05.16.21

Combatting Revisionist History (Post From 2015, Years Before IBM Bought Red Hat and Increased Vendor Lock-in)

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, IBM, Red Hat at 5:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A day ago (Debian Developer from Japan):

Debian Developer from Japan on systemd

Keanu Approves/Disapproves IBM: They tell us they combat racism; But more people find out it's a PR stunt
Smokescreen that serves to distract from the very racist nature of IBM and its founder

Summary: Today we republish this forum post from more than 6 years ago; in light of what IBM did to CentOS and its vicious attack on the founder of the GNU/Linux operating system we must understand the systemd agenda, which the FSF can more openly speak about now that there are no financial strings

I‘m something of a historian, I can’t help but be troubled by the revisionist history I see unfolding in the aftermath of the recent controversy over systemd. So, from the “you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts” department, as a kind of parting gift to this community, I’d like to do what I can to marshal what I perceive to be the pertinent facts into a single bucket.

Disclaimer: For the benefit of those who may stumble on this post without any knowledge of my feelings on the matter, it’s safe to call me the original systemd hater. In fact, it was my own headlong flight from systemd that originally led me to Debian in the first place. (And depending on your POV, that may constitute Yet Another Reason to hate systemd.) I make no claim nor pretense to "balance" or "fairness" regarding systemd any more than I would for, say, arsenic poisoning. My aim is to challenge and hopefully dispel certain memes that I see emerging from the systemd aftermath.

With that out of the way…

Systemd is not an init system
If someone characterizes systemd as an “init system,” you may safely assume that s/he is either utterly clueless or deliberately obfuscating the discussion. Calling systemd an init system is like calling an automobile a cup holder. Not even Lennart Poettering pretends that systemd is anything but the “Core OS” (sic).

What systemd is is an effort to re-create large portions of existing userspace (including login, job scheduling, and networking, just to name a few) inside a single process traditionally reserved for the sole purpose of starting *nix userspace. (Just in case it isn’t clear, there is a huge difference between starting userspace (init) and being userspace (systemd).)

At the end of the day, how one perceives this re-creation of existing userspace strongly influences one’s reaction to systemd. There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons to be troubled by this re-invention of the wheel; they range from the philosophical and aesthetic, to the technical and mechanical, even the purely political and brutally practical.

And that’s part of the problem when folks start to “debate” systemd. Very few folks have the chops to think about, much less talk about all of these areas simultaneously. As a result, the discussion becomes fractured and disjointed, in what is literally the textbook definition of bikeshedding. Suddenly, a talking head who’s never written a line of code in his/her life offers up an authoritative-sounding-but-utterly-bogus opinion on systemd’s maintainability. Add in the fact that folks on both sides (including Poettering himself) act as if name-calling is a perfectly good substitute for empirical evidence, and the “debate” becomes indistinguishable from white noise.

Speaking of noise…

There was never a systemd debate
Debian came late to the systemd party. Systemd has been controversial since its inception in 2010. During the intervening four years, people have fled and even forked distros over systemd. By the time Debian’s GR rolled around, anyone and everyone who was going to have a strong opinion about systemd already had it. Nobody was going to change their minds, thus there was no true “debate.”

We humans love to imagine that we are rational creatures, driven by logic and reason, capable of making reasoned, optimal decisions. Which is great except what we really are is short-sighted, pig-headed, and stupid. Psychology has a boatload of experiments that demonstrate that once you get to the choose-up-sides stage, then argument becomes dramatically less effective. (Google “confirmation bias” and “backfire effect” to learn more.)

The GR was not a mandate for systemd
I have no idea where systemd fanbois get the idea that a victory lap is appropriate.

The results of the GR vote were diluted and obfuscated by two non-resolution outcomes. Of the three technologically-relevant resolutions to the GR, one was unequivocally pro-systemd, the other two were contra-systemd, differing primarily in phrasing (essentially the difference between “must not” and “should not”).

(Aside: I confess to being a “must not” guy at heart, but I grudgingly admit that those who suggest that an absolute prohibition might prove unnecessarily inflexible or self-limiting might have a valid point. Maybe. But I don’t have to like doing it.)

But here’s the thing, and there is just no getting around it. Once you eliminate the ass-covering "no GR required" amendment, “systemd is a bad idea, the only real question is how bad” didn’t place third.

