Logs for SPI board of directors candidates debate

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From: Wichert Akkerman <secretary(at)spi-inc(dot)org>
To: spi-announce(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org, debian-announce(at)lists(dot)debian(dot)org
Subject: Logs for SPI board of directors candidates debate
Date: 2003-11-17 19:37:36
Message-ID: 20031117193736.GA5323@wiggy.net
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Lists: spi-announce

Today the candidates for the current elections for the Board of
Directors of Software in the Public Interest particiated in a debate on
OFTC's irc network. The complete logs for this debate are below and
I invite interested parties to read and and vote in the elections based
on the debate and the candidates platforms. More information on the
vote can be found at http://www.spi-inc.org/secretary/votes/vote2/

For those not familiar with the irc nicknames used, they are:

cdlu - David Graham
Diziet - Ian Jackson
Hydroxide - Jimmy Kaplowitz
Joey - Martin 'Joey' Schulze'

The debate was led bet Bdale Garbee.

Joey My name is Joey and I work, as everybody will probably know, on
improving and promoting Free Software, through various
organisations, projects, packages and means. Google for "Joey
Schulze" and you'll probably find everything out of interest.
cdlu I am best known for my work on the creation of this network, but
I have been involved with the community on some level or other
for a number of years, becoming most active since 1999 when I
became a #debian regular.
Diziet My first free software was released in 1988, and I've been
involved with GNU, Linux, and Debian lots since then.
Hydroxide I also point people to my candidate statement, but will summarize
a few details: I have been active in SPI with the bylaws revision
committee, have put forth a proposal to SPI to allow online
donations that has now been acted upon such that online donations
are now possible
cdlu I work for NewsForge, where I maintain the NewsVac feed and
occasionally write mostly satire articles.
Hydroxide Outside of SPI, my biggest Free Software activities are running
the Linux Users' Group at Brown University, which I founded last
schoolyear as a freshman.
cdlu My interest in SPI is rooted in my use of Debian since 1998 and
my appreciation for the work that has gone into it, and my
involvement with member project OFTC.
Joey Maybe one more thing that is probably not yet googled is that I'm
in close contact with the FSF Europe.
Diziet Most of my free software work nowadays is either maintaining my
handful of GNU programs, and a couple of Debian packages.
cdlu I wish to help the board become a more functional body overseeing
a more functional SPI.
bdale about one minute left
Hydroxide This involves installfests every semester, weekly meetings, a
mailing list that can be active at times, and technical support
to Brown overall
Diziet I want to see SPI become more effective, but most importantly I
want it to remain stable.
cdlu I've outlined my position as succintly as I can in my position
statement at the outset of this election.
cdlu done
Diziet I'm done. Please skimread my statement for more detail ...
Hydroxide I want the board to be functional first and foremost, and to
fulfill its duties as legal holding company of debian and other
member projects.
Hydroxide And I have other things I'd like to see the board do if it gets
organized enough.
bdale ok, time. thank you.
bdale I encourage anyone watching who wants to submit addition
questions to /msg them to me for possible inclusion if we have
bdale next question
bdale What do you think SPI has done well thus far?
bdale 5 minutes, go
Joey I can't parse that.
Hydroxide I think SPI has avoided any legal trouble with the assets it
Diziet What we've done well so far has been be a stable place for mainly
Debian to keep its money, and to provide hosting facilities for
bunches of projects.
Joey Are you interested in what we think spi did well until now?
bdale Joey: yes
Diziet hy: Quite so.
Hydroxide in other words, Debian hasn't been sued, nobody's done an ICANN
dispute to get a domain name, people respond appropriately when
we talk to them about trademark issues, etc.
Diziet We've also (although this is perhaps less obvious) allowed our
name to be waved by people like Bruce as our rep on standards
Hydroxide We also have dealt courteously with donors of services and money.
Diziet I think for SPI no news is good news, mainly.
Joey SPI has managed to act as a stable umbrella organisation (i.e.
legal and financial entity) for several projects.
Hydroxide Obviously I am personally proud of the online donations which are
now possible...
cdlu SPI has managed to survive through internal struggles and apathy
that have dogged it for a number of years. In spite of its
troubles, it has managed to properly hold onto and enforce
Debian's trademarks, expand the number of projects it supports,
and provide the legal umbrella Debian and other projects expect
Diziet hy: Quite. That's a good thing, but very recent.
Hydroxide SPI has managed not to crumble in the face of temporarily
debilitating failures to meet quorum
Hydroxide it has recovered nicely
Joey SPI has also acted rationally and not illogically, and relatively
stable, which is good for its associated projects.
cdlu as well as providing a place to hold onto Debian's money without
Hydroxide diziet: true.
Diziet So is the next question `what have we done badly' ? 'cos I might
start on that now ...
