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Re: My (less-then-important) personal position

On Thu, 15 Jun 2000, cRAig Sanders wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 14, 2000 at 08:40:51PM +0000, Ben Armstrong wrote:
> > i do believe there has to be *focus* though. we decide what we're     
> > good at, and then focus on that.                                      
> that is precisely the point of the whole flamewar. we *have* a focus,
> we've had one for years - providing the best and most free operating
> system possible.
> what is happening now is that a small group of extremists are trying
> to hijack the project's focus and exclude everyone and everything that
> offends their personal morality.

If it were only so simple.  But I think the problem is that it's not
just about the extremists.  There are moderates like myself who would
like to see *something* done to clarify Debian's position about non-
inclusion of non-free without damaging the project.  If it were just about
the extremists, they could be easily dismissed ... the extremists will be
in the minority and the GR will not pass.  I cannot turn a blind eye so
easily to the obvious flaw in the Social Contract which has *the
appearance* of putting Debian in a position to *support* non-free
indefinitely.  I think this was a mistake.  I don't know if it can be
corrected now, but I'd like to see us at least try to.

> > But I fail to see how "the marketplace" in the "age of the Internet"
> > would be any different.  Must your entire system be installable off a
> > single set of CDs?
> his argument didn't depend on CDs. the point was that having to hunt
> for various packages, retrieving them from multiple sources of variable
> quality and unknown adherence to policy standards will be enough to
> drive people away to some more convenient distribution.

This "having to hunt" business ... I don't see it.  Especially with all
the offers for people to set up non-free sites (even going so far as to
purchase domain names for that purpose).  I think that if the GR passes,
the torch for non-free will be passed to a single entity, a group that
cares about supporting non-free that works with Debian, and which will
provide a single place for users to find packages.  It will unambiguously
support those users.  Instead of saying "well, we provide archive space,
and we let developers support these packages if they want to but ... of
course it's not *really* part of our distro", this organization will say
"we provide added value to Debian by including these non-free packages,
and we fully support them".  How can this be a bad thing?  Or am I being
overly optimistic in my vision for how non-free will make its exit from

> > I think by now people are used to obtaining software from a variety
> > of sources, and so this argument that "people won't use Debian if it
> > doesn't contain non-free" (and it doesn't anyway ... that's just an
> > illusion) just doesn't hold water.
> for users of other dists that is true. debian users are much more used
> to the idea of debian being a fairly "complete" operating system, where
> they can find pretty nearly everything they might need or want from the
> one trusted, high-quality source.

Does the existence of a non-Debian entity which adds non-free to Debian
really threaten to weaken either trust or quality?  What if Debian spun
off this organization officially with our blessing?  "These fine folks are
pursuing the support of non-free because they believe Debian users should
have a choice, and while we may not see eye-to-eye ideologically, we
respect our users' rights to make that choice.  We are giving this group
of developers the freedom to pursue this, and if they wish, continue to
remain as developers within Debian at the same time to maintain their own
free packages.  We realize that resources will not materialize instantly
for this venture, and so for a time we will continue to provide archive
space and the use of the BTS, until such time as they are established as
an entity of their own with their own resources."  Isn't this what happens
in the business world when a parent company spins off a division?  It
needn't be a disorganized and angst-ridden split.  It could be totally
amicable.  The resulting entity would inherit both the high-quality and
trust that the user community has come to expect of Debian if done

> that, in fact, is the source of many new debian developers - they find
> something that nobody has packaged yet, package it themselves, and
> apply to become a maintainer so that their work becomes part of the
> distribution. that's the custom in debian, and one of the factors that
> helps us to have a very high quality system.

If Debian doesn't prohibit developers from also participating in such a
venture as I have described, then I don't see how this would change after
the split.  All that would change is that Debian could finally say
"contains 100% free software" and then refer people to this
Debian-plus-non-free organization for the non-free stuff leveraged off our
100%-free offering.

But perhaps a split like this is too radical, too scary, or has
further-reaching consequences than I have thought through.  Perhaps I have
terribly over-simplified the case.  I don't know.  I'm not saying this is
the way Debian should go ... I'm just at this point questioning why a
clearer demarcation of non-free as "not part of Debian" cannot be
accomplished in a way that is constructive both to Debian and to the users
who wish to continue using non-free.

    nSLUG       http://www.nslug.ns.ca      synrg@sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
    Debian      http://www.debian.org       synrg@debian.org
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