It placed first. By a substantial margin.

Conversely, “systemd is a good idea” didn’t place first.

It placed last.

If this surprises you, even a little, then by all means, go look it up. And for the love of whatever you hold Sacred, refrain from uttering a single word of GR-related drivel until you do.

(Edit: My exhortation above to refrain from drivel absent sufficient research was predictably futile. So, for the benefit of those who are unable or unwilling to do the math themselves, a pre-digested version of the analysis can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=20&t=120652&p=576562#p576502)

Speaking of the GR…

The GR was too necessary
As noted above, the only reason “systemd is a bad idea” wasn’t the outcome of the GR vote is because of the “political cover” amendment that allowed “This conversation is superfluous” to pretend to be the correct answer (which it absolutely isn’t).

In a dichotomous, up-or-down, yes-or-no vote (aka Option1 -vs- Option3), the Debian dev community is split 60/40 (or 40/60, depending on one’s POV) on the issue of systemd. When a large plurality of your engineering team tells you that you’re doing something fundamentally wrong, dismissing their concerns with “we don’t need no steenkin’ conversation” bespeaks a complacency bordering on negligence, all the moreso when when your actions have very, very large consequences. (Google “Challenger disaster” for more information.)

Which leads me to…

Debian isn’t other distros
Every time I see someone spout some variation of the bandwagon fallacy, or refer to Arch as a “major” distro, I have an urge to do harm.

News flash: There is exactly one Debian, and nothing–nothing–compares to it.

NASA doesn’t run Arch. Amazon and Google don’t rely on Mageia.

In terms of sheer impact on both the larger LinuxSphere and the global economy, there are exactly two “major” distros: Debian and RedHat. (SUSE is a very distant third, and everything else is just noise.)

A change in Debian affects mission-critical and life-critical software across the globe, touches literally tens of thousands of organizations, and ripples through a hundred derivatives and spinoffs.

So no, it doesn’t matter, not even a little, whether your desktop machine boots a few seconds faster or “seems to work ok” under systemd. The cost of downtime on a hobbyist machine is all-but-unmeasurable, whereas the cost of downtime on a scientific supercomputer is somewhere between large and catastrophic.

Speaking of costs…

Change costs, and big change costs big
There’s a reason why sysadmins in large organizations are routinely among systemd’s biggest detractors.

Downtime is expensive in terms of both time and money. So is re-training. So is rewriting gigabytes of artificially-obsoleted documentation. Add them all up, factor in the associated opportunity costs, multiply by a planet’s worth of installs, and before you know it, the cost to the global economy associated with systemd deployment reaches into the billions (or thousands of millions, if you prefer) of dollars/euros.

And for what exactly?

Even if systemd were a demonstrably superior technology (which it isn’t), adequately spec’ed (which it isn’t) elegantly designed (which it isn’t), well-coded (which it isn’t), properly documented (which it isn’t),or developed by a responsive and responsible community with a history of delivering robust and reliable software (*cough*pulseaudio*cough*), systemd would still be at best problematic, for one simple reason: it’s insanely expensive to implement, particularly given the fact that it doesn’t solve any actual problem.

Insofar as I’m aware, no one has ever articulated a value proposition for systemd that addresses its implementation costs, or comes remotely close to calculating a payback period. More to the point, no one has successfully articulated any value proposition for systemd that goes beyond “it’s better” or “it’s more modern.”

Global warming, antibiotic resistant bacteria, oilspills, and nuclear accidents are all “modern,” but that doesn’t make them good. And “better” is a meaningless term until and unless one specifies a metric or quantitative criteria that can be used to measure “better” in a systematic and reliable way. Otherwise, “new and improved!” is just marketing hype.

At the end of the day, the crux of the systemd question comes down to a matter of how much Unix one wants in one’s Linux. Casual users and hobbyists probably won’t care. Professionals will care deeply and passionately.