Joey done
Hydroxide done
cdlu yeah, done.
Diziet done, then.
bdale ok, thank you.
bdale next question
bdale If elected, what would you do to encourage the membership to more
actively participate in SPI?
bdale 5 minutes
cdlu first of all, I would push for the creation of committees as the
by-laws require
Diziet The main thing, as I say in my statement, is to get the bylaws
and election machinery regularised.
cdlu committees would be charged with actively seeking the feedback of
the membership through its mailing lists
cdlu and deciding where SPI should go from there
Hydroxide cdlu: I agree with that. Comittees with actual decision-making
authority can get more of the membership involved directly,
accountable to the board of course and ultimately to the whole
membership body
Diziet But I'm not sure that we should be worried if our members are
largely silent. We need them for effort, of course, and to make
big decisions (like board appointments).
Hydroxide diziet: if they're largely silent, how can they be informed
enough to make good decisions when they do have to act?
cdlu Hydroxide right, my understanding of the board's function is to
coordinate committees
Diziet The most obvious way to get our membership active would be to go
mad :-). So we should not count members' apathy as a huge
Diziet Silent doesn't mean uninformed.
cdlu secondly, the major thing that needs doing is to encourage all
members, especially board members, to attend board meetings, and
introduce sanctions to board members who refuse to
Joey encouraging other people can only be done by demonstrating active
work and interesting people in this. The trademark/br debate is
a good example on how to attract more people. Opening the
organisation to form active committees where members work, would
be another such thing. One cannot encourage by encouraging in
the Free Software Community, but only by being actively involved
in interesting issues.
Diziet What I think is important from the membership pov is that I'm
worried that SPI's membership is too narrow.
Hydroxide diziet: no, that's true. there is often a significant correlation
between the two, though
Diziet I'd like to get all the GNU and BSD people to sign up too.
Hydroxide I would want to see more membership from groups other than
Debian, so I think I agree with Diziet on this
Joey Hence, more such projects would be needed which will attract
members to work on the issues.
Hydroxide after all, we allow all people who have made a significant
contribution to free software to join SPI
Hydroxide as contrib members
Diziet I'm not sure how to achieve that, but making SPI more useful to
people (by getting our donations machinery sorted for example) is
a good step.
cdlu I think if SPI builds itself into an activist, instead of
passive, organisation, the membership will come to us, and SPI
simply won't have to go out looking for it.
Hydroxide there are certainly many useful things SPI can do that are within
its corporate purposes but beyond its current function as a legal
holding company
Diziet Quite so.
Joey SPI should be more publically visible, that would encourage many
people. I.e. respond publically on certain issues maybe.
bdale time. thank you all.
cdlu ok
Diziet I'd certainly encourage anyone who has effort for those things to
do it under our umbrella.
bdale good debate, I'm pleased to see you taking advantage of the free-
form format to question each other, etc.
bdale next question
bdale If elected, is there a specific, concrete, visible, and
measurable goal that you will work towards during your term, and
if so, what is it?
bdale 5 minutes, go
Hydroxide One goal is certainly to finish up the bylaws committee work by
working to get some useful amendment passed
Hydroxide this would involve working with the membership committee to
expire inactive contributing memberships so that we have an
attainable quorum for a bylaws amendment, without inconveniencing
anyone who is actively participating in SPI
Diziet Personally, as I say in my statement, the bylaws and election
machinery. I have some experience in those kinds of areas, but
haven't had the time to devote to it. If elected I'll rearrange
my priorities to ensure that SPI bylaws and organisation gets
cdlu firstly - make the board functional by sanctionning board members
who do not attend the meetings, the very core of the board's
functionality. From there progress can be made to the important
goal of striking committees to manage the day to day affairs of
SPI, from the basic membership committee to whatever else needs
discussing and resolving.
Joey No. Time will tell. I would lie if I'd say one particular
thing, since many issues depend on people working on them. If
only one person is working on something, that won't work well.
Also, we'll have to respond to other people's requests and
inquiries, they cannot be anticipated in detail.
Diziet The second goal I would have is to make SPI's business generally
more efficient - particularly, to know that our money-handling
works well and reliably.
Joey As I said, SPI should be more actively visible in the public.
Having it mentioned on newsforge by Tina Gasperson is a good
start, even though the reason was not that good, but it went
cdlu SPI's board needs to be able to delegate its authority, but it
has to assume that authority to delegate it.
Hydroxide cdlu: I agree that the board should also follow its own
attendance policy. I think that with the current bylaws, which
have a high quorum requirement, that might cause a lot of
Diziet But the most important goal would be that SPI is still stable and
functioning at least as well as it is now, and that we've not had
any PR disasters, lost money, etc.
