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Re: RFC: General resolution: Clarify the status of the social contract

On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 12:18:01PM -0800, Russ Allbery wrote:
> I think these have the same flaw as our current situation: none of them
> state who interprets the Social Contract and the DSFG if there is a
> dispute over what they mean.  

If there is a dispute in Debian, there are three levels at which it's
dealt with formally:

   1) the maintainer asks for advice, and decides

   2) the technical committee reviews the technical impact of the decision,
      and offers advice, adjudicates or overrules (const 6.1(2,3,4))

   3) the developers as a whole decide by general resolution

Informally, the DPL (and others) can influence the people responsible at
point (1) pretty effectively, and the tech-ctte at point (2).

I guess there's some small possibility that there's a relevant impact
to a social contract decision that's both completely non-technical and
in some way enforcable, but I can't think of one. And there's the GR
process as back up then, anyway.

> Witness the arguments that led up to the "editorial changes" GR, for
> example.

Up until that social contract amendment GR, the relevant maintainers
decided (some maintainers split packages, others didn't, and the
ftpmasters accepted packages into main so long as the programs in the
package were DFSG-free). It wasn't referred to the tech ctte iirc,
and eventually there was a GR.

That went fine, with the exception that perhaps people didn't give
enough attention to that GR, in the context of the attempts to freeze
and release sarge, the just finished "don't drop non-free" GR, and the
2004 DPL elections.

Obviously the result of the GR turned out to be arguably ambiguous in
and of itself, though I still don't think I've seen anyone saying that
releasing non-free documentation/firmware/etc complies with the current
text. It certainly turned out to be a surprising result to many, at least.

In any event, at the first stage, my interpretation (as maintainer of
the release and I guess to a lesser extent as one of the ftpmasters)
was it meant we needed to immediately drop non-free stuff and I posted
to -devel to that effect [0], offering all the alternatives I could
see. There were lots of responses, and they quickly got heated enough
[1,2,3,etc] that I metaphorically threw my hands up in the air to let
the other mechanisms operate (and eventually stepped down as RM). The
tech-ctte didn't go anywhere [4], the GR process did [5].

[0] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/04/msg01929.html
[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/04/msg01959.html
[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/04/msg01996.html
[3] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/04/msg02664.html
[4] http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2004/05/msg00004.html
[5] http://www.debian.org/vote/2004/vote_004

That seems to me to have been a perfectly adequate way of resolving
disputes then, I don't see why a different one would be needed.

> Otherwise, even if we say the social contract is binding, it doesn't
> resolve the current problem or future problems like it.

Wouldn't it be nice to know if we consider the social contract explicitly
binding though? Not everyone did then [6] or does now [7], eg.

[6] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/04/msg02022.html
[7] http://www.earth.li/~noodles/blog/2008/12/debian-king-of-procrastination.html

In any event, as far as the current problem is concerned, is there anyone
who thinks the current situation complies with the social contract as it
stands today? If not, in what doesn't knowing that the social contract
is binding (along with what we actually want the social contract to say
wrt this) resolve the current problem?

aj, who personally thinks Debian would already be 100% free stuff in
    main (docs, fonts, firmware, blobs, etc), if we hadn't distracted
    outselves by promising it prematurely

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