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Bug#872867: is ISO-3166 really the optimal list for our users?

On 23/08/17 19:22, Wouter Verhelst wrote:
> On Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 11:02:27AM +0200, Daniel Pocock wrote:
>> While it is good that we use material from official sources, Debian is
>> independent of any state and may not need to feel constrained by such lists/
>> standards in the same way that a commercial software vendor might be.
> On the other hand, the advantage of having an official standard to point
> to is that we can deflect complaints when they appear.
> There are many areas in dispute in this world, and in some cases
> deciding whether a particular area is or is not a country will result in
> offending one or the other party. When Debian accidentally and

We should be respectful of all users, but I don't think fear of causing
offence should be the primary concern.  Otherwise we never would have
moved to systemd.

I feel the concern should be providing a technically valid installation
process for as many users as possible.

> temporarily updated the representation of the countries in the installer
> so that they would refer to the area sometimes referred to as the
> "Republic of China", otherwise known as "Taiwan", in a particular way,
> this offended one of our developers enough that he decided to leave the
> project.

If a developer puts his political opinions against the needs of users in
 a particular region, then is it possible that developer is failing to
respect the Debian Social Contract and may not be eligible to be a

In such cases, it is sometimes possible to identify other developers or
users who adopted a project because they favour the decision too.

> While it may be true that the list of countries in ISO-3166 is decided
> upon by a small number of people, presumably these people are aware of
> all the peculiarities and policital sensitivies in deciding what is or
> isn't a country, and what should or should not be allowed in a list of
> countries. As such, deciding to use ISO-3166 as our base to decide on
> which countries to list keeps Debian politically neutral in an area for
> which we really have no expertise and in which we really should not get
> ourselves involved one way or the other.

I agree Debian should not get into the political side of this debate.
This bug is only for the technical side...

> It may make sense to change the list of places so that it also includes
> subdivisions, provided we do so in either a way which makes the
> distinction between "country" and "subdivision" clear, or a way which
> puts both in a singular list but which makes it clear that the list does
> not refer to countries in any form or sort. Both solutions would allow
> areas such as Kosovo to appear on the list of places, without offending
> people who believe Kosovo should not be considered an independent nation
> (yes, there are such people).

If that means a user in Kosovo is more likely to configure their system
correctly, then it is a good technical solution, similar to what I
described (leaving out the country codes for such regions and helping
them choose alternatives).

We could also have a disclaimer, "Not all entries in this list are
officially recognized as countries, some are disputed territories that
have been included for the purpose of helping users in those regions get
the optimal configuration."

More concise: "Select the entry from this list of regions and countries
that most closely matches your geographic location"

> We should not, however, move away from ISO-3166 as our basis for
> deciding what is or isn't a country, unless you can point to another
> list which has the same level of international recognition as ISO-3166.
> I don't think such a list exists, however.
> If we continue to use the ISO-3611 list, then if any error in the list
> of countries in our installer exists it will either be a bug in the
> installer code (which we could obviously fix and apologise for,
> hopefully without offending anyone), or a matter of "the list is
> outdated" (which we would usually fix by rebuilding the installer,
> hopefully also without offending anyone), or an error in the ISO-3611
> list (in which case people might be offended, but the offending elements
> would not be ours and we can tell them to get ISO to update the list
> rather than to complain to us).
> Debian is about Free Software; it is not about International Politics.
> Let's keep it that way.

I agree - but producing Free Software means we should feel free to
innovate in this area as long as we are open and honest with our users
about what we are doing and why.

As systemd demonstrated, Debian can't please everybody all the time.



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