[r-t] CC Methods Committee Consultation

Philip Earis pje24 at cantab.net
Sun Mar 8 04:24:57 UTC 2015

"it strikes me that the timing of the MC announcement is either poorly thought through or deliberately planned in order to minimise comments. I find this quite appalling...May I suggest that those who have been most vocal on this list write a letter to the RW explaining what good work has been done on this list, that members of the MC are on this list and therefore have been aware of the discussions taking place and finally include in such letter a summary of the results of the surveys that have taken place..."

I have reproduced below, with his permission, Don Morrion's detailed response to the Method Committee's consultation. Don recently sent this to the open subgroup that Tim Barnes set up on Google to develop a better, fundamental descriptive framework for change ringing.

I am forwarding this because I believe that it deserves to be disseminated, visible and openly archived, but especially to encourage others to engage with the process (and potentially the RW), to think about the fundamental reason a framework is needed, and to make your voice heard.

I do not think it will be helpful to debate Don's specific input - his views are his own and I hope they will be considered carefully.

===Don's Response to the Consultation===

I am writing regarding the consultation paper at
http://cccbr.org.uk/methods/#decisions. Thank you for preparing this,
and giving us an opportunity to comment.

Here are some comments on it, both on its overall tenor and scope, and
on details of its contents, including my answers to some of the
explicit questions asked; as well as some comments on the overall
consultation process.

In many ways I am very pleased to see this start. I think you have
done an excellent job, particularly at the end, in section 3.0,
enumerating many of the issues others have raised, and thus shown
a sensitivity to many of their concerns.

I applaud that you see your goal as "seek[ing] to start the
consultation by asking for views ...and to understand what changes
people think might be required...". Unfortunately, I fear that the
largest portion of this document does little to meet such a goal, and
in fact, actually works against it. The vast majority of it is given
an explanation of the existing structure of the decisions, and of
details therein. This seems wholly inappropriate for this stage
of such a consultation, and, frankly, reads as a defense of the
status quo.

Further, I disagree with your assertion that "it is therefore
reasonable to start by asking why it is that changes might be needed,
and what those changes are". Such a position almost guarantees that
work will proceed from an assumption that the existing structure is
sound, and only needs to be modified. It is the opposite of the open
inquiry that is needed.

I would also laughingly disagree with, if not the literal words, at
least the tone of "The current set of Decisions...have evolved over
time to match changes in ringing practice". That makes it sound all
too orderly. Rather, I think we must agree they have instead been
dragged, kicking and screaming, in attempts to match, as best they
can, what ringing practice evolved into, typically several years
behind the evolution of that practice itself. That the decisions need
to change so frequently is one of their fundamental problems. We
should aim for a structure that will accommodate all the things
ringers do, or might foreseeably do. Instead they have typically tried
to describe, as tightly as possibly, only what ringers have in the
past done, and proscribe anything else.

Your high level questions of sections 1, Why have decisions?, and 2,
Prescription, are admirable, and are at the level this consultation
should be starting.

It seems odd, though, that you state, regarding section 2, "in this
section we analyse the prescriptive statements that appear in the
current Decisions and ask whether they make sense in today's ringing
context and whether they are consistent with the overall objectives of
the Decisions" -- that you are making this analysis presumes you
already know what overall objectives of the decisions are, but is that
not exactly what you are consulting with others to ascertain? How can
you hope to perform such an analysis without answers to the higher
level questions?

"1.0 What are the decisions for?"

This is a fine question, and an important one to gather answers
from the ringing community for. What service to ringing do ringers
want decisions to provide?

Unfortunately, this is followed immediately by two pages extolling
what the current decisions do. This is backwards, and automatically
frames the question as "in what ways should we modify these", which is
what we have been doing for a century. Instead, we should start by
asking the high level question you do ask, and only once we have an
answer to that question, ask to what extent do the current decisions
meet these needs.

Getting to your explicit questions on page 4:

I'm afraid I do *not* believe these objectives are reasonable in
principle. Rather they are just an enumeration of what the current
decisions do.

Regarding 1. There seems possibly to be some implicit belief that it
is obvious that we need an objective standard definition for peals. It
is not at all obvious to me. Why do we need such a thing? We get on
just fine without one for quarters. People keep totals, personal,
association and tower, of quarters just as they do for peals. And no
problems seem to result. Indeed, the quarter peal community seems
healthier and more vibrant than the peal community, as more ringers
ring quarters than peals, more quarters are rung than peals, and more
quarters are rung at towers by their local bands than are peals.

