Healthy open source communities usually include a wide range of people with very different ideologies, goals, values, and points of view, from anarchists to CEOs of major corporations. The normal approach for making decisions that affect the entire community should be an attempt to reach consensus through discussion. But what if you’re attempting to make a decision which is critically important but for which you know there are irreconcilable differences in the community?
The XenProject community had such a decision to make in the wake of XSA-7, the Intel SYSRET vulnerability. George Dunlap discusses the decision-making approach, which found a “center of gravity” for the community and allowed everyone to feel that their viewpoint was considered despite the lack of any option with clear consensus, to help other communities navigate similarly difficult waters.
George Dunlap is a senior engineer on the open source Xen team at Citrix in Cambridge, England. He began working with the Xen project while a graduate student at the University of Michigan and has done work in many areas of Xen, including performance analysis, scheduling, and memory management. George is a committer and maintainer for the scheduling and mm subsystems in Xen and also serves on the Xen security response team. He writes technical articles regularly for the Xenproject.org blog, including one describing in detail the Intel SYSRET vulnerability, and has had articles published on Linux.com. George holds a PhD from the University of Michigan.
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