Transparent voting: why I like the idea even though I think it would be useless

Transparent voting is an idea that is ideally really useful but also completely useless in GNOME.

Some people in GNOME have been asking for transparent votes. When the board votes, they would like to know who voted which way. I totally agree with them – it’s important to know how different board members think so that you can make educated choices. However, I also agree with the people that say that it would be totally useless.

For example …

Yesterday and today the board discussed where GUADEC 2012 will be. It’s a big decision and not one we took lightly. We discussed it, we invited the potential hosts to come and talk to us, we debated it and we debated it some more. Many hours in total.

And yet when the vote happened, it was unanimous.

So what happened? If the vote was unanimous, why all the discussion? Because it wasn’t really unanimous. We all liked different points of different bids. And some of us weren’t sure which way we wanted to vote to start with. Then we discussed and some people changed their positions, others remained firm. We discussed some more. And although it was a unanimous vote in the end, I believe several board members still might have preferred a different bid. (They were all awesome.) The unanimous vote was the way for everyone to say “I’m behind the group decision.” More than half of us were 100% behind one bid and the few of us that weren’t were signalling that they agreed. They were willing to go with the group decision. They signaled that by the way the voted. You’d have to see their body language to understand.

So while it would be interesting for people to know how individual board members feel about issues (like maybe copyright assignment), seeing the results of votes is unlikely to be informative. We need to figure out how to convey the conversation, not the vote results.