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Re: The General Public Licence (GPL) as the basic governance tool

From: Eli Zaretskii
Subject: Re: The General Public Licence (GPL) as the basic governance tool
Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2020 17:50:54 +0200

> From: Ludovic Courtès <>
> Cc: Mark Wielaard <>,
> Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2020 22:04:36 +0100
> > I always thought that maintaining a GNU project according to the
> > guidelines I was communicated when I was appointed _is_ upholding GNU
> > values, that it's all there is in upholding them, as applied to my job
> > as the maintainer.  But you seem to be saying there's something else
> > there?  What is that?
> Quoth RMS¹:
>   GNU package maintainers have committed to do work to maintain and add
>   to the GNU system, but not anything beyond that.  We have never
>   pressed contributors to endorse the GNU Project philosophy, or any
>   other philosophical views, because people are welcome to contribute to
>   GNU regardless of their views.

That's just the tip of a very large iceberg.  I know it, you know it,
and every GNU maintainer knows it.  When we get appointed, we receive
a 1000-word message from RMS with some quite non-trivial instructions,
including, but not limited to, a pointer to maintain.texi as the place
to find specific policies and guidelines that are mandatory to follow.
That is what I alluded to when I said "maintaining a GNU project
according to the guidelines".  I don't know how things are on your
plate, but for me following those guidelines takes most of my free
time, and requires some non-trivial efforts.

> The GNU Social Contract is about changing that. 

How can you change that if the document is voluntary?  That's exactly
the essence of my questions, and I don't see any answers in what you

> > The fact is that those same people who wrote the document
> The document was drafted on this list, with a call for an additional
> feedback period.  You could have been one of those people, and you can
> become one for a future version.  The goal has always been to have as
> many maintainers as possible on board.
> > and promote it are those who are promoting the ideas of changing the
> > leadership and the governance model.  You cannot work around of that.
> > It is IMO better to present these issues honestly and a objectively as
> > possible than to try to sweep them under the carpet.  It might make
> > the discussions more open and the sides more trustworthy towards one
> > another.
> That some of us want to change the governance of GNU is not a mystery.
> Our first message to maintainers¹ and the endorsement page² read:
>   Additionally, we think it can be a first step towards formalizing a
>   transparent and collective governance of the GNU Project.

I think you are missing the point.  You are asking people to endorse a
document, but it's unclear whether the document is a goal in itself or
a step in some direction, and if the latter, then what exactly is that
direction.  "We think it can be a first step" doesn't cut it: is it
the first step or isn't it?  If it is, then I at least would like to
know where you are aiming, and I'd like to see it written clearly and
unequivocally on your site, including any controversy that might exist
about those goals (so people could consider them and make up their
minds).  You see, I'm somewhat picky in choosing documents which I
sign, and would like to understand better what kind of movement I'm
joining by doing so.  I expect that at least some of us here think the

Moreover, being involved in a campaign to diminish and unseat the
current leadership for reasons that are controversial at best puts you
at a disadvantage, because there could be a reasonable assumption that
this document is part of that campaign, and if that is so, then people
might decide they don't want any part in that.  If the document is not
part of that campaign, then onus is on you to convince us that it
isn't, and the best way of doing that is honestly and clearly mention
the issues and controversies on your site.  Keeping silence about that
just makes people wonder and ask questions, and is unfair towards your
audience, since it might trick some of them to make decisions they
will later regret.

> Now, I do think there is value in having maintainers endorse the Social
> Contract, regardless of the governance model one is aiming for: it can
> improve cohesion and allow for more delegation of responsibilities.

Details, please: what cohesion are we talking about, how it will
depend on whether I did or didn't endorse the document, and which
responsibilities you expect to be able to delegate to those who
endorse it.

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