Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins

Keith Moore <> Tue, 04 October 2022 04:52 UTC

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To: John C Klensin <>, Brian E Carpenter <>, "Murray S. Kucherawy" <>
Cc: Adam Roach <>, Ted Lemon <>,
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From: Keith Moore <>
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Subject: Re: [Last-Call] Last Call: BCP 83 PR-Action Against Dan Harkins
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On 10/3/22 18:22, John C Klensin wrote:

> Brian, while I agree about the "pattern of behavior" my
> understanding of the BCP, Marshall's intent at the time, and
> what we have done since, Dan (or anyone else similarly
> sanctioned) could participate on other mailing lists and in
> other activities but only as long as the maintainers of those
> lists felt his behavior was appropriate to their work and either
> represented a change of behavior from the behaviors cited in the
> PR-action proposal.   If they concluded they were seeing the
> same patterns of disruption-causing behavior that caused the
> PR-action for the IETF list and other lists, they could ban him
> there too and do so without further warnings, etc.


I don't intend to single you or this message out specifically, but I'm 
starting to be uneasy about an insistence from several people on 
prohibiting "disruption-causing behavior" along with the vagueness 
inherent in that term.

I certainly believe that one should avoid insults, accusations of 
malice, and other inflammatory statements that essentially demand a 
defensive response that is likely to derail productive discussion.   And 
yet, such interpretations and reactions often result from genuine 
misunderstandings rather than any intention of insult or malice.   A 
quick clarification or apology usually suffices to avoid further 
derailment, but it doesn't always work.

I fear, for example, that some people consider it "disruptive" to merely 
express an unpopular opinion, or an opinion that conflicts with one that 
some people consider sacred or unquestionable, or perhaps only seeking 
to clarify one's opinion or its relationship to others' opinions.   I've 
received some private replies to this thread accusing me of such 
disruption because I'm "in the rough" (their words), as if I have an 
obligation to be silent just because several other people have expressed 
support for this PR. Not only do I believe it's not wrong to express an 
unpopular opinion (indeed, sometimes it's an obligation), consideration 
of divergent and outlying opinions is fundamentally necessary to 
establishing even a rough consensus.   If such opinions are suppressed 
due to either rules or social pressure, there's no real consensus, only 
the illusion of consensus.   And the outlying opinions are often useful 
to consider when gauging the degree of consensus reached.

I have sometimes been accused of endlessly repeating the same argument, 
when I was actually trying to refine and clarify the argument, 
attempting to improve it over time based on feedback. That's exactly 
what you do when trying to build consensus, but some people seem to 
presume that they get to decide quickly which opinions might eventually 
win consensus versus which opinions won't.   We all have opinions about 
that, I suspect, but not all of us think we have the right to use those 
opinions to dictate others' behavior.

It's hard to avoid the impression sometimes that some people want to 
silence opinions with which they disagree, or perhaps silence persons 
whom they consider bad actors, without actually bothering to try to 
understand those people's opinions.   Or to put it more charitably, 
attention is a precious quantity and our processes require a lot of it.

BCP83 itself says:

>     For example, if a working group is unable to reach consensus, this is
>     an acceptable, albeit unfortunate, outcome; however, if that working
>     group fails to achieve consensus because it is being continuously
>     disrupted, then the disruption constitutes an abuse of the
>     consensus-driven process./Interactions of this type are fundamentally different from "the lone 
> voice of dissent" in which a participant expresses a view that is 
> discussed but does not achieve consensus. In other words, individual 
> bad faith should not trump community goodwill./
(emphasis mine)

It's not bad faith to disagree.  It is not bad faith to try to clarify 
one's position or contrast it with others' positions in an effort to 
find common ground.

It /is/ bad faith to try to keep a group from coming to a conclusion 
(rough consensus or otherwise) by endlessly repeating points that had 
already been raised repeatedly, without providing new information or 
insight that might be useful in developing a consensus.  It is bad faith 
to attack everyone, or the opinion of everyone, who lends support to an 
emerging conclusion that's not the one you want.  It is especially bad 
faith to delay or hamper a working group because its work, while sound, 
threatens to harm one's employer's products or market position.   (And 
anyone who has been around here for a while has seen it happen.)   It is 
also bad faith to repeatedly make personal accusations against a 
contributor in an effort to distract from the technical points being 
discussed.   (That includes, BTW, accusations of acting in bad faith.)   
It's even bad faith to amplify one or more divergent opinions in a 
deliberate attempt to delay or prevent consensus. There are lots of 
kinds of bad faith, but it's hard to reliably tell when someone is 
acting in bad faith.

(As this discussion relates to this Last Call, it appears to me that 
several of Dan's messages were reacting to inflammatory messages from 
others, and Dan is being blamed for responding to them.  It's harder to 
establish that the messages being responded to were "disruption-causing 
behavior", but to some degree that depends on how you define it and how 
you interpret those messages.)

I also think that even under the best of conditions, convergence often 
takes time and requires patience, and is more aided by thoughtful 
responses (which often take time) than by quick ones. A disturbing trend 
that I see is people insisting that speakers recognize what they call 
"consensus" very quickly, without allowing time for more thoughtful 
views to emerge, or for a variety of views to converge.

I wonder if we'd be more productive if we didn't try to resolve 
everything in a hurry.