Providing negative feedback

I find it rather concerning that the process now only calls for positive public feedback on a candidate while anything potentially negative is to be sent to a members-only mailing-list with no public archives.

How does the public voting process then work when publicly you only have positive things to say about an applicant? Members are going to be voting against an applicant potentially without the applicant or anybody else really knowing why?

That doesn’t really feel right. Both for anyone having a concern about a particular application and for the applicant themselves, for the former, because it’s now trivial for that feedback to be silently ignored, and for the latter because they’re not provided an opportunity to explain themselves.


stgraber –

You make a valid point.
For my part I will have to let this point sink in while ruminating on what changes in the application process needs to be further addressed. As a Discourse application is public, as opposed to the WIKI, some re-thinking may well be in order.



why “as opposed to the wiki”? Also the wiki was fully public, and even more all the edit history was public (only IS could have deleted the past revisions).

That said, also in the past negative feedback was very rarely provided, and even more rarely publicly, so I don’t think the fact that this problematic thing happened to be negative feedback is inherent to the platform used. I don’t think there ever was a good way to provide such feedback.

FWIW, also in Debian negative feedback is rarely given publicly (although if you dig into debian-newmaint@'s archive you can find some…), most of the time it’s in the form of private mail to the FD team which is then stored in the applicant’s history.

Hi Stéphane,

I don’t believe the process itself forbids negative feedback on a candidate, if there is any documentation that implies this please let me know. Improving documentation and community guidelines is very much of interest for me.

I think it is fair to say that both arguments for and against have their place in a membership application. However, with negative feedback, it is exceedingly more difficult to do this in public while remaining respectful. I think disagreeing constructively in public is an incredibly important part of community engagement, it is how we find better outcomes together.

When it comes to accusations of wrongdoing, this is where it becomes more tricky. Having that conversation in public inevitably leads to heightened emotions on both ends. It sends a message to others in the community that you might be put on center stage for something others disagree with, even if it was done with good intentions. If it was a mistake the accused person regrets, then oftentimes returning to the community is difficult. The accused person’s reputation is tarnished with a public record, with no recourse.

Having that conversation in private with a board or council to me doesn’t diminish its effects of raising awareness. First off, having a frank conversation between the two affected is probably a good first step, which I assume has happened. If that doesn’t lead to favorable results, privately bringing it to the right board or council seems appropriate.

For the reporter, as long as there is an opportunity to reach out to the board, this ensures that the feedback is not ignored. For the reported person, I would expect that the board does their due diligence and investigates the accusation by reaching out to both parties before making and communicating a decision. If there is a need for an appeal, the next higher council can take on the case, in line with the leadership principles in our code of conduct.

This approach is one I feel would work equally for membership processes and appealing moderation decisions, without turning it into a public argument against an individual. I appreciate you bringing this up, I hope I’ve been able to offer some perspective and reasonable paths forward that will allow you to resolve these issues to your satisfaction.



I think one of the differences are that in the wiki, users have to go actively look for a person’s application, while on discourse, it’s very visible on the front page of a very active forum.

I do see the value of transparency, but this is also a very sensitive topic. By providing negative feedback, you’re in a sense attacking a prospective member. These kind of personal public attacks are normally not allowed in our community, and can easily dissuade new people interested in joining our community.

In that sense, I think it’s useful if the membership board acts as a kind of filter. If negative feedback plays a role in a membership rejection, then the board should be free to state, during the meeting, what that feedback is. But then the membership board can ensure this is delivered in a constructive manner and that the feedback is relevant.


I do think the docs should make this explicit, though. The docs should point people to where they can voice their concerns about a certain Member. (Membership board, or the community council for serious matters concerning grave breaches of CoC)


Another thing I want to add as context is that the process to become a member is not a public election. Instead, it is a decision made by the membership board. The meeting is a public interview and people can chime in as sponsors, but it’s ultimately the membership board that makes the decision.

Whether negative feedback is publicly known, or only privately known to the board, should not have an impact on the board’s decision.

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I disagree. Feedback is feedback. The only restrictions would be related to CoC. For positive and negative feedback are equally important. The fact it is the Membership Board that decides on who joins or not has no influence in this.

Otherwise we can as well go to “secret” views, that only the Membership Board has access.

[edited to make it clear I am talking about the membership board]


Note that this discussion is about Ubuntu Members, not Ubuntu Developers. These are two different processes with different requirements and goals.

To give my 2c. OP is talking about negative >>feedback<< while some people in leadership roles are confusing that with and characterising it as ~“being disrespectful”, ~“accusatory”, ~“coming from subjective and emotional place”, ~“snitching, reporting on somebody”, ~“in breach of the CoC”, ~“attacking somebody”…

So let me give you some negative feedback:
To me this looks very much like you’re very much missing the OP point. Negative feedback is given so that people can bridge the knowledge or the awareness gaps needed in order for them to progress further.
Often times, and maybe some of you have experienced this yourselves, people are being kept back without anybody letting them know why because people in management roles are scared of providing negative feedback or misunderstand it as a hostile action. At the same time the person in question starts developing self doubt, unable to get themselves out of the cycle where everyone else seems to get further and further and they are kept in place. It crushes them psychologically and mentally. Some were quoted as stating that they thought they just had the wrong face and that was keeping them back. That nobody liked the way they looked. There is an example often cited in this case where an amazing person was kept back for years because they were passionate about their work and nobody wanted to let them know that some people in leadership roles took their passion for aggression until the new HR lead came to the company and the person was provided with that negative feedback and they understood it immediately and wished they’ve been told that years ago. As you may have predicted, giving negative feedback has led to this person accomplishing themselves within that same company that was giving him depression, anxiety etc.

See, this was a form of negative feedback. Wasn’t so bad, right? I urge you to think about and try and understand the very clear difference between a feedback and all the other things I’ve paraphrased with ~“” at the beginning that you were confusing negative feedback with.

Remember, contrary to what you might think from reading the word “negative” in negative feedback, it’s actually a positive thing. You can compare it to the term you might be more familiar with like “positive discrimination”, it’s a discrimination but it led to the emancipation of women, especially in the tech field. Meaning the outcome was positive. Same with negative feedback.

Just my 2p.