05.08.21

Pro-Software Freedom Advocates and Free/Libre Software Supporters Face Barriers Due to Domination of Communication Channels (Beyond the Media)

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNOME, GNU/Linux at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Safety… for the monopolies and for those in power

Censorship censored
The thing about censorship is, it’s hard to see the censorship (because it’s censored)

Summary: A carefully-checked assessment of an overlooked aspect surrounding the 'cancel mob', which incites and brainwashes people based on lies; there’s an attempt to control channels of communication (e.g. Open and Free Technology Community and Freenode) and to generally suppress people who support the founder of GNU/Linux

As we’ve just noted, foes of Free software sponsor and thus control a lot of the mainstream/corporate/mass media, including so-called ‘tech’ media where people like Dr. Richard Stallman are proudly defamed.

In social control media giants (like Twitter and Facebook), there’s a similar problem. They get to occlude or omit certain messages or messengers. Some get banned. Some get shadowbanned or throttled. This can easily distort public perception.

This morning an associate sent us a pointer to this new video about Twitter, noting that “journalists [are] getting warped perspective via Twitter…”

All they see is the cancel mob and the slander. Facts aren’t checked and truth isn’t being rewarded; it’s about emotion and corporate agenda, where some of the voices are literally sponsored (or salaried) by monopolies.

“Facts aren’t checked and truth isn’t being rewarded; it’s about emotion and corporate agenda, where some of the voices are literally sponsored (or salaried) by monopolies.”But it goes even beyond the mainstream media and social control media. Someone recently told us about Open and Free Technology Community (OFTC) and even Freenode, which Techrights has used for many years. So does the GNU Project, the FSF and many others.

To the people named or mentioned in this article the identity of the source may be easy to guess. To the casual reader, however, it won’t be obvious and it probably does not matter, either. The concern here is that voices are being removed (or censored or ‘canceled’), so we might be led to think that the FSF and Richard Stallman (RMS) are very unpopular. It should be noted that, as per Richard Stallman’s Web site: “On May 10, RMS will give a remote talk for the University of Buckingham Free Speech Society, starting at 7pm UK time.” That’s 2 days from now. So cancel culture failed. “RMS” or “Richard Stallman” is still ‘a thing’. He still gives talks.

The censorship is 'safe space'This is why they keep attacking him and have planned to attack him again even more than a month after he returned to the FSF's Board. The GNOME Foundation has been doing this for well over a decade! It always fails, but they do some damage in the process…

“I’ve been targeted by some of these same people for years,” a source told us, “and am trying to sort it out with OFTC and Freenode right at this very moment…”

We recently became aware that people were being silenced. And because they’re being silenced it’s hard to know that the silencing has been happening. It’s like a ritual mob. The source said s/he “may be able to provide information that will help your effort [...] a few years ago I was targeted in much the same way Daniel Pocock was and it went on for years — to the point where both OFTC and Freenode networks’ staff got involved [...] an ancient story now, but, ties in to current…”

Long story short, there seems to be a cabal of people with mixed loyalty or a conflict of interest. This begets censorship.

“Long story short, there seems to be a cabal of people with mixed loyalty or a conflict of interest. This begets censorship.”Some of this censorship has since then been clarified, even undone. But that takes a lot of effort and work because some staff has a conflict of interest, albeit not all. Bans can be lifted “by talking to their staff,” we’re told. So there’s a quasi-’political’ element to it all. We were told of some names of the people involved and would rather not reproduce the names here (it would be counterproductive).

Our source said that “the issue here is both of these people are tied up with the weirdness around Debian/GNOME Foundation and are leaking into positions of control at Freenode, which is a central hub of activity for the open source community, and are using that access control to suppress pro-RMS campaigning, which leads me to believe there will be another wave after all the key players who jammed up their last effort are gone.”

We’ve long said there would be another wave. GNOME Foundation has done this for over a decade, so why stop now? “I believe if the tensions increase,” the source told us, “the bad actors leaking over from OFTC/GNOME/Debian will absolutely engaged in reputation management operations or access purging to that aim [...] the small fry fish from that camp are targeting signers of the pro-RMS letter but not to any real serious impact, the more dangerous influencers will go for the people exposing this or investigating this…”

It ought to be clarified upfront that we’re not accusing OFTC or Freenode as a whole. They’re collectives of different individuals with different agendas and beliefs. “Freenode is not a ‘coherent’ entity in that they will have widely variant responses to this situation depending on which staff member you get,” our source noted. “It’s the ones that are also in with OFTC staff counts that are going to be the problem. [...] It’s the ones that are staff at OFTC that are staff at Freenode that are the problem there” (they issue bans in parallel).