Hydroxide but we definitely need to get more of the membership involved in
DevRene Hi!
cdlu The by-laws committee, which Hydroxide and I sat on together,
made a series of recommendations that the current board has not
brought forth to the membership to vote on
Hydroxide and we can also poll the membership more frequently
Diziet The board quorum thing for me is a bylaws problem.
Hydroxide to learn what they would like the board to do
cdlu those changes will help encourage membership participation and
the proper functionning of the board
cdlu those are my goals
Joey I agree, one of the most important goals is to keep SPI stable,
without financial fraud and disasters etc.
Diziet cdlu: Right. I promise that if elected I'll take that up
cdlu done
Hydroxide done
Diziet (But I will want to review your work, which I haven't yet.)
Diziet done
Joey It may be a good idea, to ask for input from the members for
certain topics, maybe even vote upon them, and - of course - try
(or encourage) members to participate in the discussion and
Joey done
bdale ok, thanks.
bdale next question
bdale How should SPI respond, if at all, to the SCO vs "everyone"
situation? Feel free to extrapolate to the general case.
bdale 5 minutes, go
cdlu I believe that if SPI sticks its nose in the SCO hornet's nest in
its current state, SCO may try and sue SPI, a presently weak and
vulnerable target.
Joey It would be a good idea to investigate the issue and release a
public statement.
cdlu While we should offer moral support to those fighting against
SCO, we should not get involved.
Joey That'll bring us next to the target though.
Diziet WRT the specific case there might be some small amount of mileage
in us issuing a statement or two, but certainly our legal
resources aren't up to lawsuits vs SCO-a-likes.
Hydroxide Since we do distribute the Linux kernel, we should provide some
official statement on the matter, in coordination with the
appropriate people in Debian (e.g., DPL) as well as our legal
counsel. But it should be a cautious statement, telling our users
what we believe their liability is with regard to Debian
Hydroxide but we shouldn't say things such as Linus Torvalds's remark that
SCO is "smoking crack", whatever our personal feelings :-)
Joey As a statement it would be ok to have a web page enlisting our
Diziet hy: That would be dangerous, surely ?
Joey Hyd: Right, full ack
Hydroxide I agree with cdlu that being inflammatory is bad for an
organization like us that is vulnerable to strong-arm lawyer
Hydroxide diziet: what would be dangerous?
Diziet I mean, SPI should avoid making promises to Debian users about
licensing. We aren't set up to evaluate or defend those kind of
Hydroxide diziet: right. we should say that, to the best of our knowledge
after having consulted with legal counsel, we don't believe
there's any problem, but that we're not indemnifying since we
provide a free service
Hydroxide and so it should be up to them to consult with their legal
Diziet If there are specific legal threats against SPI's associated
projects, though, we'll have to get involved.
cdlu I don't really have anything further to say about it. SCO is not
doing anyone - especially themselves - any favours, and the
problem is likely to resolve itself.
Hydroxide diziet: but since we do distribute the disputed code, we should
at least comment
cdlu SPI getting involved is far more likely to bloody its own nose
than SCO's.
Diziet SPI does _not_ distribute that code.
Hydroxide diziet: an SPI member project does
Joey Personally, I really wonder what the source idea behind all this
FUD is, but we'll probably see in a couple of months...
Diziet Those projects are not controlled or owned by SPI.
Diziet This kind of issue will come up periodically. Other
organisations without cash-pots do the PR work.
cdlu if Debian wants to put out a statement, the DPL can consult with
SPI's board to consult with legal counsel about whether it
Hydroxide diziet: but their assets are controlled by SPI
cdlu I don't believe SPI itself should get involved. :)
cdlu I'm done on this topic.
Joey Diziet, but SPI is the legal umbrella around that particular
member project.
Hydroxide diziet: in other words, if SCO decided to sue Debian, they would
sue SPI. we should NOT be inflammatory, again, but we should put
out a statement of our _belief_
Diziet hy: I think you're somewhat confused about the relationship
between eg Debian and SPI.
Hydroxide diziet: to provide some non-legal-advice reassurance to our users
bdale ok, time.
Diziet In particular, if Debian wants to distribute something and SPI
think it's illegal to do so, we have no power to stop them.
(Though we can stop them using servers SPI owns.)
bdale next question
bdale If non-free is kicked out of Debian, should SPI sponsor or in any
way support a non-Debian organization that would continue to
support non-free?
bdale 5 minutes, go
Diziet SPI's goals are Free Software. If this other organisation exists
mainly to provide Debian's users with non-free, then no.
cdlu SPI should support whatever organisations the board decides is
cdlu regardless of Debian's position
Joey SPI cannnot sponsor a project whose entire goal is to distribute
non-free code, since that would be against our by-laws.
