Re: SPI Workshop/Brainstorming Session at Debconf

From: David Graham <cdlu(at)railfan(dot)ca>
To: spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org
Cc: spi-board(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org, debconf(at)skolelinux(dot)no
Subject: Re: SPI Workshop/Brainstorming Session at Debconf
Date: 2003-07-19 11:59:14
Message-ID: Pine.LNX.4.55.0307190718300.15409@baffin
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Lists: spi-general

On Fri, 18 Jul 2003, Ean Schuessler wrote:
> *** Why SPI is a Dumb Name for the Debian Foundation ***

Uh oh.

> My contention is that SPI is, and always has been, the Debian
> Foundation. Due to an unfortunate naming accident at its inception many
> people have become confused about this fact but its true. In every sense
> the services that SPI provides, its membership and its mission are
> impossible to seperate from the Debian community. Debian is the sole
> reason SPI exists and the sole reason it continues to be resurrected
> every time it dies.

SPI was founded, from what I can gather, with the intent of using Debian
as a starting point for a philanthropic mission of education and
development of free software.

The articles of incorporation list 11 reasons for the existence of
Software in the Public Interest and none of them refer to Debian, or any
other specific project.

> I know some people will protest and say "what about the projects that
> SPI hosts?". Well, what about it? Is there a problem saying "Debian
> hosts Fresco"? I mean, don't we host the source, bugs, CVS and other
> resources for thousands of other Open Source projects? Take the HURD for
> example. We've virtually become the center of development. Does the HURD
> have to become a SPI project or is it a Debian project? Can Debian have
> projects? Is the distinction even meaningful? I say no.

As an active member of SPI who comes from a project other than Debian, I
am forced to disagree. OFTC being a Debian project could put off a large
portion of our user base. It isn't a Debian project, it's a project
interested in the development of software in the public interest - making
SPI a perfect fit.

SPI's future shouldn't be based on its history of inertia and control by
Debian developers, but rather on its stated mission and potential to be a
more encompassing organisation encouraging and supporting the wider
adoption of public software.

Can a project be a member of Debian?

I don't think so. Projects that are members of Debian make them part of
the Debian distribution, for better or for worse, to the outside world.
As famous and popular as apt, a Debian project, is, I don't think the 7
other member projects of SPI are on the same level.

> What I want people to focus on is the concept that Debian is a community
> and that community is bigger than just a Linux distribution. When you
> look at our philosophy you can see that we are a community first and
> foremost and that the OS is just a symptom of our mission and our
> beliefs. If producing an OS was job #1 then we wouldn't put philosophy
> before market share. But we do, and that is important. Money isn't what
> drives us. We have shared values that bind us together as a community
> and motivate us to try and change the status quo.

Debian is a community. SPI is also a community. Debian is a member of the
SPI community, however SPI is not a member of the Debian community.

Wichert's comments about FSF/GNU vs SPI/Debian are more succinct than my
own thoughts on the matter.

> SPI is just a piece of equipment, no different than faure or samosa.
> It's a chunk of legal machinery designed to store copyrights and money
> the same way as one of our hard drives stores data. Trying to make it
> something seperate from Debian is like one of our servers striking out
> on its own. Without Debian, SPI has no function, nothing to do and no
> one to do it. The power and the people come from Debian and we have
> allowed SPI's confusing name to distract us far too long.

The vaste majority of SPI's membership does come from Debian and it is
difficult to get outside people into an organisation that takes the
attitude that "Debian is all that matters." Other smaller projects have,
however, joined SPI and their members are joining SPI as well, as
contributing members, and SPI can only benefit from that.

Debian is the only project, as far as I know, that has an automatic SPI
membership policy. As Debian is a much larger project than any others
involved, and as its members are automatically SPI members, it is that
much more difficult for an expansion to take place. Outsiders can only see
Debian involved in SPI and so they do not become involved. It is a vicious

> Renaming SPI to the Debian Foundation will make its mission clear. It
> will disperse suspicions about it and make people comfortable spending
> time and effort to make it grow. We can get rid of the perception that
> some weird parasitic organization, seperate from Debian, is hanging off
> of Debian's neck and sapping its strength. Debian and SPI are the same.
> SPI serves Debian. It is our tool. We should eliminate the confusion so
> that we can move ahead.

To me it is distressing that these comments come from the president of the
parent organisation to a project in which I am heavily involved. SPI's
mission is not Debian, SPI's mission is making software available to the
public and teaching the public how to use it. It is achieving these goals
by parenting multiple organisations who, together, do both those things.

> Last, but not least, getting rid of the SPI name will let us ditch that
> stupid domain name and speak with one voice and one name.
> Debian.

Well, with a little work perhaps SPI could acquire, as it is
something of an international organisation, though I don't believe the
domain is a big enough deal to change the mission of SPI for.

David "cdlu" Graham
Guelph, Ontario

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