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Re: State of the GNUnion 2020

From: Dmitry Gutov
Subject: Re: State of the GNUnion 2020
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2020 01:44:02 +0200
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On 20.02.2020 15:45, Samuel Thibault wrote:

The activity by itself, yes, but the choice of where to start a new
project, or starting contributing an existing project, leadership does
have a lot of importance.

What kind of choice? Contributors come and go, largely depending on their
own needs and interests.

Yes, but also, and I believe most likely, depending on their knowledge
of project places (github vs gitlabs vs savannah) and the contact they
get with the people there. The GNU project is less and less known
compared to other free software platforms, so it'll get less and less

That is a problem. But one that wouldn't be solved simply by the leadership's say-so. GNU is usually all volunteers, and if existing developers don't accept the new project management platform, they won't use it. And vice versa, if they like it, the project can migrate to it unilaterally. With the exception of strictly proprietary stuff like Github, but it's out of the question for GNU anyway.

Depending on how flexible the core developers are, I guess RMS's recommendation on questions like that will have some influence. But so would enthusiastic, targeted advocacy toward the use of new tools. One doesn't really have to be RMS to work with individual projects and their contributors and discuss their choices and needs.

And it's a more difficult endeavor (think Mozilla-type initiatives) than
just releasing a document saying "hi all we don't discriminate and accept
everyone", which is basically stating the already obvious.

  From seeing the discussions here, it doesn't seem so obvious :/

Really? For all the shouting and stomping of feet, I haven't seen here any
one email stating or even implying that the gender or the race of a
contributor is somehow important, or that we'd turn somebody away because of

Sure, the contrary was explicitly said indeed. But anything one can
bring about not only acknowledging it, but also making efforts on
inclusiveness is mostly rejected with arguments like "it's too hard to
take care when writing something on a mailing list".

The argument was, in a typical programmer fashion, that a lot of things could be taken as "harassment", and so a subjective thing like that can't be explicitly disallowed. And that our existing "kind communication guidelines" cover a lot of the same ground already.

Regarding punishing repeat offenders anyway, as we've seen just recently, you can't censor a determined individual on a public mailing list anyway. Limit their audience, sure, but banning them outright seems impossible. And I can hardly see the whole GNU project migrating off mailing lists.

On the flip side, an argument is made that your initiative might make GNU
more exclusionary because of the extra conditions on what it takes to be a
part of it.

At some point you have to exclude some people in order to include other
people, yes.  We can see that in various communities: when somebody is
having a toxic behavior and does not changes behavior even after strong
warnings, one has to exclude that person, because otherwise that person
will make a lot other people fly away.  Not taking the steps to exclude
the toxic person does mean excluding people that can not stand the toxic
behavior, even if that latter exclusion is not explicit.

That seems to be the ground of what some people do not understand here:
full inclusiveness can not work, there will always be some people you
will be excluding one way or the other, voluntarily or not.  Making sure
that the choice of who you exclude gets written down seems important to

This is a very common argument about CoC's. I was talking about something different. Forget harassment and antagonistic behavior.

If we declare that all of GNU should share a certain set of values, and especially that maintainers must share the free software values, whatever it really means in practice, *that* sounds exclusionary already.

For better or worse, a lot of my colleagues, and a lot of users and Emacs contributors (the main GNU project I contribute to) use proprietary OSes. Even the maintainers do (though not exclusively). I am not fond of that, but I started using Emacs in a similar position years ago, and I wouldn't want to exclude any of them from being a part of our project because their stance is more lax, or that their end goals are more utilitarian (at least for the time being).

And that is where your argument stops working.

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