Process for consent decisions on the forum

We need a clear but simple method for doing consent decisions on the forum. Proposal:

How to create a proposal

  • If possible: Before coming up with solutions for a problem, write about the problem on the forum and get feedback. Make sure everyone agrees it’s a problem that should be solved.
  • Write a proposal for something simple to try, even if it doesn’t solve the problem completely. Don’t waste time on this step. Timebox for a few hours, write the best proposal you can write in this very short time, and get it out there soon.
  • Post your proposal on the forum and ask for feedback; give it some time and integrate the feedback. (If you’re unsure, take one week for this phase and then simply try a consent decision.)

How to start a consent decision

Any forum user with sufficient rights to build a poll can start a consent decision. To start one, write a forum post with these contents:

  • Your proposal, or a reference to the proposal. Make sure to specify the last-edited timestamp (or number of times they have been edited) of posts you refer to.
  • A proposed review date
  • A poll, created using the gear in the editor. Use these settings for the poll:
  • Type: Single Choice
  • Results: Always
  • Chart type: Bar
  • Poll options:
    • Objection (explain it in a reply)
    • Consent with Concern (explain it in a reply)
    • Consent
  • Show who voted: Yes
  • Automatically close poll: Yes, after one week

If there’s no objections once the poll closes, the decision becomes effective immediately.

At the review date of a decision, the secretary will post an invitation for reflection and discussion. One week later, the secretary will start a consent decision on whether to keep the decision until the next review (they will propose the next review date as part of that consent decision).

How to integrate objections

Once there’s an objection:

  • Discuss possible ways to integrate the objection with the objector and the entire group
  • Give the others enough time to propose amendments, instead of rushing to amend it yourself
  • Once there’s a good amendment: Close the poll and edit the proposal. Then start a consent decision on the new proposal as described above.

How to participate in a consent decision

All forum users may participate in consent decisions. To participate, do the following:

  • Read the proposal thoroughly, ask questions if you don’t understand everything
  • Try to find an objection (S3 pattern) to the proposal
  • Vote in the poll
  • If you have an objection or a concern, explain it in a reply to the post that contains the poll.
  • Participate in any follow-up discussion. Contribute ideas for improving the proposal in a way that fixes your objection.

Objections can be on any of these grounds:

  • The proposal is not clear enough
  • The proposal doesn’t contain a review date
  • The proposal would lead to unintended consequences
  • An important improvement to the proposal can be made
  • The consent decision process (as described in this post) was not followed correctly
  • The proposal is not inside the domain of what can be decided on the forum

How to deal with invalid objections

Only people in the team (forum group) can formally disqualify objections. Here’s how to proceed:

  • Try to integrate the objection anyways. If there’s a good way to integrate it, there’s no need to disqualify the objection.
  • Discuss the matter with the objector. If you can convince them while the poll is still open, they can still change their vote. If they’re convinced only after the poll is closed, open a new poll. Be open to the possibility that the objection is valid after all.
  • If the matter really cannot be resolved differently, here’s how an objection can be disqualified formally:
  • A team member starts a consent decision, proposing to disqualify the objection. Give a good reason, i.e. an objection to the objection. Make it clear that only team members can participate in this consent decision.
  • Open a new poll for the original proposal that was objected to. Make it clear that the original objection cannot be raised again. Be friendly and open to other objections from the original objector.

The power remains with the team

The team invites all forum users to participate in consent decisions. However, it reserves the right to withdraw this invitation at any point.

When team members start consent decisions, they have the option to specify that only team members can raise objections. If they want to permanently withdraw the invitation, a consent decision can be made to remove the invitation from this very proposal.


Enthusiastic support here! This seems deeply thought-out, well-researched, and it has aspects that address all the concerns I have thought of when considering this sort of thing. Bravo and thank you.

I suggest we go ahead with doing the first run of this process by getting consent to this very proposal!


Awesome! I think I’ll wait a few days (so the others can comment as well) and then start a consent decision.

I edited again, to be explicit that objections by an entire “class of persons” can be disqualified as well. This means if things go really wrong, the team can disqualify all objections by non-team-members, effectively reverting to making all consent decisions only within the team (however, they need to have a good reason to do so, and anyone in the team can and should object if it’s not a good reason), but if nothing goes wrong, everyone can participate with full rights.


Definitely a great job spending the effort to write this up, thanks!

I’m excited that you’ve framed this with built-in tools and look forward to trying this out!

Let’s do a consent decision! All forum users reading this: You’re encouraged to read the proposal thoroughly and then participate below. If you don’t participate, you implicitly give consent – in that case, please do give your consent explicitly though.

