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Re: Turning GNU into a bottom-up organization

From: Mark Wielaard
Subject: Re: Turning GNU into a bottom-up organization
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2019 12:20:53 +0100

Hi Brandon,

On Sat, 2019-10-26 at 15:19 +0100, Brandon Invergo wrote:
> On Mon, 2019-10-21 at 17:08 +0200, Mark Wielaard wrote:
> > In practice GNU already is mostly a bottom-up organization, where the
> > GNU hackers that do the actual work shape the project, but it would be
> > nice to make it more formally so.
> As I have already described to you and the others elsewhere, this is a false
> depiction of how GNU is organized.  I'll copy the text below as a reminder.
> The main message of that original text was that if you are genuinely worried
> about GNU there is a ton of stuff that you can do today, no revolution
> necessary.  However, the general problem is that everyone is more interested 
> in
> talking about the future of GNU than doing the actual work to keep it alive
> today.

I think we actually agree more than we disagree on what makes GNU. At
least I agree with 95% of your message how many people are really
involved and make GNU happen. I am really happy you wrote it. I don't
think anybody wants a revolution. But people are genuinely confused
about how GNU really works. If all we get out of this is a public
description of how the GNU projects really work in practice and that it
is actually a big and vibrant community, then it has all been worth it.

> Also, Richard has already stated that he will not enact any radical
> changes, so this discussion is moot anyway.

This might be the only thing I might disagree with. But maybe we simply
disagree on the definition of radical. I think nobody wants radical
changes, but probably everybody would also say their own proposed
changes aren't radical. I know Richard is also looking for changes in
governance because he knows he cannot always make decisions himself. A
public discussion about this with all GNU stakeholders seems like a
good idea and long overdue.

One of the issues we have to face is that Richard sometimes acts in an
authoritative kind of way over issues he doesn't have, or the community
doesn't give him, authority of. And that is a problem for everybody.
But it is also unfair to say he always does that. As you describe so
nicely in your message below there are lots of groups in GNU that work
almost completely autonomous.

This article describes a bit of the tension around this subject:
"Rethinking the governance of the GNU Project"

> I keep seeing the comment (including on the wider web) that GNU is
> nothing more than a bunch of packages with maintainers and, somewhere
> floating in the ether above them, rms.  As a result, the perception is
> that GNU is somehow organizationally undefined.
> While package maintainers undoubtedly comprise the bulk of formal
> volunteers to the GNU project, saying that they are the entirety outside
> of rms is disrespectful to the hard work put in by all the volunteers
> that help the good ship GNU keep afloat through other means.
> Off the top of my head:
> gnueval: They tirelessly evaluate all of the software that gets offered
> to GNU.  This is a long and arduous process for each package.
> gnueval-security: They evaluate any particular security-related matters
> in new software offered to GNU.  Again, this can be a lot of work.
> gnu-advisory: They handle difficult and sensitive cases of conflict
> within the project.  They often occasionally are given in-depth research
> tasks by rms.  They must generally be on-hand for rms as needed.
>  They handle appointing new co-maintainers, finding
> new maintainers for packages when old maintainers step down, chasing
> down maintainers of stale/moribund packages, diffusing conflicts,
> monitoring the health of packages in general, keeping an eye on major
> breaks from policy by packages (e.g. recommending non-free software),
> and lots of other things that I'm forgetting at the moment.
> webmasters: Obvious
> Translators for Obvious
> Savannah hackers: They keep a core part of our infrastructure running.
> They also have to evaluate new non-GNU software that wishes to be hosted
> on Savannah.  They interface with to make sure that
> maintainers are fully set up on Savannah to carry out their jobs.
> GNU Education Team: They are working towards adoption of GNU & Free
> Software in schools.
> GNU Hacker Meeting organization: Generally done by whoever steps up to
> organize in any given year, but someone needs to do it.
> GSoC organization: As with GNU Hacker Meetings (but usually the same
> people)
> Yes, granted, in many cases those jobs are carried out by people who are
> also maintainers, but the point is that there is much more to keeping
> GNU running than just maintaining a collection of software packages.  I
> don't expect people from outside of GNU to be aware of it but it would
> be nice if maintainers didn't spread the impression that there is no
> work going on in GNU other than software maintenance.

Yes! Thank you. I think it is crucial to be more public and vocal about
this. We are all in this together and most of us don't just hack on
some code and don't care about anything else. All these GNU volunteers
are stakeholders in any governance discussion with their own
responsibilities and authority to make certain decisions.



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