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[DotGNU]Gary's question about democracy

From: Norbert Bollow
Subject: [DotGNU]Gary's question about democracy
Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 10:10:55 +0100

Gary L. Sun <address@hidden> wrote:

> Yes. Give us how this list is determined.  What are those criterias ?

There aren't any precise, well-established criteria right now.  The
main principles are:

1. Uphold the standards and ethical principles of GNU and

2. DotGNU must be a solution to the vendor lock-in problem for

3. Within the constraints 1. and 2., cooperate as much as
   possible with other projects.

4. Within the constraints 1., 2. and 3., do whatever it takes to
   make DotGNU a winner.

> Do we have some degree of democacy or we are running this as
> an private enterprise ?

So far the only "institution" in DotGNU is the DotGNU Steering
Committee, which has been appointed by RMS.  So right now DotGNU
cannot be a democracy in the usual sense, simply because the
necessary democratic institutions and procedures have not been

I have thought about what it would take to turn DotGNU into a
true democracy.  It would have to be a _constitutional_democracy_
because there are standards and ethical principles of GNU and
FreeDevelopers which cannot be allowed to be simply changed by a
majority vote.  Also the core of the DotGNU vision (which makes
it a solution to the vendor lock-in problem for webservices) may
be refined, but not discarded.  There would need to be
structures in place which prevent people who do not agree with
these key things from "hijacking" DotGNU.  We would need to have
a constitution which defines some democratic institutions and
their responsibilities, as well as procedures for selecting the
members and the leaders of these institutions, as all as some
principles which the democratic institutions cannot change
without the approval of the sponsoring organisations
(FreeDevelopers and the GNU project.)  Setting this all up in a
way that actually works will require a lot of effort, as well as
trial-and-error.  Doing this here in DotGNU would be a huge
distraction, which we cannot afford.
So what DotGNU needs is a simpler structure that will still give
us most or all of the benefits of a constitutional democracy.  We
have established such a structure, as follows:

1.  DotGNU has a GNU-appointed Steering Comittee.

2.  However this Steering Comittee does not have things under
    control.  The Steering Comittee guides the DotGNU process
    by making recommendations to the projects.  (Example:  The
    "Draft list of 20 DotGNU development projects" is a draft
    for such a _recommendation_ document.  It is not meant to
    prevent people from working on things that are not on the

3.  Most actual decisions are made in the development projects.
    Each project has a leaders who establishes a decision-making
    process.  This does not need to be a democratic process,
    because projects which make bad decisions can be forked.
    (This possibility of forking makes mismanagement much
    less likely to happen, and hence there will probably not
    be a need for many forks.)

4.  Mailing lists have been established for facilitating a free
    flow of discussions on various matters related to DotGNU.
    Use of the lists in ways which harm the DotGNU project will
    not be tolerated.  Here are some examples of behavior which
    will not be tolerated:
    - making FUD-like claims without substantiating them upon request
    - "name calling"
    - advertising or recommending proprietary software in any way
    - making postings which seem to be illegal according to the
      laws of the country where the mailing list server is located
      (currently the USA).
    People who do such or similar things may be moderated,
    kicked off the list, or banned.  The offending postings may
    be removed from the list's archives.

Sooner or later there will also have to be a Business Committee
in addition to the Steering Committee.  Maybe this Business
Committee should be appointed by FreeDevelopers, or maybe it
could be elected through a democratic procedure?

Greetings, Norbert.

A member of FreeDevelopers and the DotGNU Steering Committee:
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet   (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59       Fax +41 1 972 20 69
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