[r-t] Fwd: Position for open meeting

Don Morrison dfm at ringing.org
Sat Oct 3 18:44:39 UTC 2015

As most you you undoubtedly know, there is an open meeting on Sunday, 11
October, in Southwark, to discuss what sorts of rules and decisions the
ringing community desires. My understanding is that the committee would
like statements of participants' positions ahead of time. Seems the sort of
thing that we could all benefit by sharing with one another, so here's mine.

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Don Morrison <dfm at ringing.org>
Date: Sat, Oct 3, 2015 at 12:19 PM
Subject: Position for open meeting
To: Peter Niblett <peter.niblett at btinternet.com>, CCCBR Methods Committee <
methods at cccbr.org.uk>

As you know I am planning to join the open meeting in eight days via Skype;
it's obvious why it is impractical for me to attend in person.

I believe you would like a written statement of the particpants' positions
prior to the meeting. Here's mine:

Establish purpose before action: the Council exists to serve ringing, not
regulate it--what services are ringers asking for?

They certainly want the wonderful collection of methods the Methods
Committee provides. They want Bellboard and The Ringing World to publish
reports of their performances.

But have you ever heard any ringers say "we want more rules that tell us
what to ring, or how to ring it"?

It is hard to see what service the current body of rules, oddly called
"Decisions", provides. It mostly provides impediments. That these rules are
called "Decisions" reinforces the notion that a small body of individuals
is making choices they expect others to live by, which is the antithesis of
the Council serving ringers and ringing. If the entire body of Decisions
were simply wiped clear, I see no way in which ringing would suffer. Most
ringers would continue to ring the same things as always, though a few
hardy souls would ring things a little differently, and innovate more
freely; which would be healthy growth, not any sign of suffering. In
thinking about this, note that no rules are required to determine what is
or is not reported via Bellboard: no harm has been done to ringing.
Similarly, the quarter peal community is vibrant, and lives without anyone
telling it what rules it must obey.

If, as sadly seems likely, simply eliminating all the Council's Decisions
is just too radical, at least start from the position of "if we had no
rules, what rules do ringers want to create?" and only have those. And
don't guess, ask. This meeting is an excellent first start at asking, but I
fear that only a few voices of the most active, and least jaded, will be
heard. Actively seek people out who do not join in this open meeting, and
ask them their opinions of what rules they feel they need.

At a more detailed level, unless there is a clamoring from the ringing
community that they feel a need to have themselves regulated and told what
they may or may not do, do not phrase things as rules or decisions, or even
official definitions. While I have been an active participant in Tim
Barnes's public creation of a collection of definitions, I do not think
they are the correct direction. They seem to start from the view that the
body of rules we have today is roughly the sort of thing we need, they just
need to be made broader, more flexible and more liberal. While clearly an
improvement on the status quo, I think that starting position is mistaken.
Sadly, while much of them aims to be less prescriptive, much of them
remains overly prescriptive.

What Tim's effort has shown, however, is that an open process can work.
Doing things electronically, using email, has been an excellent approach.
Anyone interested can see and contribute. This is exactly the process I
have seen work repeatedly with a number of technical standards. Sadly the
current Council's Decisions have been constructed by a small body of men,
working behind closed doors, and only at the eleventh hour exposed to light
for comment, typically only a few months before they are scheduled to be
voted on by the Council. In no case that I can recall has that comment
resulted in any changes to the proposal, it has at best simply informed the
opinions of those asked to give it a thumbs up or down as a whole, at the
Council meeting. This is an absurd process, and must be abandoned. Whatever
is done, should be done openly. Tim's effort has demonstrated that this is
entirely practical.

One further, positive change Tim's effort has shown is that at least the
first part of the result is cast as definitions, not rules or decisions. If
we must have such things, do cast them in such a light. And do not say
"these are the definitions ringers must use", say "here are some possible
definitions we propose for the use of the ringing community, if they find
them helpful".

Finally, if we must have rules, keep them to the minimum. If whatever we
end up with is even 25% as long as the current massive collection of rules
(called Decisions) we have failed. This is another way in which I feel the
result of Tim's efforts, while clearly an improvement on the status quo, is
no where near where we need to get to: it is far too large.

Don Morrison <dfm2 at cmu.edu>
​"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.​"
​      --​ Toni Morrison, ​_​Beloved​_
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