“It’s the issue that matters and the pattern that’s relevant; the names of pertinent actors matter a lot less.”“Debian crossover and GNOME Foundation crossover is in every instance I’ve seen be[ing] the common association of every actor involved [...] What I’m getting at here is that these all involve coordinated behaviours from people all associated with the same project [and] it consistently ties back to Debian and their sphere of influence which includes [name redacted], [name redacted], and some of the other Freenode staff — not all of them. Freenode’s official position will probably stay neutral while these bad actors run amok [and] most of this can be verified if you map these people on a board and look at their project associations.”

Perhaps at a later stage we’ll reproduce and publish more information. For the time being, however, names have been omitted. It’s the issue that matters and the pattern that’s relevant; the names of pertinent actors matter a lot less. We know the names and we keep detailed notes. No need to admonish or vilify anybody.

04.29.21

With Sponsors Like These…

Posted in Debian, Deception, Free/Libre Software at 4:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Earlier today:

DPL and Ford

Last month:

DPL anti-RMS

Earlier this month:

Post by Chris Lamb, former DPL and former boyfriend of Bully de Blanc

Many years ago:

Ford and Nazism

22 years ago:

Ford and death camps

Summary: Does the Ford front group think it can embellish its image by liaising with former Debian Project Leaders who play a role in the campaign to undermine the Free Software Foundation?

02.28.21

On Gangstalking and Victim-Blaming

Posted in Australia, Debian, Deception, Free/Libre Software, Google at 4:05 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock


I will destroy you, threat, Washington

IT is ironic that the first person to depart the Biden administration was sanctioned for threatening somebody else’s career.

This week Marko Rodriguez went public with news that rogue members of the Apache Software Foundation had decided to persecute him for his commentary on social issues. The board had voted to reclassify satire as a form of prose that “borders” on hate speech. Either it is hate speech or it isn’t. To suggest it “borders” on hate speech is a fudge. The sly comparison of these very different types of writing is simply a smear to hurt his career.

To put this in perspective, board members who disagreed with this defamation did not only vote against it but also choose to resign.

Around Valentine’s Day, Brittany Higgins, a former employee of Australia’s defense minister went public with news about being raped on the ministerial sofa. The questions this woman raises are extraordinary, for example, if the Minister for Defense, Linda Reynolds, cannot defend her own direct reports, how can we rely on her to defend our country?

Brittany Higgins, AustraliaHiggins chose not to name the accused publicly. It appears she wishes to focus attention on the culture and the cover-up. Two independent news organizations, True Crimes News Weekly and independent journalist Shane Olsen have identified a suspect. There is now a twitter hashtag too. A Youtube video shows the former Attorney General, George Brandis, praising Bruce Lehrmann and other former staff in the presence of high court justices.

George Brandis (former Attorney General): All of us know how important staff are to us. We spend so much time together, mostly away from home. We share so many experiences that they become like a second family.

As the man departed days after the incident in 2019, it appears that the Government have had plenty of time to remove his name from virtually all official web sites although there is no super-injunction (yet) to prevent discussion of his identity.

Against this backdrop, Google admitted two female researchers subject to high-profile sackings may have been doing legitimate research. Like Rodriguez and Higgins, both of Google’s female victims had been threatened to self-censor, they refused, they were shamed, they bravely chose to put their persecution in the public domain.

All these cases inevitably remind me of other cases, the growing body count in the free and open source software world.

Higgins’ decision to go public helps us all see how a cover-up was built from day one. Her boss, Linda Reynolds, had suggested that pursuing a criminal justice complaint would destroy Miss Higgins’ career. In effect, the victim was blackmailed to stay silent. This is the thread that draws all these cases of oppression together. In December 2018, two long standing volunteers in the free, open source software world, Dr Norbert Preining and I, revealed how we were subject to blackmail and coercion in our respective roles. In our cases, we both received the veiled threats in writing:

Knife at throat, Debian Account Managers, DAM, blackmail

We are sending this email privately, leaving its disclosure as your decision (although traces in public databases are unavoidable)

In other words, they are saying that if we call out the coercive nature of their communications, they will seek to destroy us.

When you receive a threat like this from somebody with a history of publicly shaming people on a hideous scale, it really feels like they are holding a knife to your throat.

