Welcome to the Essay Debating System
See below for an explanation.
We think discussions on Debian development mailing lists sometimes suffer from repetition of facts, opinions, and arguments. During a long discussion of a controversial topic, it is hard for anyone to keep track of what has been said, and so everything tends to get repeated.
Such discussions also often become heated, and fast: those who participate most intensely tend to answer within minutes of each other. Even without repetition, following the discussion becomes a lot of work.
We think it would improve the discussions if each side of a debate (there can be more than two) would write a document explaining their viewpoint, including any facts, references, and arguments they feel are needed as justification. As the debate continues, they may update the document to strengthen their position. If need be, they can point to their document in their mailing list posts.
Here's the procedure:
If there isn't one already, start a topic page for a debate, on wiki.debian.org, under the main Debate page. Make the name be descriptive of the topic, e.g., "Jessie init system" or "Default compiler for Jessie+1". You can use the DebateTemplate as a basis for the wiki page.
- Write a document explaining your point of view. Make it as convincing as you can. If you like, gather a group of like-minded people to help write the document. Add your names to the end of the page so it's clear whose viewpoint it represents.
- Publish the document on as a subpage of the topic page in the wiki. Add a link to the subpage from the topic page.
- Point to your document in the mailing list discussion so that others will know about it.
- Update your document if needed, during the discussion. The wiki's version control will keep track of all changes.
- Please don't edit other people's position documents unless they agree that you are jointly maintaining the position with them.
- If you largely agree with one of the existing sides, but would prefer to change some specifics, add those via wiki comments (and sign them). The owner of the position may incorporate them or decline to incorporate them (or welcome you as a co-maintainer of the position). If you're the owner and decline a proposal, you may delete the comment if you feel it interferes with the flow of your proposal.
- If you can't reach an agreement with the maintainer of a position but you think your disagreement with it is important, you can start your own position by cloning an existing position and then making the edits that you think should be made. Just clearly state at the top of the new page that you have done this and give credit to the original position.
This procedure does not introduce anything new for resolving disputes. Debian operates on the principle of having a rough consensus, plus a tech committee to handle cases where that can't be reached, and we do not want to change that. Our goal is to develop and refine positions, and express them more clearly.
Russ Allbery and Lars Wirzenius (based on original suggestion to Lars by Richard Braakman)