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Re: A GNU “social contract”?

From: Alfred M. Szmidt
Subject: Re: A GNU “social contract”?
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2019 15:59:38 -0400

   > How is this any different than what we have on our web pages already?
   > I've asked this now on several occasions, and nobody seems able to
   > answer this simple question.

   The idea would be to have a short, concise document which summarises what
   the GNU project is about and what persons with responsibility in the project
   are expected to heed, and behind which the community can rally. 

Ok.  So that sounds like a good idea, but how is this different from
what is sent to GNU maintainers today when they are dubbed as
maintainer (I attached it at the end of this message)?  It seems to
tick all the boxes...

Contributors don't need to agree to anything, and don't even need to
understand what GNU is about.

   The Debian Social Contract uses the words "a set of commitments
   that we agree to abide by". I do not think we have something like
   this already, but please feel free to point it out if I am

Indeed, and that is on purpose.  Since this is a volunteer project, we
really cannot have stringent commitments at all.


Being a package maintainer is a relationship between you personally
and the GNU Project.  The maintainer or maintainers are the ones who
take the overall responsibility for the work done on the package, on
behalf of the GNU Project.

If you recruit others to contribute to the package (and some packages
have hundreds of contributors), they work under your supervision.  You
can delegate some of your authority to them, but you can also take it
back.  Please make sure they don't come to think that you have ceded
your authority to them and that they no longer have to follow your

The GNU Project will sometimes need to talk with you, sometimes
privately, so please make sure we know a personal email address which
you read frequently.  We normally publish these email addresses in the
Free Software Directory.  We would also like to know other ways to get
in touch with you if email fails; we do not give them out.

If you ever want to step down as maintainer, or would like someone
else to replace you, please talk with about it.
When a package has no maintainer, we need to know about the problem so
we can look for a new one.  The program remains a GNU package
unless/until the GNU project decides to drop ties with it.

Likewise, if you think someone else should join you as co-maintainer
or take over from you as maintainer, please suggest that to us, since
we will need to establish a relationship with that person.  A person
cannot become a GNU package maintainer except by being appointed by
the GNU Project.

Your appointment as maintainer is provisional at first.  We'll make
your appointment full and permanent when we see that you're doing the
job.  Usually that means we see that you've made a release properly,
with the changes that the next release ought to have.  However, if
making a proper release involves a lot of work, and will therefore
take a long time, we could appoint you full maintainer when we see you
have made a good start on the job.

Please tell us the first time you're about to make a release, so we
can guide you on doing it properly following our conventions.

The GNU maintainer information in
describes a lot of procedures for GNU maintainers.  It also
describes who you can ask for various kinds of support or advice.  If
you encounter a situation where it isn't clear what to do, you can
also ask, which is a list of a few other GNU
maintainers who have offered to answer questions for new maintainers.

We will add you to the gnu-prog mailing list, a moderated list for
announcements to GNU maintainers.  We will also add you to the
gnu-prog-discuss list, which can be used for discussion among GNU
maintainers, but whether to stay on the list is up to you.

We strongly recommend using to make distributions
available.  Please see the GNU maintainers guide for the procedure,
When that is set up, you'll be able to do uploads yourself.  If you
want to also distribute the package from a site of your own, that is
fine.  To use some other site instead of is acceptable,
provided it allows connections from anyone anywhere.

Please write or update the web pages about the program, to put in  These pages should be the
main web site for the program, and they should really have the
information for users, not just a link to another site; please use whenever you give out the URL
for the home page of the program.  Please don't set up a "site for the
program" anywhere else--if you want to do work on additional web pages
about the program, please put them on

(It is ok to put pages that address developers-only topics on another
site, and likewise for pages that access databases.)

In writing the web pages, please follow the style guidelines in  See also

We ask that you register your package on Savannah, at least to maintain
your package's web pages.  This is independent of where the actual
program sources are hosted (although we encourage you to use Savannah
for that too).  This makes it easy to update the web pages, since you
will have access to a CVS repository for the web pages and can update it
as you like.  Using Savannah will help the GNU Project in other ways,
too.  To set this up, visit

Please also write an entry or a change for the page, and mail that to  Note that we don't want to talk about
proprietary software, so if you have worked on any, please don't
mention it here.  Your entry can include a link to your home page
provided it fits our usual criteria for what we link to.

Please update the program's entry in our Free Software Directory.  See for help.

Mailing lists: Your package should already have a mailing list for reporting bugs.  If not, please create it--see for the details of
creating mailing lists.

Some GNU programs with many users have another mailing list,, for people to ask other users for help.  If
your program has many users, you should create such a list for it.
For a fairly new program, which doesn't have a large user base yet, it
is better not to bother with this.

Please post announcements of new releases of the program to  Include a brief description of the program so people
can tell whether they are interested in using it.  The announcement
should mention the web pages on, and say where to get
releases, normally

You can also send announcements to a special list
for your program if you think that is warranted.  (This list should be

Please also mention release announcements in the news feed of the
savannah project site, <>.
The news feeds from the GNU project are aggregated at

For more details about writing and publicizing announcements, please see

For details on all policies and recommendations for GNU packages,
please see the GNU maintainers information, at, and GNU coding standards, at

For the basic ideas of GNU and free software, please read these essays:

new-gnu people, could you please enter Marius, Tobias and Maxim in
gnuorg/maintainers and add them to the gnu-prog lists?

Savannah hackers, could you please ensure that they are administrators
of the project on Savannah (if there is one)?

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