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Re: Amendment to the Constitution: Add a new foundation document

Here is the current version


 I propose we adopt a foundation document that tries to provide
 guidance and explanation for the transitions required whenever a
 change occurs in a foundation document like the social contract, and
 also provides specific remedies to the current dilemma that we find
 ourself in. This GR proposal is related to the GR currently in
 discussion for deferring of the changes made in GR 2004_003, and would
 be on the same ballot, and is an alternative to the GR currently in

 I hereby propose that we amend the constitution to add to the list of
 foundation documents the document attached in this proposal, titled
 Transition Guide. The context diff follows.


  1. A Foundation Document is a document or statement regarded as
     critical to the Project's mission and purposes.

  2. The Foundation Documents are the works entitled `Debian
-       Social Contract' and `Debian Free Software Guidelines'.
+       Social Contract', `Transition Guide' and
+      `Debian Free Software Guidelines'.

  3. A Foundation Document requires a 3:1 majority for its
     supersession.  New Foundation Documents are issued and
     existing ones withdrawn by amending the list of Foundation
     Documents in this constitution.


 The attached Transition guide is:

                           Transition Guide

 A working guide to achieve the transition for changes in Foundation documents
	 containing explanations and Rationale, and defining
		  guidelines for future transitions

 The Social Contract represents the core commitments of the Project.
 The Social Contract leaves its marks in many ways; it is deeply
 intertwined with all parts of the Project. Potentially, any change to
 the Social Contract has major ramifications, and may require a period
 of potentially deep changes to the roots of the Project before it can
 come into compliance with the changed Contract.

 Meeting our commitments as described in the Social Contact is an
 ongoing process. Whenever we change these commitments, we may need an
 interval of time before we can approach compliance. Unless we shut
 down the Project completely - abandoning users and our developers -
 the regular activities of the Project must continue while we work
 towards compliance.

 There is precedent for a gap between ratifying a change to the
 foundation documents of the Project and implementing dictates of that
 document; when the Project first accepted the Social Contract and the
 Debian Free Software Guidelines, there was an interval before we came
 into compliance with those then-new documents. Indeed, a minor version
 was released just days after the Debian Free Software Guidelines were
 accepted, and this release by no means complied with the new

 We also continued to support older non-complying releases, and did not
 make them unavailable to our users.

 The binding principle here is that we have to balance the needs of our
 users and the need to make Debian strictly free. As one developer has

     In my opinion, the needs of the free software community take
     precedence in the context of adopting new packages, in the setting
     of release goals, in our choices about infrastructure and
     philosophy, and of course in the context of any development work
     we do.

     In my opinion, the needs of our users take precedence in the
     context of security fixes, in the context of support for packages
     and systems we've released, and in the context of the quality of
     our work.

 We, the Debian Project, do so affirm this judgmen. While we are
 working towards complying with a change in the goals or identity of
 the Project, or towards compliance with any change to a foundation
 document, the needs of our users will be catered to. This may mean
 that for a limited time, Debian will not be compliant with the new
 Social Contract.

 Whenever a change to our foundation documents takes place, the
 activities required to provide ongoing and proactive support for the
 Debian user community shall continue. This includes, but is not
 necessarily limited to, providing security updates for
 previously-released versions of Debian, providing point-release
 updates to previously-released versions of Debian, preparing for the
 next (compliant) release of Debian, actually releasing the current
 non-compliant version of Debian if such a release is imminent (as well
 as any further updates to that version of Debian), and providing all
 the Project's infrastructure such as bug-tracking and mailing lists.

 In the specific case of General Resolution 2004_003, since that
 release currently in preparation, code named "Sarge", is very close to
 release, and the previously released version is quite out of date, our
 commitment to our users dictates that the "Sarge" release should go on
 as planned - even while we are in the process of reaching compliance
 with the new Social Contract. This exemption for "Sarge" applies to
 security releases and point releases as well.


 My intent was not just to find a way for us to allow to release Sarge,
 it was to create a guideline to help ease us through major changes in
 something like the Social contract, or the constitution. The fact that
 a generic transition guide may help us also release Sarge soon is a
 nice side effect.

 It has been suggested that transitioning ought to be handled in the
 original proposal itself, and yes, that is a good idea. But foresight
 is weak, compared to 8/20 hind sight, and there may be unforeseen
 consequences of a proposed change that were not evident while drafting
 the proposal.

 Nothing is perfect. I would much rather we also had a process defined
 to pick up the pieces if the before-the-fact transition plan blew up
 in our face; this is way better than relying on perfect foresight in
 transition plans.

 The other issue addressed in the proposal is one of choosing between
 two different requirements of the social contract; and how to balance
 these different requirements when some of these requirements are

 Since this modifies the Constitution, this requires a 3:1 majority to

Tell the truth or trump--but get the trick. Mark Twain, "Pudd'nhead
Wilson's Calendar"
Manoj Srivastava   <srivasta@debian.org>  <http://www.debian.org/%7Esrivasta/>
1024R/C7261095 print CB D9 F4 12 68 07 E4 05  CC 2D 27 12 1D F5 E8 6E
1024D/BF24424C print 4966 F272 D093 B493 410B  924B 21BA DABB BF24 424C

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