

This recent mess with the Debian social contract being amended, and this then turning out to have consequences that few expected, is making me even less enamoured of the General Resolution process than I was before. It seems that the GR process is a very poor replacement for the system of rough consensus (and dare I say, running code) that it replaced. It is slow, unweildly, and does not encourage us to listen to each other and reach useful compromises and consensus.

It used to be that the pattern was that an issue would come up, we would discuss it, argue over it, and eventually either drop it, making no changes, or work toward a consensus because there was no other way to deal with it. If the issue had to be dealt with quickly, the DPL would step in. This process worked for such core decisions as a drafting of the DFSG and Social Contract.

Now when even a midly controversial issue comes up, the words "GR" are soon uttered, and the entire process collapses into a flurry of proposals, seconds, and possibly an eventual vote. This encourages polarisation into two or more camps and campagning, and does not encourage listening to those who disagree with you. The end result is a worse decision than we would achieve under the old process, which is reached after less thought and less weighing of alternate opinions.

Propoents of the constitutional government and GR process used as their main agrument for it that the Debian project was growing too large to support a system of consensus; as it is hard to reach a consensus in a large group. But a large group of developers did not vote on the most recent GR. It is possible to forge a consensus amoung a small group such as the 200 people that voted on it; we've done so before.

I'm not keen on proposing that we throw out the GR process, because that would mean .. another GR. But we should attempt to make it a course of last, and not first resort. If only 200 people are interested in editorial modifications to the Social Contract, then they should be able to work as a subgroup to form a consensus on that, and such a consensus should have considerable weight.

In the meantime, I find myself increasingly drawn to the small subprojects in Debian where consensus still lives.