Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Are Eclipse committer elections a little too open?
Since I became a committer on Eclipse WTP project a few years ago, I have witnessed and participated in many committer elections. One aspect of the way elections are conducted struck me as somewhat problematic. Clearly having transparent processes is important to an open source community, but I wonder if there is such thing as too much of a good thing. In all the committer elections that I observed, I have never seen a single negative vote. That somewhat defeats the point of having an election in the first place. As you can imagine, I have a theory for why negative votes don't happen and I am curious if other people agree with my observations... Consider that a nominated contributor likely knows a few existing committers on the project in other ways than just interactions over past contributions. Perhaps the nominee works for the same employer. These committers might have a vested interest in getting the nominee elected. Then suppose, you have another committer on the project who has a real objection to the nominee getting elected. What options does this committer have? He can vote his true opinion and likely face retribution from other committers on the project (thus making it more difficult for him to work on the project). He can bite his tongue and abstain. Or he might actually feel compelled to vote +1. Since voting record is visible, he might feel that even abstaining would jeopardize his working relationship with other committers on the project. I wonder if a system where only EMO knows who voted how and public record hides the names (comments would still be shown) would create an environment for more effective committer elections?