WG/OBIT/IRC meeting conventions

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This is the wiki version of a proposal Matt first sent to OBIT, please feel free to make edits


Minutes from IRC meetings are MUCH easier to produce than minutes of a face to face, as one can just use the IRC log as the minutes. It's important to let everyone know when the IRC channel will start to be recorded for the purpose of minutes. I wouldn't suggest that the log be the sole output of the meeting, as they can be hard to follow as an outsider, but someone (chair?) could write a small summary that highlights topics, resolutions and action items in a few paragraphs that accompany the logs.

I suggest that any side-comments that really aren't meant for the minutes -- snarky comments, lol's, etc, be prefixed with the "/me" command, so they may easily be stripped from the log to make the minutes cleaner/free of cruft, e.g. "/me matt, that is the stupidest idea I've ever heard of".


I propose a few standing agenda items for each meeting.

  1. Introductions

    Before starting through the agenda, at least at the first few meetings, it would be helpful to do a *quick* round of intros so people can associate nicks with names/email addresses/faces. Prepare something ahead of time, e.g. "I'm Matt, matt at womer.org, @mdwwww on twitter. You might remember me from such classic meetings as: 2nd camp logistics on Columbus day, the first transparency meeting". (side note: if we do end up having a member rooster page somewhere, let's be sure nicks are recorded as well)

    Once we're all familiar with each other, drop this, and just intro new people.

  1. Assign roles

    Make it clear who will be responsible for facilitating, who is chairing, and who will produce the minutes.

  1. Agenda issues

    Start with the agenda as posted on the mailing list (you did post an agenda beforehand, right?) -- our nice new mailing lists have Web archives, so one can just cut and paste the URL into the channel. It's also a good idea to set the channel topic to that URL, so it is visible to anyone joining mid-meeting.

    See if there are other pressing items that need to be added to the agenda. This should be done quickly because everyone should have read the agenda prior to the meeting and sent in suggestions, so this is just in case a pressing issue comes up.

    For example:

    "Today's agenda is here: https://lists.mayfirst.org/mailman/private/obit/2011-October/000074.html any edits needed?"


    "/topic Agenda https://lists.mayfirst.org/mailman/private/obit/2011-October/000074.html"

  2. Any other business

    Unlike the first three, this should happen at the end. This could be used to help discuss an agenda for the next meeting, discuss pressing issues that weren't covered, announcements, etc.

  3. Next meeting details.

    Announce/confirm the time, date and location/channel of the next meeting. That's particularly important if the meeting doesn't happen on a fixed schedule.

The Meeting

At this point, just move through the agenda. The current agenda item/topic should be clear to all participants, I would suggest indicating when topic changes occur by prefixing the name of the agenda item with "Topic:", e.g. "Topic: Introductions", or "Topic: Transferring the foo widget to bar".

The expectation should be that once a topic has ended (as determined by facilitator? chair? consensus?), that the conversation on that topic will cease, and there will be minimal backtracking. This means the agenda should be ordered in such a way to facilitate that, i.e. if topic A depends on topic B, do topic B first.

IRC meetings can quickly devolve into a giant mess with people talking over one another, just like in real life. And just like in real life, those kind of meetings are often not very useful. Again, not trying to impose rules, but rather provide tools here, I suggest a few guidelines:

  1. If a message is intended as a direct response to someone else, indicate it by starting your response with "<nick>:", e.g. "matt: that is the stupidest idea I've ever heard". Lots of IRC clients have tab-completion for nicknames, so one can type "ma<tab>" and it'll replace that with "matt:" -- this doesn't work on most Web based clients unfortunately.
  2. If things start to get disorderly, maintain a stack. Indicate that you want to be on the stack by typing "q+ <topic>", e.g. "q+ to talk about why matt's idea is so stupid" (a stack is a queue, thus 'q+'). The facilitator should watch for those and maintain the queue until things settle down a bit.
  3. Straw man proposals are a great way to move towards a solid proposal on which a consensus vote can be taken. I suggest that a concrete proposal be prefixed in nice shouty caps with "PROPOSAL:", followed by the text of the proposal, e.g. "PROPOSAL: Kick matt out of OBIT".

    If people wish to indicate support for a proposal AS IS, do so with a message of "+1". Do not do a +1 with conditions on it. If you have modifications you wish to propose, take the proposal and edit it until you're happy with it and propose it, e.g. "PROPOSAL: DON'T kick matt out of OBIT". If there are multiple proposals on the table, indicate which proposal you back by appending the user's nick to the +1, e.g. "+1 to matt".

    When it seems like there is consensus on a proposal, it should be reissued as a group's resolution from the chair or facilitator with "RESOLUTION:" prefixing the text, e.g. "RESOLUTION: everyone should /ignore matt".

    Highlight these resolutions in the meeting summary.

  4. When people offer to do something, write up exactly what they will do, and prefix it with "ACTION: <nick> to <action>", e.g. "ACTION: ross to ban matt". Try to be detailed, include a due date if needed.

    These should also be highlighted in the meeting summary.