[tor-project] [Proposal] Social Contract

Georg Koppen gk at torproject.org
Tue Apr 4 18:52:00 UTC 2017

Damian Johnson:
> Thanks Alison!
> Quick correction: at the dev meeting a common point of feedback was
> that folks dislike having too many votes so we plan to combine three
> things into one vote...
> * Ratification of the social contract.
> * Amendments folks would like for the community council.
> * Vote to select the next Community Council.

I think bundling different, unrelated things into one vote is not the
right solution to concerns about too many votes. It seems to me that
move makes it harder for everyone to reason about the proposed changes
and vote accordingly. Which in turn might lead to (more) voting fatigue
and reinforcement of that feeling about too many votes. Now, I am not
sure whether the dislike-too-many-votes-feedbacks stem from us having
already had too many votes or whether that's just a fear for future
votes, so it might be hard to make good suggestions. But one thing that
does not seem unreasonable to me is to slow to down the whole process by
not pushing things through so rapidly.

For this particular case I'd argue we should basically drop the
ratification of the social contract: that piece got already ratified. We
even have a blog post about it:


The social contract visible on our blog and the text in the proposal
seem to be the same, underscoring that having to ratify it again is
superflouos. Moreover, and as alluded to above, it might even help with
the feeling of some that we vote too much or the fear that we will if we
just drop this as not doing so would add to voting fatique which we
definitely want to avoid.

My most important point, though, is a more general one. I think it is
wrong to apply newly created policies backwards in time. First, you may
create new problems in case a conflict between the past outcome and the
present one arises: applied to the social contract this means: what is
going to happen if a majority does not accept the social contract this
time? Clearly we ratified it by rough consensus in the past, right?
Which outcome will prevail in such a case? This is at best
underspecified but I actually think such a thing happening would mean
much more damage than it is worth.

Second, imagine a community council got elected for a period of time but
after half of its term our decision making procedure changes. Maybe we
got convinced that voting is less preferable than rough consensus and we
start doing everything by rough consensus from that time on. Applying
the logic that we need to ratify the social contract again because we
have a new ratification procedure to our community council case would
mean we had to reelect the community council again despite their term
not being over yet. While applying the newly found ratification
procedure to get the community council after the current one (to stick
to my example) is pretty reasonable IMO doing so midterm makes not much
sense to me.

So, let's drop that re-ratifying idea of the same things altogether. It
creates more problems than it solves and does not add more legitimacy to
previous decisions.


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