Chilling.

In my case, the community of volunteers and donors had clearly elected me as the fellowship representative so this blackmail was an attack on all those who voted. It was my duty to inform people and call it out.

The crimes were very different but the message seems to be the same: the organization must be protected at any cost. When those in authority do something wrong, the victims have to stay silent, grin and bear it or some gang will impose a bigger pain on the victim.

More on the former Debian Project Leader (DPL), Chris Lamb, giving negative references for volunteers

One volunteer sent me the following comments about Chris Lamb. Many people receiving copies of defamation have showed it to the survivors:

Volunteer: But I am scared that Lamb actually also hosed an application for a company in NY, a job related to Debian. If that has happened, and I can reasonably document it, I would consider a defamation law suit

When the leader of any organization, whether it is Apache, Debian or Google, uses the authority of their position to push defamation, it is like using the height of a bridge to stand above a freeway and drop bricks onto the cars underneath. Lamb may not fear consequences for his actions, his father is a barrister, Robert Lamb, who appears well qualified to stifle any volunteers seeking redress.

02.25.21

GNU/Linux Reaffirms Its Status as the Universal and Inter-planetary Operating System

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 7:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: The operating system made for and by scientists (not business sharks and marketing cults) is winning the battle, and not only in this planet

ABOUT 15 MONTHS ago Bruce Perens talked frankly about systemd, noting that it would harm Debian’s status as the universal (as in universe, i.e. inter-planetary) operating system. By that point it had already been adopted for usage in space, as I note in the video above.

“It’s worth noting that Windows is used just about nowhere outside this planet, whereas GNU/Linux rapidly became the norm and it gradually replaces the proprietary operating system long used in space (no, not Windows).”Over the past week we’ve seen many press reports/coverage/links about Mars landings and space exploration. The “Linux” slant on the story can be found in a page that’s still updated with more articles in an ongoing/dynamic fashion. It’s worth noting that Windows is used just about nowhere outside this planet, whereas GNU/Linux rapidly became the norm and it gradually replaces the proprietary operating system long used in space (no, not Windows).

02.13.21

Nicolas Dandrimont, Pauline (or Maria) Climent-Pommeret & Debian, Outreachy, GSoC Conflict of Interest Policy Scandals

Posted in Debian, Deception, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google at 12:34 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

The Fellowship has recently blogged about FSFE President Matthias Kirschner misusing screengrabs from video calls with interns.

We hate to see interns names and photos brought into these disputes. The Debian Project Leader has been asked to cease vendettas against other volunteers. He continues the vendettas, he continues to let rumours hang over the heads of innocent volunteers so we have no choice other than showing who is really guilty.

Nicolas Dandrimont (olasd), an administrator in both Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and Outreachy, sent the email below, announcing that his girlfriend would apply for an internship. Dandrimont indicates he would still lurk around the administration of the program. He takes a swipe at the RTC projects managed by another volunteer. Incidentally, those RTC projects have been essential for many Free Software communities to work remotely during the pandemic. This is the email from Dandrimont:

Subject: Recusing myself from Outreachy applicant selection decisions, internships funding

Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2016 12:37:46 +0200

From: Nicolas Dandrimont <olasd@debian.org>

To: leader@debian.org, outreach@debian.org

CC: [mentors, redacted]

Hey all,

As of today, the person I’m involved with, Pauline Pommeret, is applying to an Outreachy internship in Debian (on the GPG cleanroom environment project – I don’t see her mail on the list archive yet, so something must have gone wrong, but it should arrive soon enough).

To avoid an obvious conflict of interest, I am recusing myself for any decisions regarding applicant selections for this round.

I am of course still happy to serve as a liaison with the Outreachy program administrators, and to forward our applicants to them for general funding when selected, if the money allocated by Debian runs out.

This would especially be relevant, in my opinion, to RTC projects, as I’m not sure at all that we should fund them from Debian money directly. Karen Sandler also told me that one of the Outreachy sponsors was interested in funding interns on Reproducible Builds. All in all, we should be able to have two or three internship slots with Debian only disbursing one.

I’ll stay on the outreach@d.o alias for now, but let me know if you need help ranking applicants, and I’ll ask DSA to remove me so you can discuss at ease.

