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Re: Firmware & Social Contract: GR proposal

On Tue, Sep 05, 2006 at 01:52:51PM +0200, Sven Luther wrote:
> Indeed, but the fact that "delay until sarge release" won by a large majority,
> shows that our DDs did indeed reaffirm the new SC, 

In my opinion, it shows that at the time that was the best option on
the table. One option that wasn't on the table at that point was having
a proper discussion about what the social contract should contain. The
reason that wasn't on the table was that the sarge release was a higher
priority, and there wasn't much chance of a useful debate in the meantime.

> The fact that you made a huge statement back then about this, by resigning
> from your RM position because of this further muddies the water about it.

Actually, I made no statement about it whatsoever, either in the followup
vote (in which I deliberately abstained by voting all options equally),
nor in resigning (when I declined to comment publicly). I haven't
commented on it since then until this year, as part of trying to meet
the current social contract by getting the GFDL situation resolved
earlier this year, and now, since we seem to be having the exact same
problem again.

> > > Well, i believe that both of them basically said the same thing. 
> > Yes, we've had that discussion; the key point is you used the word
> > "software" to cover more of the contents of main, than others did.
> Well, but do you truly believe that this was not the original meaning of the
> original social contract ? 

Yes, I do believe that "software" only covered programs, not "everything". 

It's what I thought I was agreeing to when I read the SC as part of
signing up. The archives of -private on master during the SC/DFSG
discussions match that impression, to my mind:

] The reason for Debian to be free software is so that our users can do
] cool stuff with it without running into legal problems. I would prefer
] not to make the document sound more like a "Pledge of Allegiance to Free
] Software", lest we be seen to be marching after ideology regardless of the
] end product and the users. The document is a contract we offer to our
] community about how we will behave with that community. We offer it to
] the people, we do not lay it upon the altar of free software.
    (June 1997)

] It is not a legal document, it's a social one. Thus, I eschew the extremely
] careful language of a legal document in favor of something short and simple
] that communicates our philosophy without boring or intimidating the reader.
    (June 1997)

] > There is no mention in the "social contract" that source formats for
] > documentation must be provided and that we must be able to modify the
] > documentation.
] I suppose you could read it that way, but it's not meant that way.
] I know of one potential Debian package that places a different copyright
] on the documentation than the program, but I don't know of any where the
] documentation is not available in source form.
] I'm willing to wait for the problem to happen before we address it.
    (July 1997)

> If anything else, it was strongly reafirmed in the
> last of the pre-sarge non-free GRs. I mean, it did win and achieve the 3:1
> supermajority, no ?

Compared to reverting to the ambiguous original social contract, with
no explicit clarification, nor any specific intention of doing better,
"delay to sarge" beat "rescind entirely" by 257:122 votes (about 2:1),
which was the weakest defeat of that option (compared to 301:45, 271:77,
273:86, 322:55 and 339:45). 

As I've said, I think it's worth reconsidering at this point.

> > > > I think:
> > > >     (b) The term "software" as used in the Social Contract shall be
> > > >         presumed only to cover programs, scripts, libraries and similar
> > > >         executable works to be executed directly as part of the Debian
> > > >         System.
> > > And the rest is what ? Hardware ? 
> > Firmware, documentation, images, sounds, videos, fonts, etc.
> Software has only a meaning in opposition to hardware, all the above clasify
> as software in this most common of original definitions of the word, and
> firmware foremost of them.

Again, I'm aware you prefer a different definition. dict/FOLDOC is aware of it

     Some claim that {documentation} (both paper and electronic) is
     also software.  Others go further and define software to be
     programs plus documentation though this does not correspond
     with common usage.

> Why would we need an alternative social contract. 

Because we are unable to meet the terms of our current social contract,
and it doesn't actually reflect the priorities of our users or the free
software community -- and supporting those groups of people is the entire
point of our social contract.

Personally, I think there are other reasons to review it too -- I don't
think explicitly naming "contrib" and "non-free" is a good idea; I think
it's currently quite cumbersome and legalistic -- when I want to find
something that reminds me of why I think free software's important, I
don't find our social contract a particularly good expression of it. When
trying to promote free software and Debian, I find our experience with
our social contract over the past few years tends to be a distraction
from the very principles it's trying to promote -- making the best free
operating system possible, and getting that into the hands of our users
and the free software community.


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