Re: Josh Berkus's platform on political activity, was: money handling

From: MJ Ray <mjr(at)phonecoop(dot)coop>
To: <josh(at)postgresql(dot)org>, <spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org>, <spi-private(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org>
Subject: Re: Josh Berkus's platform on political activity, was: money handling
Date: 2006-07-18 12:30:15
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Josh Berkus <josh(at)postgresql(dot)org> wrote:
> Ok, these are pretty clear. To suppliment my earlier e-mail (please read
> that before these answers), here's some direct yes-no.

Thanks. My replies to the previous mail are below this one.

> > 3. How is SPI doing something directing associated projects?
> If we were to engage in major outward-facing political activity without the
> endorsement of the associated projects, we would be effectively "dragging
> them along with us."

I share aj's view that another approach is that "SPI has to
have a separate identity to any organisations it supports".
I think SPI is an association, not a consortium or collective.
Of course, it's preferable not to do things which cause projects
to terminate their association, but maybe it'll be wanted.

> > 5. Are you pledging to work to change [required votes] if elected?
> If I believe that the initiative has the backing of the majority of SPI
> members and member projects and is consistent with our mission, then I'm
> very good at building consensus. Keep in mind that consensus usually
> means "compromise" as well, though -- it's not a matter of badgering the
> holdouts into agreement.

I assume this is a yes, as 6 was answered.

> > 6. If so, why is your voting reform plan not in your manifesto?
> Because currently SPI has a very loose structure in which the members elect
> the board every year and the board does whatever it wants. Within that
> structure, I don't think that any charter modification is necessary.
> I guess one of our differences is that I see listening to the associated
> projects as consistent with (if fact, required by) inviting them to join
> and thus no change in direction for SPI.

As far as I can tell, that requirement is not currently clear
in SPI's agreements. If it's where we are, I think it should be
spelt out by changing the Associated Project Framework and/or
Committee Framework.

[... other email ...]
> For any federated organization to stay together and thrive, any major
> decision needs to be endorsed by not only a majority of the membership but
> a consensus of the member organizations as well. Otherwise, you risk
> alienating an entire member organization because they "have no voice" and
> they will leave SPI.

So-called "democracy by exit" is a fairly common situation.
It is desireable to know that an association will terminate
before it happens, but it's a factor in the decision rather
than the decision itself, as it stands.

SPI becoming a federation seems a fairly major change of
structure. How would it be done? What timetable?

> This is especially important right now, when the vast majority of SPI
> registered contributors are DDs.

Some of us are also involved in other associated projects,
but it seems that a reduction of debian influence would occur.
Would they vote for it? Would SPI need them to?

> You may not be aware of this, but just last August I was told by several
> people that SPI was "consitutionally unable to support projects other than
> Debian" by several major OSS organizers. The associated project
> structure was meant to change that. [...]

As far as I can see from, the Associated
Project Framework dates from 1998 and was changed in 2004,
so I'm confused by the mention of changes since August 2005.
How was it "consitutionally unable" and what changed?

> You, as well as a couple others, use the example of Software Patents as an
> "obvious good" which nobody could argue with.

When did I ever claim it was an "obvious good" and that
nobody could argue with it? I quite expect argument about it.

According to my notes, I wrote "Anti-swpat lobbying does seem
helpful to several of its goals, in my opinion. Whether it is
the best org to do it is debatable"; "If board members judge
that education about swpat is within the general powers [...]
then it's fine"; and "it is right and proper that Bruce Perens
should include swpat in his campaign, to allow the membership
to back him or not".

Are you simply trying to launch an unwarranted attack on me
based on things I didn't say? ;-)

> [...] For example, if one of our associated projects was recieving
> the majority of its funding from IBM, having SPI spend significant funds
> and publicity on opposing SW patents could cause that organization to
> become defunded and even cease to exist.
> So we need to check with *each* member organization before engaging in
> activities which will affect all of them.

I agree up to here, but I worry that the associated projects would
try to second-guess what funders like IBM would want and
self-censor themselves - and consequently censor SPI activities
based on nothing more than guesswork.

> Therefore, it is my opinion that any argument that we do not need a
> consensus of member projects to engage in major external activities is
> really an argument that SPI shouldn't have associated projects at all.
> Clearer?

Yes, thanks. I disagree with this being done in an undocumented
and unagreed way because it will lead to differences between the
expectations from reading the documented agreements and how things
are done in practice. A change this radical should have been
included in a manifesto, or should only be done after further

MJ Ray - personal email, see
Work: Jabber/SIP ask


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