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Re: GR idea related to ongoing licensing discussions

Josip Rodin <joy@entuzijast.net> writes:
> On Wed, Jun 06, 2007 at 10:40:57AM -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:

>> I disagree strongly with the latter part of that statement.  Various
>> people are still *upset* about the Editorial Changes GR, but at least
>> from where I'm sitting, it did a lot to resolve the *argument*.  In
>> other words, there are far fewer people now arguing that the project
>> really does intend to allow non-free documentation in main.  There are
>> more people upset about the fact that the project doesn't want to do
>> this, but that's inevitable and more honest than the previous state.

> Umm... the way I read this paragraph was - we didn't actually make any
> real progress, but the back-and-forth movement was made in a direction
> that you find honest (and therefore preferable[1]), so it's okay? :)

I'm trying to draw a distinction between two different things:

 1. Does Debian have a clear policy?
 2. Are people happy with that policy?

Prior to the GR, I believe the answer to 1 was no, which has practical
problems.  Different DDs were doing different things, the RMs had no clear
guidance on what to allow into the release or not, the ftpmasters had no
clear guidance on what to allow into the archive or not, and the status of
non-free documentation was in limbo.  This makes everyone's job harder and
meant that we had regular ongoing discussions about which the project
really wanted to do that mostly turned into rehashings of people's
personal opinion.

Before the GR, the answer to 2 was often also no, since people were
unhappy with what the RMs would say or what the ftpmasters would say, or
unhappy with what people filed as bugs, but since there was no official
policy, some of the people who were unhappy would just ignore the whole

After the GR, I believe the answer to 1. became yes.  We decided on a
clear policy for the project as a whole, we provided clear direction to
project delegates, and we reached a conclusion on what would be in main.
It then became clear what bugs were RC and what bugs weren't (at least in
the long run; I don't want to get into the short-term issues), developers
knew what to expect, and we got clarity.

As a result, the number of people upset under 2 increased because the
people who were able to just ignore the issue when there was no clear
policy couldn't ignore it any longer.  There was therefore more public
disgruntlement because we actually made a decision and it wasn't in the
direction that everyone wanted.

My argument is that people being unhappy with decisions is inevitable
unless we only make uncontroversial decisions, and there are some
decisions we have to make.  Either we were going to allow non-free docs in
main or not.  Not making a decision, not answering yes to point 1, was
somewhat dishonest in that in the long run it meant we were making an
implicit decision to allow them without saying so or, alternately, hanging
the RMs and ftpmasters out to dry by making them enforce something with no
clear project consensus.  We should not avoid making clear decisions just
because it will expose people's unhappiness with the direction, because
not making the decision is *also* a decision which *other* people will be
unhappy with.

Far better to make a clear decision so that people know where they stand.
Then, if they feel like the project is going in the wrong direction and
they want to try to reverse that decision, or even feel like they need to
leave the project because of it, at least it's all straightforward, open,
and clear.  There isn't the murky "well, we actually made this decision
but we're going to pretend that we didn't since we don't want you to be
upset about it" feeling.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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