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Founder's Syndrome

Everyone around you knows that you have it, but you are in denial. You say things like, “I am open to giving control to the right person at the right time”. However, the reality is that the “right person” does not exist and the “right time” never arrives. - From Founderitis - A Ten Step Recovery Program

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There. It's on the table. I only wish I had directly raised this issue several years ago rather than persisting in trying indirectly to convince Peter of the value of letting go of some control. I suppose I was deluded about my own skills of persuasion. Or perhaps I was afraid of being put on the "enemies list." So much for that...

While he may not be able or willing to hear it, I do not mean this in any way to slight Peter's historical or current contribution to the TWiki community. We are all indebted to him for starting and shepherding TWiki and benefit greatly in his continued promotion of TWiki (particularly through his role in developing TWiki.net). That is not the issue.

The issue is whether Peter's self-appointment as BDFL is a viable or desirable governance model for the TWiki.org community. I present that this is the core issue which can not be avoided or danced around any longer as there is ample evidence that it is driving the community towards either a fork or oblivion. I have long hoped we can avoid either of these paths but have become increasingly discouraged.

Many people have expressed reservations about Peter's role as BDFL in one way or another. It's time to hear from those who think it is a good thing for the TWiki community.

-- LynnwoodBrown - 09 Jul 2008


I find your concern rather abstract. Is it about the title? I also don't understand how BDFL "is" a governance model, as you describe it.

-- ArthurClemens - 09 Jul 2008

As I read TWikiGovernanceProposal1, the BDFL is foundational to the entire governance framework in that Peter:

  • Controls appointments to all decision-making bodies.
  • Has fall-back veto over all decisions made by those bodies.

I am simply questioning whether that is an appropriate role for Peter (or anyone, for that matter) at this stage of the project's development.

-- LynnwoodBrown - 09 Jul 2008

I am afraid I am missing something that you seems to be reading between the lines.

My interpretation is:

  • Ideally the community resolves issues by consensus, but occasionally the leader will use his vote to break a status quo
  • Appointments/approvals are done by the TWikiCommunityCouncil - not by the leader that "controls appointments to all decision-making bodies"

So far I don't see any problem in the proposal, nor a lack of democratic governance.

Regarding democrary: in the Netherlands we have our queen that fulfills a decorative function, except in the case when a new government needs to be created by coalition. She then appoints a Wikipedia:Formateur. I do see some similarities here.

-- ArthurClemens - 09 Jul 2008

Arthur, I think that the key word is "occasionally" in the "but occasionally the leader will use his vote to break a status quo".

I feel (and share) the perception that Peter several times has passed over the community even after there was already a consensus on what to do (I could gather a list, but for a recent example see the discussion about the download page). Even when the consensus was in line with the TWikiMission. Sometimes even to maintain the Status Quo.

OTOH, there MUST be a figure that can break ties and keep the project moving if a consensus is not reached, be it a BDFL or a Council of Elders. But even those decisions must be aligned with the TWikiMission.

-- RafaelAlvarez - 09 Jul 2008

A recent example of a BDFL in action can be found on GuideLinesLinkingThirdPartyDistributions. Rafael pointed out that there are guidelines for the download page, put in place by the community. These leave not much of interpretation in this case and would lead to erase the download link. The community tries to make this clear and changed it appropriately. Peter ignored this decision and put up the download link again so it still appears on the download page.

IMHO this clearly shows a lack of democratic governance, as the BDFL ignores even basic rules set by the community.

-- AndreUlrich - 10 Jul 2008

I agree with Andre. I do not agree with the advertisement of TWiki.net on that page. I you ask me: "Does Peter deserve that exposure?", my answer would be a loud "yes". If you ask: "Will Peter get a legitimate right to expose his company on TWO if he asks for it?" ==> Yes!. "Did Peter act reasonable and in a good way by putting up his ad without asking?" ==> No.

My suggestion for Peter is: Simply ask for what you want. There will be enough people who will vote for you. Please do not behave as a "dictator". You will ultimately loose a lot of support.

-- MartinSeibert - 11 Jul 2008

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Topic revision: r8 - 2008-09-05 - PeterThoeny
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