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Re: Please drop/replace the use of the term "diversity"

On Wed, 27 Nov 2019 at 11:27:13 +0000, Chris Lamb wrote:
> May I gently request we replace the use of the word "diversity"
> throughout the "init systems and systemd" General Resolution prior to
> it being subject to a plebiscite?

Thank you for raising this, Chris.

I agree. I have been uncomfortable with this in the context of "init
diversity" efforts, but I didn't raise it in the past because I couldn't
articulate clearly why I felt that it was a problem.  Since it's now
on-topic, here's my best attempt at that:

The diversity team, and wider efforts around diversity in Debian and
in software in general, have used "diversity" as a catch-all term for
personal characteristics of our contributors and community members when
discussing inclusion and how we treat people, as a way to avoid having
to enumerate specific characteristics (which would tend to lead to focus
on those characteristics at the expense of others).

If we use the same word in discussions around technical decisions, this
raises some concerns for me. Jokes about the emacs and vi religions
aside, technical preferences are not really the same thing as the
characteristics we normally refer to by "diversity". Of course, we
should treat the people who hold those preferences with respect, but
that isn't the same as considering implementation of their preference
to be an ethical imperative for Debian.

To take a deliberately slightly absurd example, preferring Gentoo over
Debian is not an inclusion or diversity issue; we welcome constructive
contributions to Debian from people who would prefer to be using Gentoo
(notably some of our upstreams!), but we do not consider it to be an
ethical imperative to expand the scope of Debian to encompass everything
Gentoo does.

I would hate to see diversity and inclusion of people (the meaning of
the word used in the name of the Diversity Team) harmed by creating a
perception that the term "diversity" has been devalued by stretching
it to encompass technical preferences, because I think diversity and
inclusion of people is much too important to let that happen.

Conflating diversity of people with diversity of implementation could
easily also harm our technical decisions, in either direction:

* it could influence technical decisions away from making a choice as
  a project, and towards creating infrastructure to make that choice on
  individual systems, by developers who do not wish to be perceived to
  be opposing "diversity" in the interpersonal/Diversity Team sense of
  the word;

* conversely, it could influence technical decisions *towards* making a
  choice as a project, and *away from* making that choice on individual
  systems, by developers who might believe this use of "diversity" is
  disingenuous (even if it was not intended as such).

The extent to which we make choices project-wide, and the amount of
technical cost we are willing to accept to be able to make those choices
onto individual systems, seem like something that we should decide based
on their merits. Whatever the result of the imminent vote might be,
I would like it to be chosen for the right reasons.


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