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Re: Negative Summary of the Split Proposal

On Wed, Jun 30, 1999 at 10:47:32AM -0700, Craig Brozefsky wrote:
> > I am not arguing this; there are plenty of people out there who have
> > the *perception* that we are Bolsheviks.  This proposal will give more
> > fuel to their fire (can you see the Slashdot comments on an article
> > about this plan?  I certainly can imagine some, and many of the names
> > on them won't be those of trollers).
> Do we act on how others percieve us, or upon our own convictions?
> Honest question.
> I think that fear of a few people disagreeing with the move on
> Slashdot or elsewhere is not a reason for us to refrain from doing
> it.

We act sanely.  This means we do not compromise our current position
(which some would argue is already compromised---though they IMO have a
problem with the social contract and should start there if they wish to
change something) just because some new nifty software comes out with an
almost free but not quite license.  We have defined what we consider free
and we have agreed to support non-free software, even though we encourage
people not to use it if there's a free alternative that does the job.

Sanely also means we don't jump off the deep end and destroy our
credibility.  If we are truly committed to free software then one of our
goals must be to advance awareness of and convince people to use free
software---as much of it as possible.

I believe another of our goals is to remind people of what free software
is exactly.  Debian is THE ONLY Linux distributiou I know of that bothers
to distinguish at all which packages are free and which are not.  Nobody
else is doing it and nobody else is likely to.

When Debian says something isn't free software, most people will agree
that yeah it's non-free.  Oh sure anyone can SAY something is or isn't
free software but Debian has a reputation for having a very clear
definition of free (our DFSG) which is widely accepted and when we
determine if something is free or not we also make it known exactly where
we see the problem.  We also have a reputation for helping people fix
these problems.

So yeah it does matter what people think of us.  We should most certainly
tread carefully when it comes to changing our position on things like
support for non-free software (I do believe wichert's proposal DOES
change that position, even more so if the proposal goes down exactly as
Richard Stallman has suggested..)

Richard wants us to remove non-free software from our main servers,
remove all mention of non-free software from our web pages, and remove
mention of non-free software from our installation and config files.  I
know for certain someone is going to say that's not what Wichert is
proposing we do here---but the fact is that Wichert's proposal is so
general that I honestly don't know exactly what the implementation of his
proposal is going to require.

If things happen as Richard would like, non-free will essentially become
available only to those who ask "is <something non-free> packaged?" on
irc or in an email to the lists..  I don't see how anyone can claim that
this would not be hiding non-free from people in the hopes they'll never
ask about it.  I also don't see how people can say this does not change
our current position which is to support our users' choice to use or not
use non-free software.  This most certainly would require changes to the
social contract.

I'm not opposing Wichert's proposal.  I am reluctant to support it
however until I see the planned implementation details, at least until
I'm satisfied it will not seriously harm our credibility in the eyes of
those we work with to advance the goals of free software.  If we're seen
as just a bunch of fanatical purists, most people won't listen to the
message we're trying to get them to hear.  I don't propose we change the
message (Eric has demonstrated the results of that---lots of big
companies trying to push their way into the community with half-hearted
promises and seemingly-but-not-really-free licenses...)

If we tread carefully we can make whatever changes are necessary to
ensure people can see the differences between free and non-free software. 
Better that than destroy what we've accomplished by charging ahead.

Joseph Carter <knghtbrd@debian.org>            Debian GNU/Linux developer
PGP: E8D68481E3A8BB77 8EE22996C9445FBE            The Source Comes First!
<Knghtbrd> you know, Linux needs a platform game starring Tux
<Knghtbrd> kinda Super Marioish, but with Tux and things like little cyber
           bugs and borgs and that sort of thing ...
<Knghtbrd> And you have to jump past billgatus and hit the key to drop him
           into the lava and then you see some guy that looks like a RMS
           or someone say "Thank you for rescuing me Tux, but Linus
           Torvalds is in another castle!"

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