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Re: Political climate of Debian

Helen Faulkner wrote:
> It is my impression that division over this issue is a fundamental
> aspect of what Debian is today.  The basis of the conflict seems to be
> expressed in part 4 of the social contract [1], which states that "Our
> Priorities are Our Users and Free Software".
> As I understand it, this statement doesn't place either the users or the
> freedom of the software as being more important than the other thing.  I
> assume that this was intentional - a deliberate piece of flexibility
> within the system.  However it perplexes me that Debian can claim to
> adhere to such a commitment, because of the potential for conflict
> inherent in it.
> I think that, for the forseeable future, there will be borderline cases
> where the needs of the users to have a usable system conflict with the
> freedom of the software.  I would like to think that software in general
> is increasing in freedom fast enough to make Debian increasingly usable,
> as compared to other OSs and distros.  However, I am not sure that this
> is the case, because new non-free software is also appearing all the
> time.  Maybe the point is that we need to be able to decide on a roughly
> case-by-case basis as to which new borderline situation should be judged
> in favour of the users or in favour of the freedom of the software?

I think it's important to read that part of the social contract in what
was (I think) the spirit it was written by Bruce. Yes, it is intended
that neither priority is more important that the other. But juggling the
two is not that hard, since the Debian project believes that free
software is in the long term the best way to meet the needs of our

Thus all the work that Debian does to promote free software, get
licenses changed to be free, and so on. At the same time the
pragmatasism that led to binary-only netscape being an apt-get away in a
default install of Debian circa slink, when there was no equivilant,
free web browser. And probably, after sarge is released, similar things
that will have to be done for non-free firmware and documentation.

I think that weighing short-term vs the long-term is a better way to
express the tension between the two priorities in the social contract
than other common ways it's stated, such as pragmatasism vs fanaticism,
or users vs free software. One can think, and act, with both long-term
and short-term goals in mind.

see shy jo

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