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Re: Just a single Question for the Candidates

On Sat, 6 Mar 2004, Peter Samuelson wrote:

> All your pontificating about data and proof is a fine way to avoid the
> actual issue under discussion, which is that a social system (the
> Debian Project) is exhibiting the same symptom (fairly extreme
> under-representation of women) as other systems which have been studied
> and are similar to the Project in other ways.

Well while we're pontificating...to what extent _is_ Debian a social
system?  It has one big fat signifier of being one -- a written social
contract.  It has some procedures, in-jokes (i.e. duelling banjos) and
specialized vocabulary (ITP, debianize etc.)  But on the other hand there
is very little agreement on anything other than the desire to create a
free, technically excellent operating system.  And even there, there is
disagreement on how free is free.  A good number of "made members" of
Debian don't even bother voting in project leader elections (I believe the
turnout last year was 58%,) at the other extreme a group making a cd of
open source software for Windows adopted the Debian Free Software
Guidelines as their criteria even though they have nothing to do formally
with Debian at all.  How would you classify both poles in terms of being
part of the Debian social system?

Some developers just fix bugs in their packages as reports come in and
thats it.  Others breath, eat, and sleep Debian.  I think most developers
start with the former and progress (though usually not all the way!)
towards the latter.  The requirement to have a key signed by an existing
developer which was adopted several years encouraged this trend.  Now we
have more frequent face-to-face meetings (such as debconf,) things like
Planet Debian etc. which help put a more human face on those From: lines.
Things of this nature would do a lot to decrese the levels of aggression.
For instance one of the reasons I was able to shrug off Manoj's
vituperation was because I've never seen him before and care not a whit
what he thinks of me.  Conversely, those Debianites who've met me might
accuse me of a lot of things but being "a big bag of dripping hacker
testosterone" is not going to be one of them.  (I'm more like the guy
smiling in the back of the photo.  The one people know but can't remember
the name of.  But I digress.)   If we knew each other better both of our
reactions would be likely to be rather different.

Here's the fly in the ointment though. While increasing the effectiveness
of the Debian social system would help break down some barriers, it would
raise others to people who already have extensive investment in other
social systems.  Any talk of representation has to take that into

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar@debian.org>
La Salle Debain - http://www.braincells.com/debian/

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