Cheers,



Nicolas Dandrimont

right

An application was commenced by this woman using the name Pauline Pommeret. Investigating, we find that she also uses other names, such as Maria Climent-Pommeret and chopopope. Some people have used aliases like this when doing something wrong in Debian but we don’t want to jump to conclusions. It might be because she saw how people are subject to doxing in Debian. Some people don’t use their real names to avoid consequences for their mistakes. The public shamings and Maria / Pauline’s decision to use an alias could be a hint about why so few women volunteer in Debian.

As this woman hoping to become an intern began discussion with the Debian mentors, Dandrimont participated:

Subject: Re: Details concerning my application to the Outreachy program

Date: Sat, 15 Oct 2016 17:15:43 +0200

From: nicolas@dandrimont.eu

To: [redacted mentors], Pauline Pommeret <chopopope@crans.org>, olasd@debian.org

(on mobile, sorry for the short reply) Just a detail, the contribution can happen/be merged after the application deadline too, no need to rush it. It only needs to happen before the selection, and the earlier the better, of course.

Le 15 octobre 2016 17:01:55 GMT+02:00, [mentor] a écrit :

On 15/10/16 15:37, [mentor] wrote:

Hi Pauline,

I don’t know if …

A few days later, on 18 October 2016, Dandrimont advised mentors that Pauline would withdraw from the selection process. At this stage, for privacy reasons, we decline to publish the withdrawal email.

In 2017, Debian did not participate in GSoC

Nicolas Dandrimont, olasd, Debian

In August 2017, Dandrimont resigned from the role of administrator. He did not give any forced public confession for the situation with his girlfriend. Dandrimont was not removed from the Debian keyring. He was not subjected to doxing in LWN and other places.

Some people in Debian appear to have immunity, like the leaders of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Other people have been subject to severe punishments for the smallest mistakes.

Consequences

In 2018, a similar situation occurred with other contributors to Debian in Google Summer of Code (GSoC). By way of precedent, mentors handled the case in the same way that Dandrimont had handled the case with his girlfriend.

In the 2018 GSoC case, all admins and mentors were made aware of the conflict of interest. Nobody kept it secret. Everybody in Debian knew. When the manager at Google, Stephanie Taylor, found out, she had a fit. It was Friday the 13th.

Subject: Concerns around Debian GSoC students and conflict of interest

Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2018 UTC

From: Stephanie Taylor <sttaylor@google.com>

To: Pranav Jain <contact@pranavjain.me>, prabaharan jaminy
<jaminy02@gmail.com>, Alexander Wirt <formorer@gmail.com>, [redacted], molly.deblanc@gmail.com

Hello Debian Org Admins,

It has come to our attention that one of your [name and title redacted], is the [relationship redacted] of one of your students – [student redacted], which is in clear violation of the GSoC Rules both [redacted] and [redacted] agreed to. We will have to remove both [redacted] and [redacted] from the program immediately.

One of the Debian people explained to Taylor the precedent set by Nicolas Dandrimont and Pauline (or Maria) Climent-Pommeret in Outreachy 2016. Taylor sent additional comments

Stephanie Taylor (Google): It is never okay to have a conflict of interest like you had with [redacted/leadership role], having a [redacted/relationships], etc. in the program as a student. That is a clear conflict of interest that would influence the mentor whether or not they intend it to. No one wants to fail the [redacted/leadership role]‘s [redacted/relationship] during the program, there is already favoritism even if the [redacted/leadership role] is not involved in the student’s selection or mentoring.

The volunteers who were blackmailed, removed from the Debian keyring and subject to sustained public attacks that continue to this day were not involved in any romantic conflict of interest. It looks like Debian uses people as scapegoats so that other people can get away with anything.


Matthias Kirschner, FSFE, Objectifying female interns

02.10.21

Does Outreachy and a Code of Conduct Increase Diversity? Case Study From Debian

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software at 8:37 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock

The recently published and controversial FSFE diversity strategy only includes one ongoing action: updating the Code of Conduct.

Personally, I feel that diversity and the status of women is a vital issue. Therefore, I feel compelled to check if that strategy is built on solid ground. Does a Code of Conduct, in the sense that these things are written in hobbyist organizations, really increase diversity?

The Debian Project provides an interesting source of data for a study. Debian is one of the larger free software communities and a significant amount of data on project roles is available in public. There is a convenient list of female contributors.

