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

On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 07:54:44PM +0200, Daniel Pocock wrote:
> 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.

There is a difference.

Random people will not go complaining in the street because Debian moved
to systemd.

Random people *will* go complaining in the street about issues of

> > 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
> developer?

I don't think this is a sensible argument. This is not about the social
contract; I was merely trying to point out that whether something is or
is not a country is a very sensitive subject. An equally (in)valid
argument could be that by resigning, this developer was in fact
protecting the interests of users who disagree that region XYZ should be
considered a country.

> > 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.

Good :-)

> 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."

That could also work, I suppose.

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

I think that's a bit more risky.

> > 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.

This isn't about "pleasing" people, and it shouldn't be. It's about
political sensitivities. Some people will think XYZ belongs in our list
and it's not there and why is Debian discriminating and oh my god it's
all gone to hell.

In the case of systemd, the explanation is "we made this choice, if you
don't want it, use a different distribution". They might be grumpy about
that, but they will use that different distribution.

In the case of XYZ, "use a different distribution" isn't going to
silence such people. Instead, they'll just yell harder. "Debian's making
a political statement about XYZ, and it's wrong, and I told them that
it's wrong, and they're ignoring me!"

Whatever solution you[1] come up with should avoid that.

[1] I'm assuming you're planning on submitting a patch, since you
    suggested this change in the first place...

Could you people please use IRC like normal people?!?

  -- Amaya Rodrigo Sastre, trying to quiet down the buzz in the DebConf 2008

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