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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.

Thanks again, Andy, for your kind reply and explanation to better explain
Debian. I have to think about what you say as Debian as a "do-ocracy" and
that I get out of it what I am able to put into it.

I have read much of the documentation online about how Debian understands
itself, but I have never heard the term "do-ocracy" before. As you put it, you get
out of Debian what you put into it. I have put much effort into it over the years,
and I have received benefits in return for my efforts. I really never thought of
contributing to Debian out of my own self-interest. I always wanted to do it out
of the Debian community's interests, the "give back to the community what you
have learned" principle that really, I think, is a strong aspect in favor of free
software. This thinking of mine, that what Debian people do should be done
for the community, is, surprisingly to me, something that is contrary to the
"do-ocracy" of working on Debian not for the community but for one's own
benefit. That fundamental misunderstanding might be at the root of the
conflicts I am having with some Debian people over on debian-user. What
you said here about "do-ocracy" is very enlightening.

> We're all volunteers and that has to be remembered.

In the discussion going on that I started on debian-user about the advantages
and disadvantages of free software like Debian, I actually, after some fruitful
discussion with some of the people on debian-user, tentatively came to the
conclusion that the fact that Debian is created by volunteers is probably one
of the biggest *disadvantages* of Debian software. But you are saying Debian's
usefulness is not measured by how many bugs are fixed, and most Debian users
are not as annoyed as I am that some bugs are ignored for a long time. One person
agreed it is annoying when known fixes for bugs are not applied, but not that big a
deal because with free software the known fix can be applied by the user. For a long
time I thought that way and just accepted that some bug reports are going to be
ignored, but really it was more curiosity than anything else that made me wonder,
why do they ignore bugs for so long at Debian, so I just directly asked the question
but I still have not received a straight answer, and now I have discovered Debian
ignores bugs and doesn't always fix them even when there is a known fix. It just is
a mystery to me but your description of Debian as a "do-ocracy" sheds some light
on the mystery of it all. Still, I cannot actually fix the bug in the official, released,
software. I cannot participate in the "do-ocracy" of contributing a fix. Only a maintainer
or developer can do that. So I am powerless to contribute a fix if no developer or
maintainer will agree that my fix is a good idea or if the developers and maintainers
just ignore my proposals, fixes, and questions for unknown reasons. If they just ignore
my polite pings, as one person suggested on debian-user is all I am allowed to do,
then I am *totally powerless*  to participate in what you call the "do-ocracy" of Debian.
They use their power and influence in the community to make me powerless and
unable to contribute. The only thing I can do is apply the fix on my own machines
and maintain the fixes myself. That is *not* contributing to the Debian Project. What
I am forced to do is maintain my own private fork of Debian if I want to have
Debian-derived software that does not crash catastrophically.

> "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.

I understand that. I doubt that I can overcome the way some over at
debian-user have tarnished my reputation. That is very discouraging, and
one person on debian-user has explicitly said there are many things that
are very discouraging to potential contributors. Don't you think that is a
community problem within the Debian Project? Shouldn't the Debian Project
do something to mitigate those things that discourage potential contributors?
It is as if the current contributors see new, potential contributors as threats
and adversaries rather than as potential partners.

> 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 .

I have read much of that and tried to follow those rules, but still my efforts were
not good enough when I participated in the BTS. My bug reports and contributions
to BTS were branded as "bad," not "good." I could not have possibly predicted how
those who criticized me interpreted the rules that I obviously did not understand the
same way they understood those rules. I did not intend to break their idea of the
rules that govern a "good" bug report.

> > 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.

It is interesting to read those mailing lists.

> 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.

Divisive - it led to the Devuan fork, IIUC. Of all the Debian derivatives, that one,
Devuan, is unique, I think, because it literally divided the Debian community
and split it into two separate projects. I am pleased by what you say about
the derivatives, which includes Devuan - they too are part of the broader Debian
community. I have never tried Devuan, but I might try out what they offer someday
when I have some free time, because they are part of the community, too.
> > 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.

I understand given how the Debian Project understands itself today that
giving a voice to Debian users is not the right way to implement my proposal.
I still think the full diversity of viewpoints within the Debian community is lacking
in the votes because the persons who can vote is limited to the viewpoint of
developers, but I will refrain from saying anything more until I have followed your
advice and come to understand the Debian consensus process better. Maybe
it does find ways to incorporate those voices into the votes without giving those
persons with roles other than developer actual voting rights.

> 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.

I will try to understand it by spending time reading debian-vote archives.

> "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.

Obviously, my proposal would need to somehow define who are the users
that should be given a formal vote for GRs, the DPL, etc. Maybe "true users
of Debian" is the wrong phrase to define it, maybe the correct idea is expressed
by "contributor with voting rights." Maybe the voting developers can
nominate contributors who are not developers who should be given voting
rights, and if the person nominated receives a simple majority, or some higher
majority like 2/3, then that person gains voting rights even though that person
is not a developer. The theory behind my proposal is that there is a diversity
of viewpoints that stems from a diversity of roles within the project. If the
voting members are restricted only to the contributors who volunteer for
the role of developer, then the full diversity of the Debian community is
not reflected in a vote that only comes from the pool of formal developers.

> > 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
> commitment.

The difficult cost of trying to have a voice as a Debian user is *not* the commitment, it
is enduring the ad hominem attacks when I express my opinion. Of course if I cannot
overcome the stigma of the ad hominem attacks, my voice is completely nullified
by those ad hominem attacks. And they continue. Michael Stone followed me to
this list and condemned for me asking questions here on this list. There is no way
*he* considers me a member of the Debian community who has a formal voice as
a Debian user. I thank you for proving you disagree with him by dealing with me with
respect and dignity and explicitly saying I do have a formal voice in the community
as a Debian user.

> > 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.

I subscribed to the debian-project list for the time being so you can reply on-list
from now on.

> > Best regards,
> >
> > Chuck
> With every good wish, as ever,
> Andy Cater

Same to you,


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