Far better, I think, would be to start from the position, which seems
to work well for quarters, of simply accepting that what ringers
submit to Bellboard or the RW as a peal is a peal. If there are cases
where this leads to difficulty (there are none I know of for
quarters), then perhaps we need whatever minimal decisions will solve
those problems, but we certainly do not need the enormous apparatus we
have today.

Regarding 2, 3 and 4. Having some framework for describing
consistently what a band has rung seems useful. Does it need to be
anything as complex as what we have today? I doubt it.

Regarding 5. I fail to see where the need for extra requirements
for record length peals arises. This seems wholly arbitrary. That
it is included as a "goal" seems to miss the point entirely. What
is the need for it?

To answer your further two sub-questions:

I strongly oppose the notion of introducing two classes of peals. We
have enough problems today, without insisting that some of our ringers
get to ring first class, and others ring steerage. The introduction of
a two-tiered system makes things worse, not better. We should be
aiming to reduce the number of rules, not increase them.

I also oppose the introduction of decisions for quarter peals.
The quarter peal community is getting on just fine without them.

Your careful and thoughtful enumeration of so many details of
prescriptive language on pages 5 through 15 (and thus the bulk of the
document) is most illuminating. Thank you very much for taking the
trouble to do this. Perhaps what it shows most clearly is that the
existing decisions are indeed highly "prescriptive", So that should
have the virtue of putting an end to any discussion of whether or not
that is the case.

A further point coming out of this useful enumeration is that several
times the comments begin "This is presumably..." or "We assume that...".
If it's questionable even to the custodians of these rules what their
rationale was, such prescriptive rules have no business continuing
to exist.

That said, this long enumeration constituting the bulk of this
document seems unfortunate, as it seems to be concentrating on
individual limbs of the various trees instead of on the whole forest
we should be considering first. Perhaps this useful enumeration would
have been better added as an appendix?

In any case, I strongly believe that what decisions there are should
not be prescriptive. At most they should say things like "peal ringers
usually do such and so" or the like, though most of the existing long
litany of prescriptions should, I believe, be removed entirely.

Regarding just a few of the specific instances:

Why must we prohibit peals rung in relays? It's not something folks
particularly want to do, most of the time, but why stop them if they
choose to? Though I believe some years ago someone, I think it was Rod
Pipe, was keen to organize an attempt for the extent of caters rung in
relays. And, as you say, ringing peals in relays certainly has been
done in the past.

(D)A.6 is wholly inappropriate for our current needs, and, frankly,
has been broken by many peals rung in recent decades. Many of our
towers go to great lengths to ensure adequate sound control for
practices. There are towers where no non-service ringing would
be possible without good sound control. And long gone are the days
when ringers would stand around other bands' towers listening to
peals just so they could write scathing letters to the Bell News
or Ringing World about the quality of what they heard.

(D)A.10 is so subjective as to be useless.

(D)A.1: Why? A very fine performance for the College Youths was
rung recently that did not meet this restriction. It is sad that
it was not counted as a peal because of this arbitrary technicality.

(D)A.2. Prohibiting the null change is ridiculous. Why prohibit
joining two 120s of doubles with a 12345 single to produce a tidy,
symmetrical 240 with every row once each at hand and back?

What is wrong with a handbell peal of minimus rung by one person?
Sounds like a pretty fine accomplishment to me, probably far more
noteworthy than one of Plain Bob Dooubles rung in hand by six
different ringers.

Why prohibit special lengths of Triples? And, by the way, you
*can* in the current decisions ring a 5,100 of Triples: you just
have to ring it variable cover; that inconsistency fruther highlights
how silly this restriction is.

Why can't you include two stages that are more than one apart?
A band did ring a peal (not CC recognized) of Triples and Caters
as Basingstoke some years ago, I believe.

If people want to ring jump changes, why do we prohibit them?
I think a peal of Cambridge Treble Jump Minor is probably more
noteworthy than one of Cambridge Surprise.

(D)C.1 If it's not spliced, what is a peal of multiple
major methods where changes of method occur at, say, the
treble's backstroke snap?

(D)C.4 completely overlooks non-method blocks.

(E)A.6 The explanation makes no sense. If someone is sufficiently to
name Grandsire Doubles as a minor method with its own cover bell they
can already name it something like Grandsire Block Minor today. And if
more than four blows is OK in minimus, why not at higher stages?

