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Branding for Debian derivatives

Hi all,

So, following the discussions at DebConf [0], the "Debian Powered" logo
ideas [1], and a couple of other chats I've had the privelege of having
with some folks working on Debian derivatives and Debian-based distros and
similar things, I'd like us to introduce an official branding programme
for derivatives -- which I'll count as any providing Debian software to
other people that's not just an official CD. So that includes things like
Ubuntu, Knoppix, or Linspire, but potentially also things like Debian-Edu,
or Debian CGL [2].

The drawback to just doing that without any further thought, is that
providing branding gives a derivative not just the opportunity to benefit
from Debian's reputation of supporting free software, being open and
community driven, and focussing obsessively on quality, but also to
potentially sully that reputation by letting users think this is a
"Debian" product, but not living up to Debian's reputation, whether that
be by not caring about free software issues, or ignoring their users'
complaints, or whatever. And that's not just bad for Debian, but for all
the other derivatives who choose to share in Debian's reputation as well
as its code.

So, what I'm thinking is basically a trade, where Debian offers to help
our derivatives get the benefits of Debian's reputation, and where the
derivative commits to helping build that reputation, both to its own
benefit, but also to Debian and other derivatives.

My best guess at what the latter means is something like this: that derivatives
should provide a clear, written commitment to their users and the free software
community that:

        (a) they'll listen to their users and do their best to incorporate
            that input in future releases

        (b) they'll cooperate with the free software community, both
            in making every effort to make any free software they write
            easy to include in other products, and in complying with
            the licenses of the free software they use and distribute

I'm inclined to think that's the essence of the Debian reputation --
listening to their users through things like bug reports, mailing lists or
web forums, and working with the free software community more generally,
by complying with licenses and passing their changes back upstream. I
wonder if there should also be something about doing development in public
in some way, but I'm not sure how you'd phrase that without making it
hard for single-person derivatives.

In return, I think Debian should make it easy and desirable for derivatives to
be part of the "derivative community", by providing at least:

        (a) a nice logo standing for "based on Debian", that derivatives
            can use

        (b) linking from the Debian website so people can find out about niche
            derivatives more easily

        (c) cooperation on press releases -- eg, quotes from the DPL
            or others for inclusion in their press releases, and
            references from Debian press releases when interesting
            things happen

        (d) a supportive basis for future cooperation and consultation

(a) and (b) are mostly practical ways of saying "derivatives are okay
by us" -- and after all that's what free software's about, right? (c)
is about giving Debian some benefit from the cool, innovative things
derivatives manage to do while also giving smaller derivatives a bigger
platform to tell people about those cool things. (d) is about making sure
that we don't just stop here, but go on and make a point of working more
closely with derivatives in the future.

One example of that which has come up recently is the issue of GPL
compliance for derivative distributions -- if you're making a live cd
based on Debian that includes some neat graphical app you wrote, it
would be much more convenient if you could just distribute the source
to the app and point people at Debian for the sources of all the stuff
they didn't change. That would require us to maintain an essentially
permanent archive for source packages, which at the moment we don't. But
doing so would be useful for us too, no?

So that's most of what I'm thinking at the moment. What I'd really like
is to see some comments, criticisms and other ideas before I push any
further ahead and actually go ahead with a formal programme for this.

The other question is what logo we should use that sums up our ideas
about derivatives, and is pretty and that people want to use. I'd *love*
to hear ideas for that; I'll also followup with a sketch of an idea I
think is possible.


[0] http://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2006/06/msg00278.html
[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2006/06/msg00329.html
[2] http://wiki.debian.org/Debian-CGL

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