BPFK 2003 Report
Well. What to say about the BPFK.
The proposal for a baupla fuzykamni, a body to bring to completion the Lojban prescription and to fill in such gaps of definition of the language as are necessary for a dictionary to be written, arose out of discussions on the LLG board on how best to author such a dictionary, and on how to deal with ongoing disputes and uncertainties as to the language definition. The official announcement bringing it into being was November: http://www.lojban.org/llg/baseline.html .
I started work on the BPFK in February (after being distracted between November and January by a major discussion on jboske about Lojban gadri, which highlighted what the participants at least now believe to be a major weakness in the language.) In February, while I was in the States, I finalised with Robin Powell arrangements for the infrastructure of the BPFK, namely the Twiki (http://www.lojban.org/twiki/bin/view/BPFK/WebHome) and the phpbb discussion board (http://www.lojban.org/phpbb). I envisioned the phpbb as being the repository of formal discussion, and the Twiki as being the repository of record, and the venue for votes, with more openended discussion being diverted to jboske or the main wiki.
The other task that took me a while to complete (March) was a formal statement of guidelines as to how the BPFK should operate: http://www.lojban.org/twiki/bin/view/BPFK/GuidelinesForUsing . My concern throughout has been to place institutional safeguards in place to ensure the success of the BPFK mission as I see it: to allow efficient yet comprehensive review of existing identified problems in Lojban, with fair representation of all views, no compulsion of inordinate attention on the part of commissioners (a frequent problem with freer discussion, as amply demonstrated on jboske), and respect for the proclaimed backwards-compatibility and fulfilment of design criteria the BPFK has undertaken.
The BPFK started working through phpbb mid-April. As part of the division of labour, I have divided Lojban cmavo up into around 70 paradigms. Six paradigms have had commissioners volunteer as shepherds --- people who will coordinate discussion, keep records of findings, undertake authoring the summary of existing views and prescription, and make new proposals they see fit. In my opinion substantive matters for consideration have been raised for all six paradigms; two have essentially already seen descriptive records (including of past prescription and the status quo of usage). No formal votes have been posted on the twiki yet; see LeChevalier criticism below.
It was decided by the board that an ancillary to the BPFK, the vlatapla fuzykamni (VTPFK) be convened to resolve issues of Lojban morphology; this step was taken because morphology was not explicitly mentioned in the board statement. Nora Tansky LeChevalier is to chair the commission once she is released from her administrative duties. Pierre Abbat and Lionel Vidal have been continuing research into morphological issues.
There have been a number of criticisms of the setup and the functioning of the BPFK; some I accept, some I don't, though this is not the venue for me to make detailed comment on them. The issues worth bringing to the membership's attention are:
1. The guidelines are needlessly complex, and the split between twiki and phpbb is unnecessary but for the technical requirements of voting. (Powell). There are some grounds to this, and the role of the twiki seems to be limited to the (future) formal votes. Commissioners have appealed to the guidelines to police discussion; since the guidelines were intended to steer the BPFK in a specific direction following the board's statement, I regard that as positive.
2. Polls of a reformist bent on phpbb, even if of an informal nature, are counterproductive (Kominek vs. Rosta). My ruling (for now, anyway) is that polls on phpbb, being informal and with no binding consequence, are harmless. My big picture view, which may well be at variance from others and need to be curbed, is that my conservatism has nothing to fear from a vote, particularly given the current strenuous requirement of consensus-1.
That said, consensus-1 is a lot easier said than done:
3. The consensus-1 requirement makes it impossible for any change to happen, of whatever nature, and does not only exclude frivolous change (Daniel).
4. The BPFK has no business discussing any change until it first completes the task of documenting the entirety of the language; indeed, change as opposed to interpretation of the baseline is not the BPFK's task. Time must be spent to allow consensus to develop and trust to be established. As a result, votes should not be administered by shepherds, but only by the BPFKJ (baupla fuzykamni jatna — me), and a time of my choosing --- much later than now. The shepherds should be preparing full diffs to CLL and other baseline documents, and a fully explicit formal proposal. Until the BPFK shows it does real work, it is becoming unproductive, and biassed towards railroading through changes. The current BPFK does not show indications that it is willing to reach consensus, and the BPFK needs to be more proactive in this regard. (R. LeChevalier).
These objections have arisen in the past week, and LeChevalier has not yet presented his criticisms on a public forum (although there was a sneak preview on jboske); they may significantly affect how the BPFK runs. (Then again, they may not.) So I'm afraid this report comes too early for a resolution to be reported.
The arguments between reformists and conservatives, both on and off the BPFK forum, have at times been as acrimonious as one would expect, and it is clear to me that much of my time will be spent, so to speak, channelling commissioners' energies into more productive outlets; I've been doing so already. I believe that I still have the confidence of commissioners that I will run the BPFK fairly and in the best interests of Lojban, as understood by the current disposition (see guidelines, board statement, etc.; best summarised, probably, as conservative formalist).
And I wish to emphasise that, although this disposition is biassed against reformists, the shepherds I think it is fair to characterise as reformist (Llambias and Daniel) have done a commendable job of documenting existing usage and highlighting issues for consideration in their paradigms. The shepherds have scrupulously been playing by the rules, and they have my full confidence; so does the composition of the commission and the guidelines, which I believe adequate to the task of keeping the BPFK on the track the board and membership have set for it.
Yes I'm being stuffy and high-falutin'. That's a reaction to the difficulties of the position. This is a hard job to carry through, and my metaphor of herding cats was not spoken idly. The next couple of weeks in particular will be rough, because I will be asking commissioners to consider whether the BPFK is going the right way, and how its operation might need to change.
.i ku'i le gugdrpolska punaijecanai ca'o te jinga