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Re: A GNU “social contract”?

From: Ludovic Courtès
Subject: Re: A GNU “social contract”?
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2019 22:23:36 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/26.3 (gnu/linux)

Hi Mark,

Mark Wielaard <> skribis:

> I do like it. Thanks for just writing up a first draft. The headings
> seem pretty good as a starting point:
>    * GNU is software that respects the freedom of computer users
>    * GNU licenses uphold user freedom
>    * GNU is a consistent operating system and set of applications
>    * GNU cares for computer user freedom beyond software
>    * GNU collaborates with the broader free software community
>    * GNU welcomes contributions from all and everyone
> Although I wish we could combine some, 6 seems a bit much, 4 would be a
> much nicer/smaller number :) Points 1 (freedom), 2 (uphold freedom) and
> 4 (beyond software freedom) could maybe be merged together somehow?

Yes, like I wrote before, it would probably make sense to merge these 3
points (definitely for 1 and 2, IMO.)

> I appreciate the links to some of the existing documents in the
> explanations. But having them in kind of defeats the purpose of a small
> and concise social contract that should imho be self-explanatory.

Yes, the links were here mostly to clarify what I was referring to, but
I agree that a social contract should be self-contained.

> There is one thing I think it doesn't really capture. But maybe that is
> on purpose? That is that GNU has grown beyond just being about what the
> GNU manifesto originally described. Do we want the social contract to
> be about the narrow interpretation of the the GNU operating system, or
> about GNU as the core of the Free Software Movement? The first is
> definitely easier, the second is definitely harder. It might be that
> this will only work if we take as small a definition as possible. But I
> think we should try a bit to show it is about a broad movement.

I wrote “GNU is a consistent operating system and set of applications”.
That’s one way of acknowledging that GNU-the-software has grown beyond
what the manifesto envisoned, and it also leaves room for future
developments.  The motto “GNU is an operating system” doesn’t capture
what GNU actually is today.

Now, I think we want to position GNU-the-project as the core of the free
software movement, like you wrote.  And that’s why I thought that
mentioning collaboration with the rest of the free software movement
(something that has been hampered on several occasions in the past)
makes sense, as a message to fellow free software hackers and activists
in other projects.

> Basically the preamble that talks about GNU package maintainers (what
> about all those other GNU contributors!) plus point 3 (GNU is an OS)
> and point 5 (the broader free software community) kind of clash.

Ah yes, the preamble should talk about other GNU contributors, but as
discussed before, we’ll have to clarify somehow that we’re talking about
people who signed the contract (“members” of the project) and not

I hope this clarifies what I had in mind!


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