Discussion and commentary on Libre-RISCV Member Agreement

The Code of Honour

It's called a Code of "Honour", not a Code of "Conduct", for a reason. A Code of "Honour" is a positive and clear statement. Everyone knows the difference between "good" and "bad". Codes of "Conduct" on the other hand have nothing to do with honour, and by the time the reader has finished going through a horrific list of "proscribed behaviours", what are the chances that they will actually genuinely feel that the project is actually safe and welcoming?

The Systemic Laws of Organisations.

The Systemic Laws are explained below.

Everyone belongs

Every contributor and their contributions and achievements are recognised. This further encourages people to contribute; they feel welcome, and their efforts valued.

Reality is acknowledged and accepted

Denial of reality is the quickest way to kill the effectiveness of an organisation. Acceptance and acknowledgement of the facts, without judgement, subsequently allows analysis to take place so that corrections can be applied.

To reach a goal, it is necessary to have four things: (1) a model (2) observations of reality (3) a comparative analysis system and (4) a corrective feedback loop. Whilst (1, 3 and 4) are sufficiently obvious and objective that nobody really thinks much about them, when things get hard it is often challenging for people to objectively face reality, particularly if other Systemic Laws are being violated as well.

Everyone is respected and honoured, past and present

When someone leaves a project, particularly under less than ideal circumstances, it is still vitally important to value and respect both them and their contributions.

Role, Seniority and Expertise are all respected.

This can be very challenging, particularly when someone with more expertise meets someone whose length of service is greater.

We accept the responsibility of our position

If we choose a position of responsibility, we must actually acknowledge and accept the responsibility of that role! People will be relying on us.

Everyone is rewarded equitably for their contributions

In a "Libre" context this is often extremely hard to do, as the normal rules of profit-maximising business (do not provide goods or services until payment has been received) do not apply: our "product" - the source code - is made available at zero monetary cost. So it is down to us to ensure that part of our time is spent making sure that everyone is actually rewarded, whether through contracts, sponsorship, donations, crowd-funding and profit-sharing in the same, and so on.

Everyone is responsible and accountable (for the "good" and the "bad")

When we do something well, it is vital that we (alone) own and hold the credit for that achievement (nobody else takes the credit; we accept the credit). When we screw up, it is just as equally vital that we take responsibility for cleaning up our mess, and that nobody else is blamed or think they own it, or tries to take the task away from us!

In this way, two vitally important things happen. Firstly: we can rely on each other, as we trust that the tasks that others chose will be completed (even if they mess up a few times). Secondly: in our chosen opportunity to grow and learn, we know and trust that nobody will take that away from us, and, further, that our achievements and the credit will be ours.

Decision-making and new contributors

This section has two aspects. The first is that everything but unanimous decision-making is disempowering and de-motivating (harmful). Majority rule (mob rule) is easily demonstrated to be so: anyone not in the majority quickly gives up in resignation, even if their contribution is critically important (and in the political arena, "Minority Representative Groups" form as a direct result). Unanimous decision-making requires that the issue be discussed until it is fully understood by all members (or members recognise that they do not or cannot understand the issue, and abstain).

The introduction of new contributors really requires specially spelling out. The last thing that is needed is for a new contributor to introduce changes that drain the time and resources of prior contributors to the point where the project fails. Unanimous decision-making ensures that all members (who inherently have a longer term of service to the project than any new member) have the right to veto proposals that disrupt the project. In a "mob rule" scenario, there is the potential for enough new members to join simultaneously that they could easily completely take over the project. Unanimous decision making prevents this scenario.

It is also worthwhile noting on the subject of unanimous decision-making: its effectiveness decreases as the number of contributors goes significantly above around eight. If that occurs, delegate! Form sub-projects, agree roles and responsibilities, and go for it. Divide and conquer.