[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: RFD: amendment of Debian Social Contract

On Tue, Nov 04, 2003 at 01:16:11AM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> The social contract says that "we have created "contrib" and "non-free"
> areas [for non-free software]. [...] We support its use, and we provide
> infrastructure [this software]". Presumably you don't disagree with that,
> or think it's inaccurate, and further you presumably think it should
> remain true.

My proposed amended SC continues to say:

"We will support our users who develop and run non-free software on
Debian, but we will never make the system depend on an item of non-free

> Why then would you want to remove that text?

Why does the Social Contract need to talk about what we *have* done?
"We have created 'contrib' and 'non-free' areas..."

It's a Social Contract, not a recitation or affidavit.  What's important
is what we commit to do, not what we have done in the past.

> The only reason that I can
> see is so that that support can be dropped by some process other than
> the formation of a consensus by supermajority.

I daresay you're not being very imaginative.

We could remove clause 5 from the Social Contract but still require "the
formation of a consensus by supermajority" to actually remove non-free.
That supermajority could be 9:1, 3:1, 2:1, or 1.5:1 (for example).

The Social Contract is not necessarily the best place to legislate such
a procedure, however.

The Debian Project Leader, for instance, could convene a committee of
delegates whose responsibility it is to study the contrib and non-free
sections of the archive, and formulate a migration strategy based upon
the stated and perceived needs of our users and developers.

This migration strategy could be slow or fast.  It could be simple or

We could decide to vest the Debian archive administrators with sole
authority over the issue.  Some folks seem to feel this responsibility
would automatically devolve upon them in the absence of Social Contract
clause 5 and and a General Resolution specifically vesting the power in
someone else.  I don't think that's a reasonable conclusion given our

  Each decision in the Project is made by one or more of the following:

     1. The Developers, by way of General Resolution or an election;
     2. The Project Leader;
     3. The Technical Committee and/or its Chairman;
     4. The individual Developer working on a particular task;
     5. Delegates appointed by the Project Leader for specific tasks.
     6. The Project Secretary;[1]

Since our current DPL, Martin Michlmayr, elected not to grant delegate
status to the archive administrators[2], I would guess that the
responsibility falls upon the Developers generally, given the scope of
the decision in its historical context.  Next most likely, the DPL has
the responsibility.  The Project Secretary and Technical Committee do
not have powers scoped to include this sort of decision, as far as I can
tell.  That leaves "the individual developer", so I guess what people
are afraid of is some maverick archive admin making a decision to drop
non-free unilaterally, under his personal authority.

As a member of the archive administration team[3], perhaps you're in a
good position to shed some light on the likelihood of such an event.

To your knowledge, does any member of the team intend to change the way
non-free and/or contrib is handled in the event a General Resolution is
passed by the Project that removes clause 5 from the Social Contract
(apart from what you suggested about a personal disinclination to work
on it, below)?

> At present britney will happily block packages in main from progressing
> to testing if they'd break a non-free package. This is done because the
> alternative means leaving users of that non-free package out in the cold;
> and since we've publically declared that we support users of non-free
> software, and provide infrastructure to assist with that, it makes sense
> and fits with the project's overall guidelines. If we really want to treat
> non-free as second class, then it would be completely inappropriate to
> do that.

Well, non-free packages don't (generally?) get autobuilt, so that's a
way in which they take a back seat to packages in main.  It's true,
though, that many packages in non-free bring this on themselves by not
being very accommodating of autobuilding.

I wonder if we've evolved such sophisticated methods for dealing with
packages in main that non-free packages can't *help* but fall to
second-class status, because their licensing and other considerations
make it inherently difficult or impossible to treat them with parity.

> And that aside, I, personally, am utterly uninterested in working on
> stuff that people think has some sort of stigma attached to it.

Indeed, Constitution 2.1.1 says:

  Nothing in this constitution imposes an obligation on anyone to do work
  for the Project. A person who does not want to do a task which has been
  delegated or assigned to them does not need to do it. However, they must
  not actively work against these rules and decisions properly made under

> It's easy enough to get demoralising attacks when you work on things
> in Debian that're widely recognised as important; but there's no way
> I'm going to put up with that sort of crap over something that's
> specifically had 75% of interested developers say they don't care
> about it.

I would not interpret passage of my proposed GR as a demand that you
work on something you don't want to work on; either to take any actions
to perpetuate non-free, or to remove it.  If you don't want it to be
your problem, it's your right to say so.  If *none* of the current
archive maintainers want to maintain it in the event clause 5 is removed
from the Social Contract, then I would hope that they would give the
Project Leader and the rest of the Project time to solicit qualified
people to maintain specifically those parts of the archive that the
current team is unwilling to.

If such an effort were to fail, then I would be tempted to conclude that
the Debian Project doesn't have the institutional will to maintain
non-free, and that we should let responsibility for it devolve onto
another organization.  If the only reason non-free is maintained today
is because people feel forced to by clause 5 of the Social Contract,
then I fear that we have lost our way.  If we can't do right by the
users of our distribution who desire support for the packages in
non-free, by working on them in the same enthusiastic spirit with which
we invest the packages in main, then I wonder why we don't *encourage*
those packages to find a new home.

[1] http://www.debian.org/devel/constitution
[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2003/debian-devel-200311/msg00041.html
[3] http://www.debian.org/intro/organization

G. Branden Robinson                |    Sometimes, getting your patch in is
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    just a matter of waiting for
branden@debian.org                 |    somebody else to reimplement it.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Jonathan Corbet

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: Digital signature

Reply to: