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Re: Question for Andreas Schuldei and Branden Robinson

On Mon, Mar 07, 2005 at 01:44:14PM +0000, Scott James Remnant wrote:
> Most of the current members of Project Scud appear to be employed by
> companies whose primary business is Debian, or heavily depend on Debian
> in their line of work:

*snip*  As he noted, Enrico Zini should perhaps be included as well.

> Was this intentional?


> If it wasn't intentional, are you not worried that you could either be
> influenced by your employers to direct Debian according to their wishes
> or be perceived to be doing so?

No, for few reasons:

1) It's my understanding that there exists a MOU
(memorandum-of-understanding)-style document that employers of elected
Debian Project Leaders are requested to sign when one of their employees is
elected to the position.  This MOU establishes that the employer will not
attempt to exert leverage on the Debian Project via their employee's
position.  I'm not aware of any employer having refused this in the past.
Perhaps some of our recent Project Leaders can elaborate.

Speaking for myself, pretty much every full-time Progeny employee is aware
of my role within the Debian Project to some extent.  Certainly everyone in
the reporting chain from my immediate manager to the CEO (Garth Dickey) is.
In conversations with Garth, I'm persuaded that he understands the
essential nature of the Debian Project.  Ian Murdock has probably shared
many war stories with him that may make Debian look even more unmanageable
than it actually is.  :)

In any case, if this MOU has fallen into disuse, or if I fear it doesn't
protect the Debian Project sufficiently, I won't have a problem marking it
up and submitting it to Progeny management with a request for signature.

In my nearly five years at Progeny, I've never been asked to use my
position to exert "moral suasion" on the Debian Project, nor to make
technical changes in Debian packages to suit Progeny's goals.  (The latter
isn't even necessary -- Progeny has ample expertise to fork a Debian
package before redistributing that package to its customers when the need

2) The interests of the companies you cited are not obviously all in
alignment, nor can they be reasonably expected to become so.

3) In my assessment, the members of Project Scud are independently-minded
folks who see themselves as individual actors rather than organizational
puppets.  They all seem to guard their autonomy rather jealously.

The last point leads to another observation:

I think the sort of people who gain high prominence in the Debian Project
are those who tend to be highly devoted it, and whose drive and initiative
make them more valuable, not less, to corporations (for-profit or
otherwise) who have a stake in Debian's future.  It should therefore not be
surprising that most members of Project Scud turn out to have a connection
to a Debian-based company of one sort or another.

Still, the correlation's not perfect.  There are many people who have all
the right traits but haven't found Debian-related employment.  The
situation is much better now than it was several years ago.  I therefore
would caution people strongly against inverting the observation in the
previous paragraph.  Not working for a "Debian company" or a "Linux
company" is no ill reflection on a person.  The possibilities for gainful
employment as a Free Software contributor are not yet, sadly, as ubiquitous
as the opportunities for grocery clerks.

G. Branden Robinson                |    Somebody once asked me if I thought
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    sex was dirty.  I said, "It is if
branden@debian.org                 |    you're doing it right."
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Woody Allen

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