Available information about the decision process
Hypothes.is is trying hard to on board contributors (see my blog post 1 or 2). A part of this is to point to existing resources, however there is no mention of the decision-process. Some rough ideas/visions are sketched on the principles page. Three principles are noteworthy in relation to governance:
Neutral Favor no ideological or political positions.
100% community moderated Bottom up, not top down.
Transparent, auditable In systems. In governance.
On top of this not much more information is given on the website. The other openly available communication channels (mainly IRC and the mailing list) are used as a basis for my interpretation of Hypothes.is' governance.
How are decisions made in Hypothes.is
One of the possibilities to observe the decision process was when the current roadmap was updated. The discussion was handled through the mailing list and is thus archived. While potentially everyone could opt in with their thoughts and concerns no one took the chance. The very detailed discussion was only between the core members of the team.
It is not clear who would have the final saying, since all issues brought up were resolved in consensus. The person who was responsible for the discussed issue normally explained his view and after discussing they agreed on the best solution. So in this way it is consensus driven as described by Fogel. Since they all agreed there was no voting needed, I also was not able to find any voting process in the archive, so far all issues has always been solved by consensus.
If there ever had to be a voting process I believe that the core-team would have the final saying. It makes sense since they are the most involved group and clearly visible from the outside. They are what Fogel describes as a privileged group.
Does this model help or hinder my participation
I think this model is a good fit for Hypothes.is and obviously it is going well. However I think that making the rules more explicit could clarify the situation in case a conflict emerges. As the decision process is a bit unclear, I have normally just posted my concerns through one of the communication channels and waited for an answer of the person who felt responsible. Again, while this has worked a clearer structure might be helpful.
Are there hidden dynamics?
I don't think that there are hidden dynamics of the extend described by Freeman. It is normal to have preferences and I think that the spacial placement of people plays a role in Hypothes.is. Most of the members are living in San Francisco and I think that if a conflict is coming up they will more easily team up since they are co-located in space. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since working together speeds things up by lowering the communication barriers, it is only natural to team up with these people in case of a conflict.
Does Hypothes.is live up to its own principles? I would say mostly yes. They are very aware of handling governance right and they are good in archiving discussions making the process transparent. Is there something that could be improved? Yes there is always something. I think a clear statement what would happen if a consensus can't be found would help to clarify things. Also the rules are a bit unclear. However I see these as minor things, mostly because Hypothes.is has proven to work very well ad hoc.
Retrospectively, I must admit that it has been a pleasure to work with Hypothes.is. My initial analysis has been correct and the lack of clearer structure has not been a problem I have experienced. After having worked with them. I think Hypothes.is light structure is more a strength as a weakness. It reminds me of the the popular agile development models, where the focus is on optimizing output by having a light structure, documentation and planning. The core-team knows each other so well, that a more sophisticated government model would just add overhead to the work that has to be done. The way it is now works for them and I think whenever more structure is needed because for example the team-size increases dramatically, they can adapt to the new situation.