[r-t] Why the current protocol is broken

Don Morrison dfm at ringing.org
Tue Aug 5 05:56:59 UTC 2008

A number of folks have pointed out that the current protocol for doing
something new is to violate the exiting rules a few times, to
demonstrate that something new is worth doing, and then the rules will
be changed to accommodate it. In thinking about Philip's suggested
changes I had a sudden realization of an example of why this doesn't

Robin Woolley also asked, more than once, why folks care about what
others think. Why would someone else's opinion stop you from ringing
what you want? This same realization sheds light onto that problem, too.

What prompted this line of thinking was that Philip's formulation, I
think most sensibly, allows fractional extents for peals of minor and
doubles, in addition to the requisite number of round blocks.

When calling quarters I nearly always use a fractional extent. More
often than not I even use an unusual one, typically with an
entertaining finish, to to try to generate smiles across the band. I'm
sure if I were allowed to do this in peals, I would. But I never do.

This is not earth shattering, of course. It's not a wonderful
innovation that will set the world on fire, the way cyclic spliced is
slowly redefining the aesthetics of high end ringers. But it's silly
that I and the bands I ring with are not allowed to indulge in this
harmless amusement. And it's worth noting this is a harmless amusement
that would be used by non-superstar ringers.

It's really quite arbitrary. There is no way, say, a 5059 of doubles
is somehow less of an achievement than a 5040 of doubles.

So why don't I ring such things? The only reason is because they're
"not allowed". But why don't I say "who cares, I'll go ahead an do it
anyway"? I think there are several reasons. This are not in any
particular order. I don't think any one of them dominates the others
for my own motivations, as best I can figure out.

1) There is a long history of people who flaut the Council's Decisions
in an effort to get them changed being viewed as difficult and trouble
makers. Despite the innate appeal of that, and what people might think
from what I write, I really don't want to be viewed as a Problem
Child. I care every bit as much as the next person for the respect of
my fellow ringers (I may not deserve it for other reasons, but that's
a different matter :-). Ringing is at root a social activity. You
can't do it alone. I want people to want to ring with me, and to
enjoy, or at least cheerfully tolerate, my company.

2) It's a hassle to do something non-standard and have to cope with
the consequences. I'd probably have to argue with people who think
it's a bad idea. I might have to argue with the RW to get them to
publish it. I might have to argue with the PA (or whatever it is now)
Committee to at least semi-analyse it. Etc. It's not worth that much
trouble for a some mild amusement. If it were something really
important (though "really important" and "just bell ringing" are hard
combine meaningfully :-) it would be worth fighting about, but it's

3) My local Guild says in its Constitution that it obeys the rules of
the Coucil. While even such an authority as Tony Smith has publicly
stated that such a clause doesn't mean a Guild has to refuse to accept
peals that are not automatically analysed (or whatever it is), I've
heard the leading authority on our Constitution say otherwise, and so
I think there'd be a fight trying to get such peals included in my own
Guild's records. And I might very well lose that fight. Maybe I
shouldn't care about whether they are included in the Guild's records
or not, but I do, both because I like to support that Guild, and
because the bands I ring with are typically going to care.

4) And I worry about letting down the bands I ring with. Many of them
are going to care. Whether it's correct or not, they do think of peals
as being "acceptable" or "not acceptable" according to the Central
Council's "rules", and they want them to be "acceptable". I think when
conducting it's actually harder to make choices that may raise issues,
since you are really a servant of the band. Everyone else is counting
on you. It's why some folks get pretty stressed out when conducting,
since that's the role where you can single handedly cost a band their
effort in the blink of an eye--it usual takes a non-conducting ringer
a lot more effort to make something fire up fatally. That same stress
and sense of responsibility plays out in the decisions you make of how
close to skate near the edge of what is "acceptable".

So this really is an example of where, at least for me personally, the
"break the rules and then they'll change" protocol just doesn't work.
If the Decisions allowed 5059's of doubles I'd be ringing them. But
since they don't, I don't.

I'm sure this is not an isolated example. And I'm sure I'm not alone
in declining to break the Decisions owing to various social pressures.
The current protocol of "you've got to ask for forgiveness before you
can expect permission" really doesn't work.

Don Morrison <dfm at ringing.org>
"History has a habit of changing the people who think they are
changing it.                                   -- Terry Pratchett

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