If anybody has more significant data on this topic and would like to examine it together please feel free to contact me.

Interventions

Debian first participated in the Outreach Program for Women (now Outreachy) in summer 2013.

Debian introduced a Code of Conduct in April 2014.

There are two rounds of Outreachy each year. Approximately $6,000 from Debian funds is used to fund each intern. There are typically two interns in each round, so this uses $24,000 per year, a non-trivial sum for the project.

As both Outreachy and the Code of Conduct were introduced at almost the same time it is hard to view their impact separately. It is possible that one may have a net positive impact while the other may have a negative impact or vice-versa.

Analysis

  • Only time spent as an uploading developer is considered
  • Excluded: the first few years when Debian was very small
  • Trans developers are counted as female throughout their history with the project
  • The figures are absolute number of women, they are not weighted by the overall number of developers

Results

Period Women per year (mean)
2004-2013 1.000
2014-2020 0.857

What this suggests is that the number of women granted upload access each year appears to have fallen by fourteen percent after Debian joined Outreachy and adopted a Code of Conduct.

This is not a rigorous study and I make no claim that these figures are statistically significant. It is just a quick summary of the available data to get discussion started about an important issue.

Comment

Outreachy encourages women to compete for positions while men come to Debian as volunteers. This may work against the interests of diversity.

Even though these figures are only informal, I feel there is good reason for this organization to use the $24,000 Outreachy money for a different diversity program.

The Code of Conduct is very generic and doesn’t include the safety mechanisms we would find in a Code of Ethics. In practice, the Code of Conduct has encouraged witch-hunts, finger-pointing and conflict. The undignified and hasty manner in which a kangaroo court was assembled to attack Jacob Appelbaum with exaggerated accusations of harassment is a case in point.

Every organization and project is different: Debian, by definition, is a voluntary effort. A project with employees may see very different diversity outcomes.

Free software organizations are using the lack of women as an excuse to play with the carrot (Outreachy) and stick (CoC). If there is no data to support these interventions then the diversity problem will persist.

Resources

You can download the table here.

Debian Women cumulative

02.07.21

Raspberry Pied in the Face — Part II: Raspberry Pi Foundation in Violation of GNU/Linux Rules (Because of Microsoft)

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft at 7:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: The blunder that harms the reputation of the Raspberry Pi (to appease or to serve Microsoft objectives like the ones we saw at Intel) is far from over; some have only just found out about it and they’re as mad as hell

AS WE noted in Part I, which was mostly introductory, we had spent the past week (almost a whole week!) researching verifiable facts rather than hearsay about our findings regarding the relationship between Microsoft and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. We actually broke the story, but almost nobody in the media gives us credit/attribution. Some unknown incognitos even removed links to Techrights (in Wikipedia articles about this very serious scandal), so maybe there’s some large-scale face-saving PR campaign.

“Many of us have Raspberry Pi devices and we can no longer trust system updates.”This morning someone sent us this new Lunduke video (also here) and latest among several stories about it in SoylentNews (a site which, to its credit, respects Techrights and habitually links to Techrights). We reposted (embedded) the Lunduke video because unlike some shallow puff pieces and self-serving Canonical spin it does not seek to underplay the severity of this cautionary tale. It cautions us about trust. Many of us have Raspberry Pi devices and we can no longer trust system updates. The Microsoft “implant” was nefariously packaged as if the clear goal was to hide it, to basically conceal what they had done. We’ll explain the technical details later in this series.

“By not including any source for their packaged attack,” one associate told us, “RPF seems it might have moved in violation of the guidelines / rules for ‘main’…”

“Lunduke and I share the view that the Raspberry Pi Foundation needs to issue a massive apology.”Some Debian developers, we are being told, are already angered by this. There is still no official word (statement or announcement) from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Nothing. To make matters worse, there were efforts to gag their very own customers. Not cool…

Lunduke and I share the view that the Raspberry Pi Foundation needs to issue a massive apology. Even that alone would be insufficient. In Part III we’ll look at some of the technical aspects and the contractual obligations we suspect to have led to this blunder. This isn’t just some ‘accident’; there’s more to this story than the Raspberry Pi Foundation wants us to believe. They gaslight us. Who are the customers? Us or Microsoft?

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