Re: Honesty in Debian (was Re: Amendment to GR on GFDL, and the changes to the Social Contract
Steve McIntyre <email@example.com>:
> Yes, in all those cases. But you're missing the point in your rush to
> label people as dishonest liars.
I really don't want to label people as dishonest liars. I believe that
collectively the Debian Project has been misleading its users by providing a
Social Contract which says one thing, and then not even trying to do what it
says. This is probably unintentional. That's not the same thing as calling
individuals dishonest liars, but I don't know how to say it clearly.
I guess this should have been titled "Honesty *of* Debian", not "Honesty *in*
> 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.
Yes, of course, "software" is not clear -- hence the "editorial changes" GR!
The point of my analogies was something which I wish people would understand,
since it's been pointed out for years. There were two valid interpretations
of the old Social Contract, depending on the different meanings of the word
(1) Software is any collection of bits. "Debian will remain 100% free
software" therefore means "Debian will remain a collection of bits, and all
of those bits will be free."
(2) Software is only computer programs. "Debian will remain 100% free
software" therefore means "Debian will remain only computer programs, and all
of those programs will be free."
I was specifically pointing out with my analogies that "Debian will remain
100% free software" requires that "Debian will remain software". There is
*no room* for "non-free non-software in Debian" -- and hence no room for
anything non-free -- in that language, *regardless* of what you think
And yet the people arguing that the old Social Contract permitted non-free
documentation (or whatever) continue to make the claim that the old Social
Contract permitted "non-free non-software".
The editorial changes were editorial changes to increase the clarity of the
Social Contract, because the word "software" appears to muddle people's minds
and render them unable to think straight.
> 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
Oh yes. But this is not one of those cases. In this case, the Social
Contract was quite clear: everything in Debian must be software. And all the
software must be free. Regardless of what software means, that means that
everything in Debian must be free.
Suppose the word was "blorp". "Debian will remain 100% free blorp." There's
no room for non-free stuff in there, even though we have absolutely no idea
what blorp means.
(Now, the exact way the 100% attaches left some wiggle room for Debian to be
"software but not 100% software", with the software being "100% free", but
that really isn't much wiggle room, because then it would all be about
checking that there wasn't "too much" non-software in Debian. License texts
might have been a small enough percentage to get by under that
interpretation; documentation obviously would be far too much, given how much
of it there is in Debian.)
> 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.
Quite right. Sorry; I apologize.
I don't know a word for "saying outright false things which mislead people --
but without an intent to deceive". Do you? Sometimes English is deficient
in vocabulary, and this is one of the cases.
Apologies for the rampant thread-breaking; I *cannot* get any mail program to
pick up on the links from the web pages, my newsreader for reading through
the gmane filter is temporarily busted, and I am not in a position to
actually subscribe due to the suckiness and quota issues of my email
Perhaps someone could fix either konqueror or kmail so that clicking on the
mailto links on the web pages put in the correct headers.
Or someone could fix mozilla-firefox or mozilla-thunderbird so that clicking
on the mailto links would actually open up a new mail message.
Nathanael Nerode <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Theocracy, fascism, or absolute monarchy -- I don't care which it is, I don't