Proposal: My first post in this topic, Process for consent decisions on the forum (edited 9 times, last edited 2020-01-22T16:30:00Z)

Proposed review date: In two months, i.e. 2020-03-23.

  • Objection (describe it below)
  • Consent with Concern (describe it below)
  • Consent

0 voters

Concern 1

Concern: People might be afraid to bring up objections because by default, the decision is delayed by at least 1 week. Compare this to synchronous consent decisions: There, objections can be raised and integrated within a few minutes. Thus, people build confidence that objections are the most valuable contribution they can make. I’m worried that our culture might be very different from the one that typically emerges by doing consent decisions.

Concern 2

Concern: James Priest (cofounder of S3) sometimes, when introducing hand signals, instructs people to use them like in rock-paper-scissors, see (sorry for the youtube link, I suggest using youtube-dl.) He does this in order to avoid people influencing each other.

This is why I chose to show the results “on vote”, instead of “always”. However, when objections or concerns come up, people reply to the post with the poll, effectively making their objection/concern visible too early.

1 Like

Not a concern, a minor suggestion in response to:

An exception to a previously disqualified objection being reviewed again is if it can be demonstrated to have new elements involved, e.g. the situation has changed since when it was last proposed or something relevant has appeared that potentially affects outcome.

Maybe this is already a given, in which case you can treat this as clarifying question than a suggested amendment. Thanks.

reply to concerns

I agree that we’ll have to iterate to make asynchronous consent work closer to ideal. I think we’ll get there through experience, trial-and-error somewhat.

People should specifically make a point of doing the vote first before reading the later comments. It makes sense to make this intention explicit in the instructions we spell out. And @photm your use of the details hiding helps with this, so let’s perhaps spell that out too.

Also, we don’t have to assume objections delay by a week. Perhaps we say that if everyone who voted in the first week gets in their vote on an updated proposal, then either it’s done or maybe a small time buffer available such as 24 hours. The week frame would just be in case everyone needs that whole time.

It’s already given, because an objection is mainly an argument about why sth bad will happen, not the description of sth bad that will happen, i.e. if the reasoning changes, it’s a different objection. For instance:

  • Old objection: The proposal is not aligned with what people would expect us to do, thus it follows many patrons will unpledge.
  • Imagine this objection is disqualified, because it cannot be demonstrated that people would dislike whatever the decision is about.
  • New objection: Many patrons have already unpledged because we began implementing the decision, thus it follows people really do dislike it, thus more will unpledge.
Concern 3

Concern: In S3, consent decisions are used all over the place as part of other processes. However, if consent decisions take an entire week, this potential might be lost.

I’m not really happy with the details hiding, so let’s maybe play around with this some more, without explicit rules that we would need to change, until we’re sufficiently happy to put it into the instructions. My tensions about this are:

  • While the details of objections/concerns are hidden, the fact that there are objections, or the fact that there are concerns, is not hidden.
  • People receive notifications for these replies even though they should ignore them until they made up their mind.
  • The notification emails include the entire raw text of the replies, i.e. the details aren’t hidden there. It already happened to me that I accidentally read a few words that would’ve been hidden before considering whether I should currently be allowed to read them.
  • Once the poll is closed, having the details/summary stuff everywhere is fairly messy and annoying – we would have to edit everything. This can hopefully be done better.

Ideas for other things to try:

That’s a great idea! I thought about how to determine the list of people to wait on before moving forward, and couldn’t get up with sth I liked. Making the resolving of an objection a special case and simply using the list of people who voted the first time seems like a good way to do this.

The way the proposal is phrased, there’s still another thing to try out: Once an objection is raised, people can discuss on how to integrate it. Once there’s a proposed edit to the proposal that would fix the problem, the poll is closed, the proposal edited and a new poll is opened.

This means if people are quick enough to raise their objections and integrate them, they won’t delay the process much. At the same time, there’s still the entire week for everyone to think about the final proposal.

I think we should try this first and then maybe change it when we review in two months.

1 Like

I feel the details/summary stuff harms the discussion:

  • It’s very annoying to edit, because the live preview doesn’t show the hidden contents (Except if you unfold it, but it folds again once you continue typing)
  • It’s very annoying to read, because you need to unfold everything
  • It leads to very bad headings (that are intentionally designed not to convey information)
  • It’s very hard to find something you’ve read before (It happend multiple times to me already that I unfolded the wrong one of my “Concern 1”, “Concern 2” gadgets)
  • At least on my machine, they randomly fold if I scroll away from the posts and then back
  • You don’t have the accidentally-start-reading effect when scrolling along the text, reading becomes an intentional and annoying action

I think we should stop using it :slight_smile: Fortunately, the proposal currently doesn’t mandate it, so this post is neither a concern nor an objection, so I’m not even breaking our new tradition here. I still do propose that we stop using it for concerns/objections too.

