01.14.22

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Scientific Excellence and the Debian Social Contract

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 9:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 36cf190fdd0c12e45c5f7a57abbf9449
Corporate Politics in Debian
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The Debian Project turns 30 next year; in spite of it being so ubiquitous (most of the important distros of GNU/Linux are based on Debian) it is suffering growing pains and some of that boils down to corporate cash and toxic, deeply divisive politics

THE Debian Project, despite the widespread adoption of GNU/Linux globally, certainly isn’t going through easy times. The Debian Social Contract ought not be undermined by political hacks (pseudo-tolerance); it should prioritise science. Yesterday, for the second time in a row, Debian revealed that it had only recruited one Debian Developer per month. As I show in the video above, in past years and even some recent years they could recruit half a dozen or more per month. Last night Dr. Norbert Preining sadly announced that he would leave many Debian packages orphaned; those of us who use Debian know just how important those packages are (even KDE!) and finding a person to fill his shoes would be very difficult as he’s very experienced.

“Suppression of speech in the name of appeasing passive-aggressive bullies is always a bad strategy.”But his decision did not exactly shock me. Going a few years back, he said that his “demotion to Debian Maintainer is – as far as I read the consitution [3], the delegation of DAM [4], and the DAM Wiki page about their rights and powers [5], not legit since besides expulsion there is not procedure laid out for demotion, but I refrained from raising this for the sake of peace.”

They did the same thing to Daniel Pocock and then acted all shocked when he was upset, especially considering the fact that this was done as retribution for his FSFE ‘whistleblowing’ (telling Fellows, as their elected representative, that the FSFE wasn’t giving them their money’s worth). The attacks on Dr. Preining left him bruised as colleagues were choosing sides along superficial lines. People who didn’t (and still don’t) write any code were sucking the fun out of the project and sucking the life out of the community by dividing it along lines such as “pronouns”, not technical work. The video above goes through some of the events that interjected toxic politics into this technical project, causing scientists such as Preining to gradually lose interest, at least judging by the frequency of his posts in recent years.

Debian needs to regain stability, not by gagging people but by re-evaluating the way it treats dissent. Suppression of speech in the name of appeasing passive-aggressive bullies is always a bad strategy.

“I presume it is part of the sea change in the project that occurred with the TC takeover / intrigue which shoehorned 4th place choice, systemd, throughout the distro,” an associate of ours noted yesterday. “There have been many other scandals since then. There are two conflicting situations affecting all potential developers there and elsewhere. One is that volunteer project members want to focus on the code and not CoCs and other barriers to focusing on the code. The other is, as RMS points out, you can ignore the politics but the politics won’t ignore you. Those two facts cause problems where they collide.”

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