2:07 pm community, gnome

In honour of the recent discussions on foundation-list, I would like to resend everyone to this piece by Dan Spalding, which I’ve mentioned previously. It had a huge influence on me, and hopefully will on others too.

As a teaser, here’s an extract of the target audience:

Consensus decision making is a model of the society we want to live in, and a tool we use to get there. Men often dominate consensus at the expense of everyone else. Think about the man who…

  • Speaks for a long, loud, first and often
  • Offers his opinion immediately whenever someone makes a proposal, asks a question, or if there’s a lull in discussion
  • Speaks with too much authority: “Actually, it’s like this…”
  • Can’t amend a proposal or idea he disagrees with, but trashes it instead
  • Makes faces every time someone says something he disagrees with
  • Rephrases everything a woman says, as in, “I think what Mary was trying to say is…”
  • Makes a proposal, then responds to each and every question and criticism of it – thus speaking as often as everyone else put together (Note: This man often ends up being the facilitator)

It’s rarely just one man who exhibits every problem trait. Instead it’s two or three competing to do all the above. But the result is the same: everyone who can’t (or won’t) compete on these terms – talking long, loud, first and often – gets drowned out.

This is a result of society’s programming. Almost no men can actually live up to our culture’s fucked up standards of masculinity. And our society has standards for women that are equally ridiculous. In one way, we both suffer equally. That’s why we all yearn and strive for a world where these standards – which serve to divide us and reduce us and prop up those in control – are destroyed.

In another way these standards serve those who come closest to living up to them. Sure, we all lose when a few men dominate a meeting. But it’s those men who get to make decisions, take credit for the work everyone does, and come out feeling more inspired and confident.

Like I said, Dan’s piece opened my eyes to my own bad behaviour, and also enabled me to improve as a meeting/round-table/discussion facilitator. Hopefully a reasoned reflective analysis of their behaviour by the most disruptive elements of foundation-list will also have a similar effect on them. I certainly hope so.

3 Responses

  1. Juanjo Marin Says:

    Good reference!
    Thanks for sharing !

  2. Markku Salmela Says:


    Man has two ears and only one mouth for a reason!

  3. Stormy's Corner , Archive » Stormy’s Update: Week of March 1st Says:

    […] too much time and energy on Foundation List threads. Really liked Dave’s post about consensus driven conversations. Hopefully everyone follows Vincent’s advice and refocuses on making GNOME rock and making […]

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