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Re: about the GNU promise

From: Mark Wielaard
Subject: Re: about the GNU promise
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2020 20:06:01 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.10.1 (2018-07-13)

Hi Benno,

On Mon, Feb 03, 2020 at 04:28:52PM +0100, Benno Schulenberg wrote:
> Maintainer of GNU nano talking here.  I haven't followed the whole discussion,
> but I've peeked at some of the archived emails, and was disheartened by the
> tone and attitude in some of them.  :|

We do try very hard to keep a kind and friendly tone on the
mailinglist, but I agree we don't always succeed. Thanks for sending
in your feedback anyway.

> Anyway... I've carefully read
> (Last modified: 2020/01/22 11:55), and here are my comments.
> Please don't call the document a Social Contract.  The first sentence says:
> "These are the core commitments of the GNU Project...".  In other words:
> these are promises.  A better title for the document would be:
>   The GNU Promises

I made a similar suggestion to call it "Our GNU Promises"
But do also agree it is not as snappy. I wouldn't mind a different title though.

> The first sentence continues with: "to the broader free software community".
> Well, why only to the free-software people?  I would say: "to the world".

Wouldn't that be a bit overreach? I like to be at least a little bit
focussed and practical. We are working on Free Software for users that
are open to using that software. We could say we do it for anybody
whether or not they are hostile to user freedom. But do we really
commit to do the work for everybody?

> The second sentence says: "The GNU Project provides a software system..."
> The word "system" is both too vague and too all-encompassing; it sounds as
> if it wants to be a single, massive block of software.  I would say that
> the GNU project "provides software packages...".  The second section then
> nicely elaborates a bit on this.

Yes, or maybe say operating system and software packages?

> I'm glad to see that the numbering in the first section goes from 1 to 4.
> Please don't use the numbering from 0 to 3, as in the email, because then
> the average person reading this would think that we are nerds and inepts.

:) I do think people in general do understand that zero is super
special, above and beyond any numbering. So don't really mind
myself. But counting from 1 seems more common indeed.

> The first section ends with: "the GNU Project pays attention and responds
> to new threats to users' freedom as they arise."  I applaud an organization
> that takes it upon itself to respond to such threats, but I as an individual
> maintainer cannot and will not make any such promise.

Is there a way we can formulate this better? The intent is to capture
situations when for example an user cannot effectively make use of the
four freedoms even though technically the software itself is Free

> The third section begins: "Free software extends beyond the GNU Project..."
> Huh?  Vague.  Does this want to say that there is also free software that
> is not part of the GNU project?  If yes, then say so.

Yes, that is basically what it wants to say. Do you have a suggestion
how to reword this sentence to be more clear?

> It continues: "which
> works with companion free software projects that develop key components of
> the GNU System".  Oof...  Who are those "companion free software projects"?
> How can such projects "that develop key components of the GNU System" not
> be part of the GNU project itself?  In short: what does this want to say?
> Where is the promise here?
> And then: "The GNU Project aims to extend the reach of free software to
> new fields."  Huh?  What new "fields"?  Again: what is the promise here?
> Is it that we intend to assimilate everything?

The original promise is to create an operating system, but the
definition of that expands over time and we do want to provide all
software that perform useful tasks for users as part of the system.

> The fourth section says: "The GNU Project wants to give everyone the
> opportunity of contributing to its efforts..."  To me this sounds as if
> the GNU project will not put any hurdles and conditions in people's way
> before they can contribute.  But in practice the GNU project requires
> that significant contributors sign a copyright assignment, and that
> translators sign a copyright disclaimer.  I think that these two things
> make the GNU project quite unwelcoming to possible contributors.  So,
> in my opinion, that sentence is rather untruthful.

I think the last sentence of that section is the most important
one. If we put that first, then I think the intent of the section of a
whole is more clear.

> Those are my two cents.



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