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

From: Alexandre François Garreau
Subject: Re: The General Public Licence (GPL) as the basic governance tool
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2020 03:14:45 +0100

Le dimanche 23 février 2020, 22:34:32 CET Ludovic Courtès a écrit :
> Hi,
> Eli Zaretskii <> skribis:
> >> From: Ludovic Courtès <>
> [...]

> >> The GNU Social Contract is about changing that.
> > 
> > How can you change that if the document is voluntary?
> Endorsers will know what to expect from each other and people who work
> with them will have a clearer picture, too.

So it doesn’t change it.

> >> 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
> > same.
> We did spend some time to make the message concise, clear, and
> to-the-point.  :-)  Let me explain it with more words:
>   The goal of this document is to state the core values GNU maintainers
>   and uploaders and contributors who have endorsed it are committed to
>   uphold.  It is both an agreement among us, GNU contributors, and a
>   pledge to the broader free software community.

This doesn’t explain anything more.  This “value” is too abstractly 
expressed to retire anything concrete… could you give concrete examples, 
of what could that change? because otherwise “we” can think it as meaning 

>   Additionally, we think it can be a first step towards formalizing a
>   transparent and collective governance of the GNU Project.
> Note the “additionally” adverb here: we (the authors) think endorsing
> the document has intrinsic value for the project, regardless of one’s
> ideas on how the project should be run, but _additionally_, some of us
> think it’s a first necessary step towards collective governance.

We can also note the “we think it *can*” which is really broad and permits 
pretty much anything… is it or not? why can it? why couldn’t it? if it 
can, what will make it be it, and what not? does something necessarily 
have to happen, for a first step toward it to happen, and be qualified as 

Also both “transparent” and “collective” are unclear.  As it is already 
pretty transparent (but was scarcely distributed around, until /
gnu/gnu-structure… but you could still ask the various commities each time 
they would come to light, or rms himself… I’d doubt they would be 
reluctant to answer, from the moment they have enough time to answer 
that), and collective (it is not purely individual as rms delegate pretty 
much everything, and there are a lot of commities… which are, de facto, a 
collective thing).

So consider your vision of “collective” is not others’, and your 
consideration of “opacity” is not shared… so you should explain those… 
because until then, we absolutely don’t know what each potential 
participant to your initiative put behind these two words (and behind the 
concept of “first step”, “can be”, etc. as well).

As well as what these “intrisic value” are for… just to be beautiful? I 
find /philosophy/ already pretty beautiful, and the mere fact of 
*individually* agreeing with it is already pretty much good… but doesn’t 
change a thing (until you participate in one of the aforementioned 
commities… but that’s obvious)

> I hope that better answers your questions.

A little, but it way increase your likehood not to be frank and clear 
about what you want concretely :/

Sometimes we believe we are clear while stating things largely and 
unprecisely, because it feels obvious to us, because we forgot how do 
think people who think very differently from us… but then we *are* being 
unclear, and giving examples helps explaining what feels obvious, but 
actually isn’t.

> > 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.
> I do see that some people do not judge the document for what it actually
> says, and I think it’s a pity.

So you are going to acknowledge it, sit down, and do nothing in regards to 

Because it’s not others’ fault if this happens.

> Over the last decade I have, again, not been silent about a desire to
> work towards a collectively-run GNU.  But I’ve also done a lot for GNU
> in that time, and I don’t think it’s useful to view every single action
> of mine as “part of that campaign”.

Possibly.  But the way and timing this initiative have come participate 
pretty much to that view (and it’s not only because of your personal work, 
but also from other participants, don’t worry).

> >> 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.
> If you and I both state our commitment to upholding that set of values,
> then we have something in common that we can build on.  We know we’re on
> the same page.
> A project like GNU is the people who make it.

You keep repeating that but no.  GNU is software, not people.  GNU is more 
rms than community.  And even so: GNU is larger and older than the very 
concept of “community” as we intend it nowadays (and the communities that 
existed before were way more defined spatially, so you could apply your 
democrat ideas on them but not anymore to GNU), and likely will last 
longer than most “communities” existing today.  I think, even if it was to 
decrease in popularity or fame or use, GNU would remain a multi-
generational project that would survive not only to his authors but to 
*generations* who saw it… so if people keep dying, the very concept of 
community, in comparison, becomes more abstract…

In comparison, “software” is much less abstract.

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