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What I'd like to see in a project leader



First let me say this message is not in any way meant to disparage or
belittle our existing candidates.  I'm just trying to describe the mental
image I have when I think "Debian Project Leader".

1) Someone who's been with the project a long time, and in a visible
capactiy.  I myself have been using Debian (and subscribed to one
or more of the mailing lists) since early 1996, but have only been
"visible" for close to a year now.  I personally would feel more
comfortable with a leader I can remember from before I became a package
maintainer.

2) Someone who is a competent programmer.  I agree that being a good coder
does not correlate strongly with good communication or leadership skills,
but I think we need a leader who is strong in *both* of these areas, not
just one or the other.  The schism that led to Bruce's departure from the
Project stems in part from a penchant among the developers for technical
merit first and foremost -- sometimes with an "other considerations be
damned" attitude.  I don't think this characteristic is like to change any
time soon.  Therefore, the project leader needs to command the respect of
the more technically-minded of our members.

3) Someone who's gung-ho for PR.  This is where Bruce was great.  He'd
travel to conferences, issue press releases, and otherwise make himself,
and Debian, very visible.  I really liked that, and I really miss it.  The
Red Hat juggernaut churns on, to the point where most people (in the United
States, anyway) who are aware of Linux aren't even aware of any
distributions other than Red Hat.  Mere mortals come from the Windows
world, where there's only one company to an operating system.  Red Hat
themselves do absolutely nothing to combat this misconception.  Just try
finding a reference to another Linux distribution on their websites.  Even
the concept of a "distribution" itself is mentioned in passing, so the
obvious inferences aren't made.  Make no mistake, folks, we might be able
to be chummy with the Red Hat tech-heads at conferences at expositions, but
they have a marketing machine just like any other company, and that
marketing machine is after the same proportion of market (and mind) share
that Microsoft is.  They can't particularly help that, either -- commercial
software is a dog-eat-dog world.  But that paradigm doesn't work for us.
We're about free software, cooperation, and sharing -- which leads to my
next point.

4) Someone with a firm grasp of the philosophy behind Debian.  Now of
course to some degree, everyone's going to characterize this a little
differently.  But essentially, I believe the project leader must not only
agree with the Debian Social Contract, but believe in it with every fiber
of his being.  Maybe I fall closer to the RMS end of the free software
continuum than to the ESR end, but I believe Debian, in having no direct
commercial interests, is in a unique position to reinforce the concept of
"community" in the expression "free software community".  There will always
be battles within the community over foo vs. bar, but note that the worst
of these happen when something that isn't really free software, or has
really onerous exceptions and conditions on it, clashes with something that
is truly free.  Of course, KDE vs. GNOME springs to everyone's mind
immediately, but qmail vs. every-other-MTA-in-the-world occurs to me as
well.

5) I see the project leader's job as helping to embrace and support
fledgling software projects that are 100% free, without aggravating
catches like "advertising" or "can't ship patched binaries" --
especially when such projects arise with only commercial software as
competition.  I guess this mail could cause a flamewar, but I don't
think iwj's DFSG2 is really all that misguided.  Free software is
gaining strength in the marketplace, not losing it, and it's time to
kick away some of the old compromises we made in the past, not reinforce
them, or let them become further entrenched.  Only the most fanatical
BSD-head could argue that the advertising clause isn't onerous, and
just makes work for people where there need not be any.  I think the
best idea is to petition the Regents of the University of California to
retract that clause.  Likewise with the existing compromise in part 4
of the existing DFSG.  I think free software has come of age, and has
proved its worth.  We're indisputably coming from a position of strength
now, not weakness, and it's time we played that card against licenses
born of irrational paranoia and possessiveness.  What happens if you
make the code you write free?  Does it get stolen by other free software
authors, and your name removed, or -- if your software is truly a Good
Thing -- do you get heralded as an all-around cool guy, and in extreme
cases even get to do stuff like hobnob with the President of Finland?
I'll note that the only recent case of code getting ripped off that I
can think of is the non-free SSH version 2.  These guys had the audacity
to steal from GNU, and they got caught pretty quickly.  Anyway, I've
already digressed too far on this point.

6) Finally, though in some ways it pains me to say it, I envision the
project leader as being someone as old or older than myself (24).  Perhaps
I'm simply manifesting old age already, and not wanting to get bossed
around by some whippersnapper, but in truth I think it's just that I want a
project leader who's a little more settled in Real Life(tm).  If you're
still pursuing a Bachelor's Degree, odds are you're going to have an
upheaval or two in your life in the next 1-4 years.  A "tenured" grad
student, or somebody already settled into a "real job" that wouldn't cause
problems, would be ideal.  Also, I'll admit, it's crossed my mind that an
older project leader might have more credibility with any PHB's that he
might have to deal with.  I acknowledge that this is a compromise, and
above I was cheerleading for a no-holds-barred-anti-compromise approach,
but these are different areas.  Besides, these are just my thoughts, not
the official list of candidate requirements, so they're allowed a little
incongruity.  :)

The only two people that *spring* to mind as fulfilling all of these
requirements are our current project leader, and Manoj Srivastava.  Ian
doesn't seem to have announced his own candidacy for re-election, which is
a shame, and Manoj seems to have no real interest in project leadership.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing some more candidates step forward.  Half a
dozen, minimum, would be great.

Lest anyone challenge *me* to run (which would expose them to everyone as
being hopelessly insane), I must point out that I fail point 1, am unsure
of my capabilities in points 2 and 3, and only satisfy 6 by the barest
fraction of an instant.

Sorry for the long mail.

-- 
G. Branden Robinson              |    The first thing the communists do when
Debian GNU/Linux                 |    they take over a country is to outlaw
branden@ecn.purdue.edu           |    cockfighting.
cartoon.ecn.purdue.edu/~branden/ |    -- Oklahoma State Senator John Monks

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