09.02.20

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What Does Democracy Mean in Free Software Communities?

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software at 12:22 am by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

Yesterday, the message below was posted to the debian-vote mailing list.

Censors blocked it. It wasn’t received by list subscribers and it isn’t visible in the debian-vote list archive.

Can you see any possible way that this message violates the code of conduct used by this free software community?

In many free software communities, we accept that we contribute without the promise of anything in return.

In Debian, they gave us the promise of membership. Membership doesn’t mean much either, except the right to vote. But it turns out even that was a hollow promise. Enrico Zini from the Debian account managers team simply deleted a candidate from the Debian keyring in the same way that he would delete an unwanted file, just days before elections were announced.

enrico@debian:~$ dpkg --purge person
enrico@debian:~$ rm -rf serious/questions

Consider the countless things that volunteer has done for Debian and free software over more than twenty years, eight visits to new communities in the Balkans over the last two years and acting as an admin in Google Summer of Code, a huge responsibility that brought in significant revenue for Debian.

When Zini tampered with the keyring, no due process was followed, no reason was given to the volunteer and any reason made up after the fact has no credibility. But making stuff up retrospectively to justify bullying isn’t new.

Let me make that clear: for people not in the cabal, this ballot feels like it has been rigged before it even started. Certain people resented an independent candidate succeeding as FSFE Fellowship representative and think they can obstruct similar candidates in Debian.

Given there has already been extraordinary stress for people during the crisis, it is more important than ever for the debate about this platform to take place. An event this serious has ramifications for all free software communities because volunteers everywhere are losing faith in all of us.

If you would like to see a transparent and credible election debate proceed in Debian or if you would like to comment for or against any candidate, please write to the debian-project mailing list (subscribe, post). (NOTE: multiple people complained their attempts to send messages about voting were censored/blocked on official Debian mailing lists)

Subject: Re: Debian Project Leader Elections 2019: Call for nominations
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2019 06:16:06 -0700
From: Mike Bird <mike@soundsailors.com>
To: debian-vote@lists.debian.org
CC: Debian Project Secretary - Kurt Roeckx <secretary@debian.org>

On Sat March 9 2019 19:44:17 Steve Langasek wrote:
> There are no provisions in the Debian constitution for non-Developers to be
> nominated for the position of DPL.

The Debian Constitution provides that Developers may nominate
themselves.  There is no prohibition against non-Developers
nominating themselves.  There is no requirement that the DPL
be a Developer.

Compare the Speaker of the House in the US for whom membership
is not required[1,2].   The members may if they choose elect a
non-member Speaker.

Under the Debian Constitution there is now a candidate, the
nomination period has closed, and no more candidates may be
nominated.

Should you disagree with the long-overdue reforms highlighted
in Daniel's excellent platform you can of course vote None Of
The Above.

--Mike

[1] "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker".
[2] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speaker_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives

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