(E)D.4 and others. A variety of places in the decisions discuss
publication in The Ringing World. While I love and read the RW myself,
and wish I could still afford a paper copy instead of just electronic
bits, I do recognize that it is no longer the primary venue for
performance publication. These days that is clearly Bellboard, and
almost certainly will remain some electronic forum for a long time to
come; it will never again be the print magazine, no matter how much we
may love it. The decisions should reflect this reality. And in a way
that does not tie it to a particular electronic forum, such as
Bellboard, as that undoubtedly will evolve and change just as ringing
itself does.

On page 16 you note that whatever the decisions say, people will
find things to ring that don't comply with them. It is sad that
the decisions are crafted to increase the likelihood of that; instead,
they should be crafted to minimize such occurrences. It may be
impossible to foresee all future developments, but we can do far
better than we have.

The specific questions on page 16:

Yes, all, or nearly all, of the prescriptive statements should be removed.
If there are none, what bad things happen? If any do, deal with them then,
but with the minimal rule-making.

Yes and no, I would not so much "revisit the way in which
'non-compliance' is handled", I would suggest eliminating the whole
problem. If there are no prescriptions, there is no non-compliance.
Ringers ring what they choose to. The Council, as their servant, keeps
records of what they have done. If the Council's descriptive apparatus
is not up to the task of recording a particular performance, it is
that descriptive apparatus that is defective, not the performance.

Yes, it should be easier to name new methods: why should peal ringers
have all the fun, and quarter peal ringers be denied it? What is wrong
with something like "the first band to ring a touch of at least 1250
true rows of a method, or an extent of multi-extent block, shall..."?
You *don't* have to have any rules for quarter peals, just say "touch
of at least 1250 rows".

3.0 General Concerns and Questions

I am delighted by this enumeration. You have been listening. Thank you.

I agree whole-heartedly with all the complaints raised in your points
1 through 12 of this section, and believe all are problems with the
current edifice. I believe that whatever replaces the existing
decisions should be carefully constructed to present none of these
twelve problems.

Regarding point 13, I don't see why this is a problem, nor do I
believe an unambiguous description is possible or desirable. A band
that rings an extent of Original Minor by calling bobs where there
would be 14 places in an extent of Single Court has rung Original; a
band that rings an extent of Single Court in the usual way has rung
Single Court. It doesn't matter that they're the same thing.

What would be the point of requiring a band to submit compositions? And
what do we do when they fail to do so? And what are we going to do with
them when they do? I doubt Robert wants to publish them in the RW.
We shouldn't be adding new rules, we should be simplifying and taking
away the old, arbitrary ones.

As to other points not in your list:

I think the current decisions partition methods into far too many
classes. They seem to be written with the notion that if we can think
of some way to partition methods into disjoint classes, we should.
This seems misguided, backwards.

Broad, popular classes of methods like plain and treble dodging seem
reasonable to single out. And while the distinction between surprise,
delight and treble bob is completely artificial and serves no useful
purpose, its preservation seems sensible to avoid the massive
confusion that would result from combining those already large,
densely populated namespaces. But why must we have distinctions
between alliance, treble place and hybrid methods?

Even worse, there seems no need for inserting the word differential
into method titles. For the early differential methods it seems a
sensible part of their *names* -- that was a goal in their
construction, and the bands that rung them presumably wanted that word
in their method names -- but the whole contrived edifice with the
distinction between differential hunters and non-differential hunters
is pointless. A surprise royal method should simply be a surprise
royal method. Most of them have nine lead courses, but some of them
have three lead courses. And some unusual cases may have more or
fewer. So what?

Closely related is the issue of non-method blocks. This is a foolish
distinction. They are all methods. Some methods fit into a tidy
categorization; others may not, but are still methods, just of a
different type.

But worse, most, perhaps all, of the non-method blocks that I'm aware
of that have been discussed or rung fit perfectly naturally into the
current categorization of methods. They simply have properties some
ringers or rule makers at one time or another in the past decided they
didn't like, such as having more than four blows in one place, or
being false in their plain courses. But it is absurd that, say,
Slapton Slow Course Doubles is a method but Caunton Slow Course is a
non-method block. Or how can anyone sensibly say the two variations of
one another shown in http://ringing.org/puzzle.html are not both
surprise methods, but instead one is a method and the other a
non-method block? And what happens when a non-method block extends to
a method, or vice-versa, say by being true in its plain course at some
stages but not at others?

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