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Re: Are users of Debian software members of the Debian community?

[Poster is cc'd by me because he is not subscribed to the debian-project list]

On Wed, Sep 14, 2022 at 03:17:03PM -0400, Chuck Zmudzinski wrote:
> On 9/14/2022 12:22 PM, Andrew M.A. Cater wrote:
> > People of debian-user :)
> >
> > This thread does seem to be degenerating slightly into accusations and
> > name-calling, justified or not. Without prejudice to anyone: please may
> > I remind you that debian-user and all Debian lists and IRC channels are
> > subject to the Debian Code of Conduct.
> >
> > It would be very much appreciated if disagreements could be resolved
> > constructively and in a positive way. Ad hominem attacks don't help
> > anyone here. Taking a breath / walking away from the keyboard for half
> > a day might also help get a sense of perspective in any mailing list
> > opinion difference. (And yes, I know about https://xkcd.com/386/ and
> > the difficulty that brings).
> >
> > With every good wish, as ever,
> >
> > Andy Cater
> >
> > [For and on behalf of the Debian Community Team]
> >
> Thanks for this, Andy, I admit I did get caught up in behavior that appears
> as trolling.
> As you point out, the aforementioned thread only slightly has degenerated
> and I think there are some useful discussions in it despite the problems.
> One legitimate topic for discussion that arose in that thread is:
> Are only Debian Developers with voting rights (DDs) considered to be members
> of the Debian community, or are the users also members of the Debian community?

Hi Chuck,

I'm going to assume good intent and answer you as best I can. At its heart,
Debian is a "do-ocracy" and you get out of it what you're able to put into
it. We're all volunteers and that has to be remembered.

"The community" in its broadest sense is the developers, maintainers,
contributors and the users - everyone building and using Debian for whatever
purpose. You don't normally get recognition just for using Debian but you
build up a reputation by contributing. 

You don't have to be a Debian maintainer or a Debian developer to contribute.
You can file good bug reports - or check reports opened by other people and
reply if your experience is similar/you're using identical hardware, say, and
the bug bites you. You can contribute to the Wiki, you can contribute 
positively to the mailing lists. You don't get a vote in general resolutions
(GRs) but you're involved. "Drive by contributors" often gradually decide they
want to become a Debian Maintainer. That means going through a formal process
to check on the sorts of things you can contribute. From there, the step
to being a Debian Developer is relatively small. At that point, you get a 
formal vote on burning issues like GRs.

You  can get a lot more information by looking at the wiki, the documentation
for new maintainers, installing the Debian Administrators handbook - package
debian-handbook .

> If Debian users are also members of the community, their opinion should be
> valued, but what mechanism exists for the voice of Debian users to be heard in
> the decisions that DDs make about the Debian Project? I ask this question
> because AFAICT, the users have no formal voice at all in the decisions about
> how the Debian Project is run. And this fact is perhaps why I am misunderstood
> by some on debian-user. Debian-user seems to be dominated by the idea that
> a mere user of Debian software should have no voice in the decisions, no matter
> how great or how small that decision might be, that the Debian Project has to
> face each day. For example, a little decision: a package maintainer decides
> whether or not to respond to a bug report, and a big decision: the DDs vote
> on resolutions to determine the level of support for non-default init systems.

I'd suggest to anyone to read the mailing list archives for a while and see how
they show Debian and the decision processes we have internally.
https://lists.debian.org/ is a good start. 

Big decisions can take a *long* time and some can be divisive: systemd 
discussions went on for months, sometimes with increasing rancour and
misunderstandings on all sides but that was, perhaps, exceptional in
recent years.

> I think Debian users should have some say, some voting power, some way
> of influencing the direction of the Debian Project because in the end the
> long-term success of the project depends on whether or not Debian software
> is continues to be useful for its users over the long term. I think if over time
> Debian becomes software that is only useful to the DDs and not to a large
> pool of users around the world who are passionate about free software,
> Debian would have failed in its mission of providing useful free software to
> users around the world. The point of view of users, IMHO, needs more
> representation in the official decisions and policies of Debian because it
> seems to me that the importance of providing useful software for the
> many users of Debian software is not sufficiently recognized on, of all
> places, the mailing list for Debian users!

_Which_ Debian users? We have users all over the world, on the ISS, every
continent. We've folk of all shades of politics, religion. We've got
people from every human background. Debian doesn't *just* become software
that's useful to DDs - there are >200 derivative distributions and a 29
year backstory.

Debian-user is a subset of people who are interested in Debian. Some are
opinionated, some are long-suffering, some are decidedly idiosyncratic -
that's all OK. It shouldn't be taken as the whole project, just the
folk who hang out on that list.

> I offer this as food for though to see if the way Debian is governed can
> be improved to ensure the legitimate voices of Debian users are heard. I
> especially would be interested to hear practical suggestions for how a vote
> of users on any particular issue could take place, what weight should be given
> to the vote of the users relative to the vote of the DDs, how users could propose
> that a change in Debian Policy be put up for a vote, and how to ensure only
> true users of Debian vote on any particular proposal or in the election of the
> DPL, etc.

I *really* suggest you look at the mechanism of Debian consensus: it's often
difficult to follow debian-vote but that's only pulling together a thousand
or so individuals, each with their own voices and legitimate interests.

"True users of Debian" - hmm, is that people who've been using and 
contributing to Debian for 25 years, 2 years, 2 weeks? Sorry, I'm bemused
by this - Debian reputation goes upwards, downwards and sideways to 
everybody else that contributes but it is built on contribution above all.

> I understand this idea cannot be implemented soon. But would it be wrong
> for someone to propose the idea that Debian users should have a formal
> voice in the decisions that the Debian Project needs to face on a daily basis?

You do have a formal voice as a Debian user but it may come at the cost of

> N.B. I am not subscribed to debian-project, so if those who respond could Cc
> me on replies, I would appreciate it. I also am not posting this to debian-user,
> to which I am subscribed, to let the emotions die down there a bit and in
> recognition of the fact that debian-user is probably not the best place to post
> this question at this time.

Debian mailing list code of conduct: ideally, you subscribe to a list rather
than posting and expecting individuals to reply, not least because the
replies are then appropriately ordered and threaded in the archives of the
list. https://www.debian.org/MailingLists/ refers. Most of the people who
are subscribed to the mailing lists will not cc by default.

In this case, you are a .cc addressee precisely because you have said you
are not subscribed and so I have explicitly changed my normal policy.

> Best regards,
> Chuck

With every good wish, as ever,

Andy Cater 

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