Re: Honesty in Debian (was Re: Amendment to GR on GFDL, and the changes to the Social Contract
Nathanael Nerode wrote:
>The reason I would do this is the same reason I often get so vocal and
>sometimes angry about these matters: the issue of honesty. I feel that the
>current situation is one in which Debian is using its Social Contract to
>lie to its users, and that that has been going on for a long time.
>The Social Contract used to say "Debian will remain 100% free software."
>Someone recently said that he thought a valid intepretation of this was "The
>sotware in Debian will remain 100% free." Well, that is *not* a valid
>interpretation of the English language sentence "Debian will remain 100%
>free software". Users expecting Debian to adhere to its Social Contract
>would be sorely disappointed by that misinterpretation, as I was.
>To clarify why this is not a valid interpretation:
>Suppose a public transport agency said "Our transportation fleet will remain
>100% eco-friendly trolleybuses." Then suppose they bought a whole lot of
>diesel buses, and claimed that their promise simply meant "The trolleybuses
>in our transportation fleet will remain 100% eco-friendly." That's not a
>valid interpretation, and you'd be right to feel cheated.
>Suppose I told my homeowner's association, "My front yard will remain 100%
>green grass." Suppose I then planted half the front yard in myrtle (not a
>type of grass, FYI). Then suppose I claimed that my promise meant "100% of
>the grass in my front yard will remain green." That's not a valid
>interpretation. The homeowner's association would rightly complain that I
>had lied to them.
>Suppose I said "These thirty acres will remain 100% organic farmland."
>Suppose I then built condos on half of them, and said "Well, what my
>promise meant was that the farmland in those thirty acres would remain 100%
>organic." You'd call me a liar, and you'd be right.
Yes, in all those cases. But you're missing the point in your rush to
label people as dishonest liars. All of these analogies you provide
are 100% clear-cut. The word "software", however, is _not_ (or at
least, _has not been_) so clear-cut for many people, hence the
ridiculously long, drawn-out discussions that have happened here and
elsewhere trying to nail down the precise meanings of our terms.
As I've already said to you, natural languages like English are often
not as precise in meaning as you seem to think. There is scope for
ambiguity even in words that some people think may be clearly
defined. This is one of the reasons why legal contracts often make
such a big fuss of declaring definitions up front.
I'd ask you to apologise for labelling people as dishonest; dishonesty
implies a deliberate attempt to deceive, which has NOT happened here.
>However, there is also a dishonest way. That is to leave the Social
>Contract claiming that everything in Debian is free (or "free software",
>doesn't matter) according to the DFSG, but then to go ahead and put
>DFSG-non-free stuff into Debian. And that is just not right.
>This is also why I would like to make the Social Contract clear on non-free
>license texts. Currently Debian is in technical violation of the Social
>Contract regarding these. They are such a tiny proportion of the Debian
>system that it's not a very large violation (in contrast to the other
>non-modifiable stuff). But it would clearly be more honest to admit openly
>to the users -- the other half of the Social Contract -- that they *are* an
Absolutely - I'd back up 100% a vote to add such a disclaimer...
Steve McIntyre, Cambridge, UK. email@example.com
You raise the blade, you make the change... You re-arrange me 'til I'm sane...