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Delegations (was: Re: question for all candidates)

On Mon, Feb 27, 2006 at 12:18:55PM +0100, Marc 'HE' Brockschmidt wrote:
> Should we amend our constitution to reflect how Debian is structured in
> reality, or should the people doing these tasks now be recognized as
> delegates of the DPL? What will you do to clarify the situation?

There are two ways of looking at roles in Debian; as being "maintainer"
of a resource -- whether that be a package, or a web site, or a system,
or something else -- and as being a "delegate" of the DPL with specific
delegated powers.

Traditionally, maintainers have near absolute authority over their
resources, and get to choose who replaces them. Delegates, by contrast,
can be replaced by the DPL on a whim, though rarely are. Those are pretty
extreme differences, and it makes sense for people to prefer to be come
under the heading of "maintainer" in that it gives them more certainty
in fulfilling the role; and given DPLs have traditionally been fairly
reticent about managing delegations, it's also how things have tended
to work in practice.

In the end, I don't think the difference is that important -- whether your
a maintainer or a delegate, it's no good if you go crazy and start doing
horrible things. In so far as maintainers might do bad things with their
packages, we need some way to deal with that anyway, so worrying which roles
are under which heading doesn't seem that important.

So I tend to think the most sensible way of dividing the roles is to
basically say that people who need to use the name "Debian" -- that
is people representing Debian to other organisations, negotiating in
Debian's name, making press releases in Debian's name, or managing what's
available under the debian.org or debian.net domains -- are acting as
a delegate in so far as they're doing that; while people maintaining
resources, such as individual packages, the dak install on ftp-master,
or adminning machines are acting as maintainers.

That's obviously a subtle distinction sometimes -- declining to host
a service on a particular Debian box might normally be a maintainer's
decision, eg, but would impact a delegated decision in so far as it might
prevent that service from being available under the debian.org domain.

On Mon, Feb 27, 2006 at 02:53:02PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:
> I'm not a candidate, but:
> There seems to be no question here at all.  The delegate status was
> always intended to cover (for example) the ftp administrators.

If that's what was intended (and that does reflect my recollection), it's
not what ended up happening. You can go all the way back to September '99
for support for the alternate view, look through the debian-private archives
for the message:

    Subject: Re: Yes, Virginia, there is a cabal.
    Resent-Date: 16 Sep 1999 06:37:29 -0000
    Resent-Message-ID: <cIDqoC.A.fQD.pAJ43@murphy>

> I have heard some people claim that this is not the case and that
> somehow some of the teams like the release and ftp teams are not
> answerable to anyone.  This is patent nonsense.

Maintainers are answerable to the technical committee in a few ways
("decide on any matter of technical policy", "...any technical matter
where Developers' jurisdictions overlap", and "overrule a developer"),
presuming we don't decline to consider the issue on the grounds it's
insufficiently technical.

> Branden seemed to be suggesting that he would formally issue a
> statement saying that certain people were delegates.  I think that
> would have been a mistake.

One issue with delegations is that only grant extra powers, not extra
responsibilities. So when they're removed, only those extra powers
disappear... If they weren't needed in the first place, does that actually
provide any accountability?


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