Debian Seeking New Project Secretary

Dec 23, 2008

Current balloting for Debian Lenny's future has led to strife in the organization. Secretary of the free project, Manoj Srivastava, has resigned his position. A possible consequence is that the next version will undergo further delay in its release.

Debian organization's secretary Manoj Srivastava tendered his resignation in an email with the words, "I concede that I have made mistakes with the current set of votes... The amount of vitriol there makes it untenable for me to participate in any efforts to recover from this mess." Srivastava is referring to the recent quarrel over specifics on how to release the next GNU/Linux version named Lenny that lead to a call for votes from developers. On December 14th, the Debian project secretary had issued a First Call for Votes consisting of seven choices, including ones reaffirming Debian's social contract and requesting how to handle its free software guidelines (DFSG). The listed choices also dealt with allowing release of proprietary firmware and licensing issues. A number of project members questioned his choices and found certain contradictions. An example was a response from Steve Langasek to the General Resolution: "In light of the Secretary's claims that the above GR would give him the power to amend the text of the DFSG even though it says nothing of the sort, I would ask that the proposer withdraw this resolution."

The reaction to Srivastava's resignation was not without some backlash. Longtime colleague Bdale Garbee appealed to team members' sense of responsibility in a posting: "When Manoj and I joined the Debian project, there were only a couple dozen of us, and we indeed had a very different and more positive atmosphere." Still, he's not ready to give in to the change in climate. Quoting from Margaret Mead in her assertion that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, Garbee said, "I've often used this quote to help explain why Free Software has been as successful as it has been to date. I think it also applies here. Each of us, individually, must accept personal responsibility for the contribution we make to the overall Debian project atmosphere. The only way we can 'get things back on track' [is to] re-focus our energy on the real reason we are all here... to create a free operating system." Debian developer and FTP master Jörg Jaspert agrees on this, still hoping the discussion will not lead to much further delay in the release. In talking to Linux Magazine Online, Jaspert commented, "Either we're all dead by the end or we'll finish Lenny and get it out the door."

As it turns out, Garbee will take over temporarily as acting secretary. In an email, project leader Steve McIntyre says that he's seeking until January 12th for volunteers to fill the vacancy.

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  • opinion.

    I agree with Bdale Garbee when he quotes himself as saying:
    "Each of us, individually, must accept personal responsibility for the contribution we make to the overall Debian project atmosphere."
    If I was contributing code to Debian, I would have strong feelings around decisions made upstream; However, clicking on "Send" can be a very damaging thing to do if one has written the words allowing emotions to rule, we've all done that, I suspect.
    I really think it all boils down to this: kool down before you send that email, think: would I want to get an email like this? Think: What kind of email would I like to receive, if I was in the same position.
    If you are thinking you've never been in someone else's position, think again: look in the mirror, then think again.
    A little saying that targets one's internal thinking, (the spirit of which is applicable in business as well), that I've told my kids, that I need to remind myself of often:
    Don't Blame, don't explain and don't Complain.
    Victoria, B.C. Canada.

  • RE: how many good people will you lose?

    "trolls and chronic flamers"??? Please, hold your tongue!

    The actual problem is that the former project secretary Srivastava proposed this GR vote in his effort to stop Debian from releasing Lenny. Srivastava has even threatened to leave the project if Lenny is released with non-free firmware in the kernel.

    Most developers (those "trolls and chronic flamers"blunk would just like to release Lenny and move on. Many of them find the whole GR vote unnecessary and several Debian developers have strongly criticized the way Srivastava has organized the vote.

    So the general opinion among the developers seems to be that the GR vote has been a royal mess, but Srivastava is still a highly respected member of the Debian community. Debian will always need determined individuals like Srivastava to defend the free software ideals. But at the moment pushing Lenny out the door must be the primary short-term goal.
  • how many good people will you lose?

    How many more people must Debian lose before the leadership wises up to taking responsibility for some community standards? The trolls and chronic flamers rule the roost, but only the people who complain about them get shot down. It's unhealthy, and debian leadership has refused to do anything about it. They put out a call for help to get Lenny out the door-- at this rate will there even be a next release?
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