Not using details/summary would strengthen the problem of influencing each other, but I argue this is a good thing: This way, we will find out by experience whether influencing-each-other is a real problem we need to deal with, or whether it’s just a bikeshedding concern I raised.

I think we should try very hard to raise objections based on reason and not based on what the rest of the group does. We’ll see if we need to hide the rest of the group from us until we made the decision, or if we manage to do it by means of willpower.

1 Like

This seems good to me.

I’m fine with the proposal to stop hiding objections/concerns. We can stick with the intention of considering our impressions before reading any concerns or objections. But indeed, we can see as we go how much we find that influence to be a problem.


Proposal is very long. I don’t think an initial process should start as something so complex. At least we need it down to something that my 11pm brain can process, otherwise it reduces my ability to participate by quite a bit (basically only on weekends when I won’t be tired from work).

edit: it’s possible that this is fix-able with formatting.


I very much like simplicity/shortness, so this is a great objection IMHO. Any ideas how we could fix this?

I think you might mean this by formatting: Reordering, adding headings, italicizing important stuff, etc but leaving the overall amount of text the same. Is this correct?

More radical ideas:

  • Define a simple process how you can object to the process that was used for a consent decision, and leave all the rest up to the initiator of the decision
  • Split all the non-mandatory bits out of the proposal, into a “recommendations for consent decisions” forum post that is not formally decided upon, but maybe discussed
  • Instead of a formal mechanism for disqualifying objections, allow the team to start special consent decisions in which only team members can participate

What does everyone think?

1 Like

I like these so much that I would like to create a new, much simpler proposal (for a safety mechanism that gives us the confidence to do consent decisions in whichever way the initiator thinks is appropriate). However, I’m not 100% sure everyone else thinks this is the right thing to do – maybe people like the current proposal and want it to be fixed instead.

Before I write a new proposal, are there any objections to going forward like this? (I.e. reasons why this would not be a good step forwards toward a good agreement)

  • Objection (explain it in a reply to this post)
  • No Objection, but a Concern (explain it in a reply to this post)
  • No Objection, No Concern

0 voters

(This poll breaks the rules of the current proposal, most importantly because it takes less than 1 week, but I think that’s appropriate.)

I think the problem is that the implementation and the consenting are just mixed together, making it harder to follow the initial proposal. I do think it was mostly formatting that made it hard for @smichel17 to understand. I think a new proposal could incorporate the best ideas with less words, more to-the-point (don’t as much explanation within the proposal itself).

I liked the idea of having some formal mechanism for disqualifying objections. I’m not sure what’s best.

I liked it too :slight_smile:. However, if the new proposal will be open enough for arbitrary consenting processes, the concerned person can simply follow the disqualification process as described in the old proposal.

I think the question is about choosing between the following two strategies:

  • “Here’s a precise formal process for doing consent decisions on the forum.” (this topic)
  • “Decisions made by consent become effective, regardless of the process followed. However, the process should have [certain features]. If it doesn’t have these features, feel free to [object in a certain way].” (the proposed new topic)

It could be both. Precise process along with statement that alternative processes are okay too, as long as they meet certain criteria

1 Like

I object myself, because it would not help with simplicity/shortness at all:

  • Thinking about the new proposal, I noticed that I would want to add most of the old proposal into it as an example process.
  • By talking about required-features-of-the-process instead of the-process-itself, the abstraction level rises, making it even harder to think about when tired.

Instead, I will try to:

  • Fix the formatting in the current proposal
  • Remove as much as possible without breaking it, i.e. most of the non-mandatory bits probably

I changed the proposal significantly, hopefully this resolves @smichel17’s objection.

All forum users reading this: You’re encouraged to read the proposal thoroughly and then participate below. If you don’t participate, you implicitly give consent – in that case, please do give your consent explicitly though.

Proposal: My first post in this topic, Process for consent decisions on the forum (edited 14 times)

Proposed review date: In two months, i.e. 2020-03-23.

  • Objection (explain it in a reply)
  • Consent with Concern (explain it in a reply)
  • Consent

0 voters

@alignwaivers Pinging you to pay special attention to the secretary bit (I think you are the secretary currently).

1 Like