Warnock’s Dilemma is the situation described by Bryan Warnock in an August 2000 post to a Usenet group:
“The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:
‘The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There’s nothing more to say except “Yeah, what he said.”
‘The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
‘No one read the post, for whatever reason.
‘No one understood the post, but won’t ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
‘No one cares about the post, for whatever reason.”
The idea of lazy consensus can basically be described as: “Silence is consent”1). It is used as a decision making tool in larger groups of individuals.
The lazy consensus is a very effective tool to speed up development processes, may it be the development of OSS in an online community or the implementation of a new project step in a company. It gives every group member the equal chance to object, if necessary.
Since silence is considered to be consent, it is not obvious, how many members of the respective group have even seen the post, or read the article, or learned about the idea in question (known as Warnock’s Dilemma). The concept of the lazy consensus requires an active community in order to receive enough interest and, if necessary, adequate critical objections.
When using the lazy consensus, there is also a certain risk of receiving decisive objections at an advanced state of the project, implementation, or development. This might cause some turbulence that could have been avoided with another decision taking process.