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On the Requirements of Leadership

From: Jonathan S. Shapiro
Subject: On the Requirements of Leadership
Date: Tue, 02 May 2006 09:58:15 -0400


This is a serious note. I ask you to consider it carefully. I am very
concerned for you, and I am writing out of this concern. At the end is a
concrete suggestion. I think it has merit even if you disagree with the
specifics of my note.

You are an *excellent* project leader. This is because you listen, you
reflect, and you actually consider the viewpoints of others.

In the past week, I have noticed a pattern of extremely negative
responses from you. I emphasize that with one exception (item 4), I do
not include *any* of your responses to *me* in the following

  1. You are extremely dismissive. Others have commented on this too.

  2. You forget which discussions have actually occurred on the list
     and which at conferences. This is okay, but you have become
     VERY upset about repeating yourself to people who were not at
     the conference.

  3. With disturbing frequency, you have responded to technical
     questions with ideological or political answers. I do not
     object to discussion of ideology or politics (even when I
     disagree), but they are not an appropriate response to
     a technical question.

     When you have been *explicitly* asked to go back and respond
     to the technical question, you have universally failed to do
     so, and you have issued a dismissive response.

     You have done this to me, but also to Pierre and to Tom.

     It sometimes seems -- and here I am speculating -- that you
     are trying to answer some imagined "agenda" that is behind the
     technical question. If so, don't. In most cases there *wasn't*
     any agenda.

  4. You have lost your perspective badly enough to issue at least
     one permanently damaging and entirely inappropriate personal
     attack. I have accepted your apology, but you have done
     permanent damage to our relationship, and it is unlikely that
     I will ever be able trust the balance or fairness of your judgment
     again. I forgive, but I do not forget.

     I do not wish to reopen that discussion, or to beat you up.
     What is done is done. I mention it now only as evidence
     that you *have* lost your perspective in the last two weeks.

  5. After asking for examples of use cases, and receiving a
     significant number, you have consistently failed to read
     them carefully, and routinely dismissed their relevance on
     technical grounds or on the basis of unrealistic and 
     incorrect statements about how things work in the real
     world, or on the basis that they are "Not important for the Hurd".

     Dismissiveness and ignorance are obviously a problem, but the
     "not important" comments disturb me a lot. It is perfectly
     obvious from the entire discussion that there does not
     exist a consensus about this, and it is not your decision
     to make exclusively.

None of these behaviors remind me of the Marcus that I know and
appreciate. And it must be said that I probably have not helped matters
with some of the comments that I have made. I apologize for this, but
you really *have* been incredibly rude and dismissive to me in much of
the discussion.

I do not know what is going on in your head. I can only see what appears
in the emails. The *appearance* is of someone whose mind is firmly
closed -- not just to my opinions, but to those of several others.
Others have privately shared this concern with me as well.

It should not be surprising that many people are responding with
terrible frustration. Whether you are listening or not, you do not
*appear* to be listening. In consequence, some active contributors feel
that they are being ignored, and because of this they feel that their
honest and legitimate differences of opinion about the direction of the
Hurd are not being considered.

To be clear: I did not (and do not) expect my own opinions to win. I
expected them to be heard honestly, and I expected that a different
balance would emerge as a result. I do not feel that they have been
given that hearing.

I wish to make a suggestion:

I think that you have lost perspective. The Hurd will not suffer harm if
you take a two day break to clear your head and come back fresh. Do so.
It can do no harm. It might help.

When you do, I ask that you consider taking a less absolute position on
encapsulation. You have very good, carefully considered reasons for the
position that you have taken on this, but they *appear* (to me) to be
based entirely on rejection of a single ethical issue. What I ask you to
consider is that there exists more than one ethical imperative in the
world, that many of them must be balanced, and that some of them may
require encapsulation -- even of confined subsystems.

I do not ask that you accept this blindly. I ask that you be open to the
possibility that it may be true, and that you go back and actually
*read* the use cases and consider them with a fair and open viewpoint.
If things are unclear, ask for explanation. Do not dismiss the work that
others have done at your request. It insults them, and it diminishes



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