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Small teams and other platform positions...

I sent this to debian-vote initially since it is about platforms. Maybe 
discussion belongs in -project.


The Vancouver Prospectus, SCUD and "small teams" have given me pause for
thought. On the surface, it seems that there cannot be much wrong with
Debianers gathering together physically to talk and make decisions about the
direction of the operating system. I personally had the good fortune to
attend DebConf in Puerto Alegre and very much enjoyed meeting people, having
drinks and all the other fine things that come from face-to-face meetings.
Without a doubt, communication is much more fluid and productive in such a

However, I have grave concerns about placing emphasis on face-to-face
 meetings as a methodology for moving the project forward. Could we
 accidentally create a "two class" society in the process? What will happen
 if we divide Debian into a group of those who can attend these meetings and
 those who cannot?

Taking time off from work and traveling to a DebConf is a significant
investment. For many Debianers (the majority, perhaps) this is an investment
that is out of their reach or requires giving up a "normal" vacation. Create
several "key gatherings" a year and only a "professional Debianer"  will be
able to keep up. You will either have to be independently wealthy or work for
an organization with some direct financial interest in Debian. I didn't sign
up for that. I could have run my business on Red Hat long ago. I want to
"share the software" on a level playing field.

We should focus our energies on electronic infrastructures. Tools such as the
"testing" distribution. Electronic tools are accessable by everyone- whether
they can walk well, can afford to fly or are good public speakers. We should
design systems using tools that are equally accessible. Mailinglists, wikis
and the usual fare should never be replaced with isolated face-to-face
meetings sponsored by commercial vendors. Building concensus via the net *is*
the revolutionary part of Debian. Face-to-face meetings have been around for
thousands of years. They aren't new. They may be fun, but they lead to

Automated systems enforce quality policies in a uniform way without getting
frustrated, flaming people or retiring. You can't code favoritism into an
electronic tool without it being plainly visible to the trained eye. Accounts
that get special treatment, or have special capabilities, will be easy to
spot and will require explanation. Certain users will always require "special
powers" but in a social system influence becomes a matter of fuzzy logic
rather than discrete fact.

It is fun to meet in person. We should have big parties, big dinners, chances
to get to know each other, make friends and have a drink. But let's try to
make sure that attending such meetings never become a requirement for
participation. That will kill something central to what we are.

The world of politics between humans is well explored. It runs your
 government and your business. I put it to you that "small groups" doesn't
 add up to "loving relationships". In general, it leads to war. History tells
 this story again and again. I hope we can focus our group on discrete
 systems instead of cliques and cabals. With code, even the most antisocial
 person can distill good intentions into a tireless and helpful servant.
 Humans will always be subject to their personal failings and tantrums. Let's
 remember to be lazy programmers and leave everything we can to machines.

When you vote, remember, code is more important than commercials.

Ean Schuessler, CTO
214-720-0700 x 315
Brainfood, Inc.

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