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Re: assessment of the GNU Assembly project

From: Ali Reza Hayati
Subject: Re: assessment of the GNU Assembly project
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2021 14:43:06 +0430
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Dear Andreas,
I hope you're well buddy.

The GNU Assembly is NOT a subset of the GNU Project or the Free Software Foundation. I don't know what their intentions are, if they're advocating for free software philosophy I support their purpose but that doesn't mean it's OK to in any form or way make people avoid the GNU Project.

Please don't post about it here as it most likely hurts the GNU Project. The gnu-misc-discuss mailing list is for "General GNU project and free software discussions" as stated on

What they state on their website somehow implies that the GNU Project has a hostile environment and is toxic to people. Saying their community is harassment-free (which is basically impossible because they can punish those who harass not prevent them) implies that the GNU Project is a place for harassment.

The GNU Assembly got attention exactly after the recent false and based-on-lies claims against RMS and I believe how they wrote their code of conduct is in fact pointing to those controversies. Please stop it. You're free to talk about anything but if it's hurting the GNU Project or the Free Software Foundation, you have to stop doing it here.

If you want to help them, I believe they have their own mailing lists.

Thank you.

Please note that I am an individual and I'm not talking on behalf of the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, or RMS.

On 18/04/2021 23:57, Andreas R. wrote:
In this mail I try to provide an overview of the "GNU Assembly"
initiative in relation to the GNU project.

- The main page,, states:

"Welcome to the GNU Assembly!"

Currently the Assembly consists of GNU maintainers. As such using "GNU"
as part of "GNU assembly" is not misleading or inappropriate. They are a
subset of GNU, and distinguish themselves from the larger GNU project by the
distinct qualifier "Assembly".

"We write free software" where "free software" links to

As far as I can tell, their definition of "free software", other than their 
numbering is in line with the official definition at

To wit:

-The freedom to run the program as the user wishes, for any purpose.
-The freedom to study how the program works and to change it to suit their 
-The freedom to redistribute it.
-The freedom to distribute copies of modified versions.


-The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
-The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your 
computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition 
for this.
-The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others (freedom 2).
-The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 
3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from 
your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Their definition is less complete, but seems to contain no contradictions or
misleading information.

"Here’s what “GNU” means to us:"

The bulk of the main page is a set of novelty "backronyms" of GNU to illustrate
their purpose, none of which are in direct conflict with the actual GNU
project. They, as much as anyone, should be free to fill in what the GNU
project means to them and use and contribute to it as they see fit, even
as a self-defined exclusive club.

The main page includes a link, under "Governance, Not Unilateralism":
"GNU Social Contract 1.0"

This is clearly erroneous as there is no such thing as a "GNU Social Contract".

This would be trivial to fix by renaming it to "GNU Assembly Social
contract", but given its history it's unlikely that those who drafted it
would be willing to amend it.

The main page includes a link, under "This Group’s Not Uniform ":

Even though the GNU project has no code of conduct, it should be okay
for any self organising subgroup of GNU maintainers to adopt one. As far
as I can tell, there are no references or indications that this document
would apply to anything or anyone outside of the Assembly.

 From their mailing list:

There are some mentions of "the former GNU project" and "old GNU" by
individual members of the list, but these might be slightly provocative
ways distinguish between their initiative and the GNU project as a whole.

There are however other claims of direct usurpation of the GNU Project on their
mailing list, such as: "by creating this assembly, we affirmed that GNU
Project leadership is in our hands, collectively, as maintainers and contributors to 

As things are, holding beliefs about what a certain things constitute
doesn't conflict with the GNU project. To clarify, if someone declares
their house to be the newly founded dutchy of X, and themselves
royalty, but abides by every law of the land and only adds stipulations
that do not contravene existing regulations (e.g. every visitor to the
kingdom of X must wear a silly hat), that is certainly odd, but should
be no ground for the proper authorities to intervene or curtail their
freedom of claiming it is so.

There is also a proposal for inviting new software projects to the GNU project.

This would be a direct violation of the GNU Project's integrity.


Much as the EU parliament is able to accommodate and harbour an
"anti-EU" faction, there is no real reason, at this moment, for the GNU
Project to disavow or even undertake any action against the Assembly or
its members.

The only real transgression is the somewhat petty "GNU Social Contract",
which tries to imply by its name that it contains policy for the larger GNU
project. As stated previously, this was pointed out repeatedly to the
writers during the drafting stage, so it might be a deliberate attempt
to provoke an overreaction by some.

As things are, my recommendations would be:

-make clear that within the GNU Project's framework there is no such
thing as a "GNU Social Contract" so people new to GNU will not be
confused about their obligations.

-to monitor if the Assembly will add new software to the GNU Project
outside of the normal procedures and channels, and, if needed, inform the 
of the software that they are being misled.

-to be wary of the Assembly trying to alter the free software definition
so it would allow for non-free software (e.g. "ethical source") and
thereby subvert the goals of the GNU Project by association.

Other than that, I think the GNU Project's general "live and let live"
approach towards maintainers and project development hould be honoured,
even if some Assembly members appear to hold hostile opinions.

   Andreas R.

Ali Reza Hayati (
Libre culture activist and privacy advocate
PGP: 88A5 BDB7 E07C 39D0 8132 6412 DCB8 F138 B865 1771

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