Re-thinking Debian membership
I do not like the way Joerg wants to change the way people become and
are members of the Debian project. It's not all bad, but on the whole it
makes some of the worst parts of Debian become worse. It concentrates
power into fewer hands, removes some of the benefits of the Debian
Maintainer process, adds more hoops to jump through, and makes the whole
question of what it means to be a member of Debian massively
I think we should go in the opposite direction: massively simplify
the whole membership thing.
I believe, very strongly, that the important distinction between someone
who is a member of Debian and someone who is not is that the member may
vote in Debian matters. I further believe that we should give voting
rights to people once we as a project have gained trust in them: that
they agree with the goals of the project, as encoded in the Social
Contract, that they have a commitment to work on those goals, and that
they have personal integrity to be worth our trust.
I do not believe the current New Maintainer process measures those
things in a practical way. I wish to suggest a replacement process.
Further, I do believe that being able to upload packages is another very
fundamental right for a member in the Debian project: our operating
system is divided into packages, and development of the system is what
we do. I would like to keep things simple and give upload rights to
everyone. The most important reason for this is that we don't want as a
member anyone who can't be trusted with the permission to upload. I am
not worried about mistakes: mistakes can be fixed, and they help people
learn. On the other hand, a graphical artist might, for example, upload
a wallpaper package. I do not believe detailed division of rights will
result in anything but control freaks being a hindrance to development.
I believe that Debian has an unfortunate history and tendency to let
people take on more and more work, and get more and more power,
resulting in situations where particular people have way too much
influence. I don't think these people are evil, and I doubt their
primary motivation is to gather power. I do, however, believe that
it harms the project to have a few very powerful people in control
of some central points in the project. I also know it can be very
hard to give up power once you have it. Thus, I believe we're better
off setting things up so that no-one has special powers, unless
they really, really need them.
The other end of the membership process is screwed up too. We should not
have to actively seek out members who are Missing In Action. Staying a
member in Debian should be an active process: if you don't do anything,
you should be automatically retired.
* People should be allowed to join Debian when there is reasonably
wide-spread consensus that they agree with the project's goals, are
committed to working on those goals, and are trustworthy. The best way
to determine this is to have some number of people endorse a candidate.
However, there should not be too much opposition to a candidate, either.
Concrete proposal: max(Q, 20) endorsements, two existing members
together can veto. The veto can be done anonymously via the Debian
Account Manager to avoid peer pressure to not veto. The DAM only
counts the endorsements and vetos, and does not make judgement calls.
All endorsements and vetos must happen within 30 days.
* Membership in the project gives both voting and upload rights.
* Membership ends 24 months after they're given, or after the latest
participation in a vote arranged by the project's Secretary. Members
may retire themselves earlier, of course.
* Members may be expelled via the normal General Resolution process, with
a simple majority. Ftpmasters may temporarily limit upload rights in an
* Membership is controlled via GnuPG keyrings, primarily maintained by the
Debian Account Manager. The keyrings shall be maintained in a way that
allows any member to change them, and that is fully transparent to the
members in general, and that further makes it easy to undo mistakes.
* Upload sponsorships and the limited upload rights via the Debian
Maintainer status are unaffected by this proposal.