Aw: Re: improving the tone of discussion in FSFE

Paul Boddie paul at
Wed Sep 12 16:47:30 UTC 2018

On Wednesday 12. September 2018 12.30.55 Daniel Albert wrote:
> Your chart is funny. Why is zero missing in it?

The axes are properly labelled and, in any case, I see far worse on major news 
Web sites every day. What we see is a decline in the Fellowship of just over 
100 people from 1650 or so in a period of about six months, reversing the 
growth of the preceding period.

> And what about the long-term development? You violate the basic rules of
> statistics.

Please try and be constructive and civil.

What might be interesting is to see whether this kind of fluctuation is 
seasonal: that members swell in the second half of any given year and then 
recede in the first half of the following year. That might confirm your 
suspicion that the chart shows nothing unusual or worrying.

However, given that membership is something lasting over a longer term than a 
day, week or month, I would really be surprised to see fluctuations 
manifesting themselves regularly in the way depicted. Maybe someone should 
model this and tell us what to expect.

> You also say that people joined because you became a GA member. That's not
> in the numbers.

True. That is like trying to explain how people voted in an election based on 
the results. Figuring out why people voted in the way they did is therefore 
very valuable strategic information. (Of course, the Fellowship election did 
involve preference voting, which is better than many elections in the wider 
world, but even then we cannot connect the events of joining and voting in any 
reliable way.)

> My best friend has stopped giving to FSFE because he hates all the fights
> you start. Maybe the reasons you give for the small change of supporters are
> not the real reasons.

It is too bad that people do not like the confrontational culture that has 
developed. However, such a culture does not emerge out of nowhere. And it 
should be noted that some people prefer matters of criticism or weakness to be 
discussed privately, not in public, perceiving open dissent as argumentative, 
hostile, and so on.

Keeping disagreements private might make some people more comfortable, but it 
risks dissent building up to the point where "fights" become the only outlet 
for those who feel that criticism or weaknesses in an organisation are not 
being addressed.

> Hundreds of people just quit without saying anything.
> ---
> According to your data this is not true.

If we have exit interviews or something similar that indicate why people 
stopped supporting the Fellowship then it obviously isn't true. But otherwise 
it is closer to the truth than any other reasonable explanation.


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