Skolelinux and the "Debian Labs" idea
The Skolelinux folks are working on a Debian based distribution for
schools. The project started in Norway, but people in other countries
got interested and have become involved in the project as well.
Everything Skolelinux does is being integrated into Debian, they are
working especially hard on making debian-installer a functional
installer. Skolelinux is very successful in Norway and they have
recently received a fair amount of money, which they can use to fund
development for the next two years. During this time, they will try
to find other sources of income in order to become self-sustained.
They are currently in the process of setting up a non-profit
foundation and have approached me and some SPI members to discuss the
name of this foundation. Given their close relationship to Debian,
they wanted permission to call the foundation "Debian Foundation
Norway". This would increase the visibility of the Debian name, and
make it more visible that Skolelinux is based on Debian.
I like what Skolelinux does and, knowing the people involved in the
project, I'd have no problem per se of them using the Debian name.
However, I hold the belief that "Debian" should not pay developers.
Don't misunderstand this statement, I think it's great if people are
paid to work on Debian, and I am actually working with organizations
which are trying to apply for funding to do exactly this. HP pays
some people to do Debian work, as does Progeny, the German company
credativ and many others. I think this is a great contribution to
Debian. However, I believe that "Debian" should not pay developers.
By "Debian" I mean the project as a whole or any of its organizations
(such as SPI). "Debian" paying developers might lead to many
problems. The project paying some developers while others work on it
in their spare time is not fair, and there is the big problem of
selecting who to hire. This can cause great animosity and have bad
effects on the motivation of developers. These are only some of the
points that I have included in a lengthy mail which I sent to the SPI
board and the Skolelinux folks a while back. I have now forwarded
this message to spi-private  and debian-email . If you are
interested in reading my concerns about "Debian" paying developers,
please refer to this message .
It's quite unfortunate that they cannot use the Debian name because of
this reason since the Skolelinux project does an excellent job and
could generate good publicity for Debian when they emphasize their
relationship to Debian through their name. There are many good Debian
based projects out there and many users are not aware that what they
use is actually based on Debian (KNOPPIX is a good example for this).
So I tried very hard to come up with a compromise and in the end had
an idea which I think offers a good balance. What I suggest is that
certain organizations should be allowed to use the name "Debian Labs"
in their name. Hence, Skolelinux could create its foundation with the
name "Skolelinux Debian Labs" . This would clearly show that a)
they are doing Debian related work and b) they are not Debian itself.
We could create a "Debian Labs" brand and publicize what it means for
an organization to carry that name. Since we own the Debian
trademark, we can control who is allowed to use the "Debian Labs"
brand. We have to develop a set of guidelines for this. So in some
sense Debian has some control over what those organizations do. On
the other hand, they are largely autonomous of Debian and can do with
their money whatever they want -- that way, "Debian" wouldn't need to
decide who to hire, etc, and could avoid the problems described in the
mail mentioned above.
I would like to ask for comments on this idea. Are people comfortable
with organizations calling themselves "<foo> Debian Labs" assuming
that they are doing Debian related work and generally conform to a set
of guidelines (which are yet to be developed). Also, is there anyone
interested in helping develop these guidelines?
Your comments are much appreciated.
 http://lists.spi-inc.org/cgi-bin/private/spi-private/ Anyone who has
made a contribution to the Free Software community can become a
Contributing member of SPI and will get subscribed to spi-private
(see http://members.spi-inc.org/). (If you don't want to go through
this, send me a mail and I'll forward you a copy.)
 Note that I'm talking about "Debian" hiring developers. There seems to
be general consensus among many Free Software projects that paying other
people, such as accountants (a skill which is not abundant in the Free
Software community) is okay.
 For various reasons, they don't want the "Skolelinux" name in their
name, but that's not relevant to this discussion now.