[Python-Dev] How do we tell if we're helping or hindering the core development process? (was Re: How far to go with user-friendliness)

Ben Finney ben+python at benfinney.id.au
Tue Jul 21 12:03:40 CEST 2015

Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan at gmail.com> writes:

> On 20 July 2015 at 22:34, Ben Finney <ben+python at benfinney.id.au> wrote:
> > Paul Moore <p.f.moore at gmail.com> writes:
> >
> >> […] my biggest fear when doing a commit (on any project) - what if,
> >> after all the worrying and consideration I put into doing this
> >> commit, people disagree with me (or worse still, I made a mistake)?
> >> Will I be able to justify what I decided?
> >
> > That seems quite healthy to me. On a collaborative project with
> > effects far beyond oneself, yes, any change *should* be able to be
> > justified when challenged.
> No, that's not how this works: if folks are thinking that being a
> Python user, or even a CPython core developer, means that we're
> entitled to micromanage core developers by demanding extensive
> explanations for any arbitrary commit we choose, they're thoroughly
> mistaken.

Definitely agreed, and I'm not implying otherwise.

There is a distinction to be drawn:

* If challenged to do so, could one (the contributor) present a
  compelling justification for the change?

  This is what I claim Paul Moore's doubt (fear?) is indicative of. I
  maintain that this doubt is quite healthy: it helps the contributor to
  pause, reflect, seek assistance in making decisions, and thereby also
  tends to exclude poorly-justified changes which would otherwise be

* If a participant on this forum feels entitled to challenge a change,
  must the contributor present an arbitrary quantity of justification of
  each decision when challenged?

  This seems to be what many contributors object to, but I don't assert
  this at all. I never meant to imply that mere participation here
  entitles a person to demand justification for changes.

> Folks are granted core committer privileges because we *trust their
> instincts*. We trust them to know when they're acting within the
> limits of their own expertise and experience, and we trust them to
> know when it would be beneficial to seek feedback from a wider
> audience before making up their minds.

That's all good, and it's quite compatible with the healthy doubt I
described above.

> But the authority and responsibility to make changes, to decide what
> constitutes a reasonable risk, to decide which updates are appropriate
> to send out to tens of millions of Python users worldwide remains
> *ours*.

No objection from me.

I am not asking that contributors be at the mercy of limitless demands
for justification from arbitrary participants in this forum.

I am asking that contributors should *have* compelling justification for
any change they commit, if someone with sufficient authority were to ask
for it.

That doesn't make contributors any more answerable to arbitrary
participants here. It does make explicit that contributors, while
trusted of course, are answerable to more than their instincts and what
“feels right”: they are answerable also the community of core
contributors as a condition of that trust. They are also effectively
answerable to their own conscience about what justification that
community may ask in future.

 \      “We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but |
  `\    from our illusions.” —Daniel J. Boorstin, historian, 1914–2004 |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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