[python-committers] An alternative governance model

Barry Warsaw barry at python.org
Wed Jul 18 13:51:40 EDT 2018

On Jul 18, 2018, at 01:43, Antoine Pitrou <antoine at python.org> wrote:
> Why do you think non-BDFL projects have a problem with """ambiguity as
> to the authority of said decision"""?  What is your basis for that
> assertion?

With more people empowered to make a binding decision as part of a Supreme Council, there will be more uncertainty in the authority of the person pronouncing.  Part of that will be because the pronouncement can come from any of the member of the Council, and part may come from more turnover in the Council membership.  I’m not at all concerned about *us* accepting that authoritative decision because we are are deeply invested in Python’s governance.  But I claim that the vast majority of Python users are not, so while they recognize Guido’s name as the (former) leader, I question whether they will be able to have the same certainty in the authority of a decision coming from 3 or 5 people who’s names they are not familiar with.  With a singular leader, it will be easier to communicate the authority of that leader.

So yeah, maybe it’s a PR problem, but it’s still important nonetheless.

> I'm worried that you seem to be descending into magical thought,
> believing for some reason that nothing else than monarchy could ever
> work for a software project.

We’re not talking about software project governance in general, we’re talking about Python specifically. And Python has had a strong singular leader with a clear vision for its entire nearly 30 year life.  Yes, I personally question whether a Supreme Council will work for Python.

> Since you're opening this can of worms, I'll say it:
> - I'm -1 on a new dictator-for-life (*)

Let me be clear: “BDFL” is a convenient term with a well-known meaning.  In fact, I believe *we* coined that term that’s now often used in other open source projects.  But as Guido has eloquently demonstrated, the “For Life” part really means “For As Long As They Want To Do It”.  In other words, it’s just a title for the job.  In my proposal, it really means “For As Long As They Want To Do It And They Don’t Do Something Evil Enough To Get Impeached”.  I’m spelling that title with the initialism “BDFL” :)

> - I'm -1 on Brett Cannon as a new dictator-for-life

Of one thing I have absolutely no doubt: no decision in Python will ever be unanimous!  That kind of proves my point as to why a singular leader is necessary. :)

> You're creating a huge problem here.  Whatever dictator you come up
> with, not everyone will be ok with that choice.  What are they supposed
> to do?  If one doesn't think X is legitimate as a dictator, how does one
> keep contributing to the project?  In other words, you are threatening
> to exclude people, perhaps seasoned contributors.

How is that any different with a Supreme Council rather than a singular leader?  Whatever makeup of the Council we come up with, not everyone will be okay with those choices.  What are they supposed to do?

Ultimately you’re right.  There are zillions of reasons not to contribute to Python, so having no confidence in its leadership is just one more.  Fortunately, only you get to decide whether your reasons not to contribute outweigh your reasons to contribute.  And further, it’s open source, so you are *always* welcome to fork.  Look at Devuan <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devuan>.

>> I’ve long said — somewhat in jest, since I never expected Guido to actually ever retire! — that Brett would be my choice for the next BDFL.  I think he’s the perfect candidate, and he’s already demonstrated qualities that I think make him a fantastic leader.
> I bed to disagree, Barry.  Brett is a good contributor, that doesn't
> make him legitimate as a dictator.  Only Guido could be, and he has
> stepped down.
> The amount of cheerleading here ("""smart, compassionate, passionate,
> respectful, young, tall, and has the right mix of technical excellence
> and social skills""") is embarrassing.  What if we don't subscribe to
> your views of Brett's qualities: do you expect us to publicly criticize
> Brett so as to justify our opposition?

Also fortunately, I don’t get to unilaterally decide this!  I get to propose a plan, make my arguments, try to persuade, and cast my one vote — hopefully, depending on the criteria.  Just like all of you. :)

(Maybe we don’t count anybody who has more hair on his chin now than his head when he first started using Python, in which case, I’m definitely forking what I’ll call UncleTimmython).


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