Diziet If someone wants to fork Debian and provide both free and non-
free software, then yes (assuming the non-free isn't a huge
Hydroxide joey: it's actually not against the bylaws
Hydroxide the corporate purposes do allow for it
Hydroxide but, it's not necessarily a good idea
Hydroxide since it goes against what SPI stands for in a non-legal sense
Diziet But it would be against our principles, and our views about what
SPI should be for.
cdlu I believe it's a board decision, but I don't believe Debian
should kick out non-free in the first place.
Hydroxide yes, I agree
Diziet I think it's an interesting hypothetical question.
Joey err.. than it's against our state or whatever. As long as we
require member projects to work on free software or free
hardware, we cannot accept a member project that doesn't (and
whose entire goal is that)
Hydroxide although, I think we should (1) clarify what the board thinks
that SPI stands for, and (2) ask the membership the same
question, so that we know how to make decisions like this in a
way that will satisfy the desires of the membership
cdlu Free software that is better than non-free software will win. If
the DFSG-non-compliant software is to leave Debian, it should be
from lack of use, not from philosophical shoving.
Diziet I think the right line to draw is whether the non-free is
essentially incidental or one of the main purposes.
Joey If there's a project like Debian that wants to distribute Free
Software but also include small amounts of non-free code, but
doesn't produce that code themselves, that'd need to be discussed
on the board and it'll probably be accepted, as Debian would.
Hydroxide non-free has some advantages for users of free software, in that
where they have no usable free alternative, it allows them to
continue using a free OS
Joey SPI has not that strong guidelines/rules as the FSF, but I'm glad
they have.
cdlu Diziet: I could live with that. SPI's board has the power and
responsibility to decide it on a case-by-case basis. If a project
would like to join that does not appear to meet SPI's goals, then
the board has every right tor efuse it.
Diziet hy: Is there really serious doubt about what SPI stands for in
this area ? I think the opportunity to clarify it here is good,
but I don't think we need to write it into bylaws or anything.
Hydroxide diziet: it at least should be a board resolution stating it
Diziet So far we haven't had any difficult edge cases.
Joey done
Hydroxide diziet: because not everyone has exactly the same viewpoint
Hydroxide diziet: since we all come at SPI from different angles
Diziet The board approves member projects anyway, so a board resolution
would be a guideline at most.
Hydroxide diziet: and the membership should at least be consulted
Hydroxide diziet: you're right
Hydroxide diziet: but we should have a document worth consulting.
cdlu the board's decision about a project would set precedent.
Diziet The difficult question would be what if this putative Debian fork
provides all the software, but has as its main reason for
splitting that Debian threw out non-free ?
Hydroxide cdlu: ugh, case law all over again ... it's useful to at least
have a clear document to interpret via case law
Diziet I think personally I'd say `yes but we don't really approve'.
bdale ok, time.
bdale good discussion, and as Diziet says, and interesting hypothetical
to ponder...
bdale next question
bdale On the topic of international relationships. An example and
question from
bdale Brazil, feel free to generalize to other situations in your
bdale Brazil has a big Debian community, with a lot of users, many of
whom don't
bdale work directly to help Debian, and have little involvement with
other local
bdale Debian communities.
bdale What do you think that SPI could do to help the Brazilian Project
bdale change this situation and get a better relationship between
Debian and local
bdale free software communites?
bdale 5 minutes, go
Diziet I definitely support communication between different Debian
developers - and more generally different Free Software
developers. But, I don't think it's SPI's role to solve this
particular problem.
Hydroxide I'll generalize this right away ... what can SPI do to reach out
to localized communities that are either like-minded or relate to
SPI member projects but that don't have much actual contact with
Joey SPI can't do anything. The people in .br would need to do
"something". SPI can only help.
cdlu Debian communities are the responbility of Debian, not SPI.
cdlu However, if asked by the DPL, I think SPI could probably provide
for resources, such as a "Debian community listing service" to
all Debian communities.
Hydroxide SPI can, if we get enough volunteers participating actively,
perform outreach by making contact with these other communities
and inviting them to be involved
cdlu thus allowing people to hook up, but again I think it's really
Debian's domain.
Diziet If the Brazilians want us to take US$ donations for them, or want
our advice and experience to help set up a Brazilian SPI-a-like,
then we could help of course.
Joey I'm pretty sure that organised meetings between those communities
would help tie them together, but that's nothing SPI can do.
Hydroxide joey: yes it is. we can facilitate meetings between groups that
want to meet but aren't yet
Diziet I think SPI's role in this area is to facilitate and help the
work of others, but not to take the lead. SPI doesn't really
have the resources and experience, I think.
Hydroxide joey: but this falls under the category of "additional things
that SPI could do if we get active enough"
Joey Brazillian developers or community members could, though, join
SPI and form a .br chapter of SPI and be active in .br on their
cdlu SPI's role would fall under inter-project communication, where
groups from different projects can get together with SPI's help.
Diziet If there's something we can do then I'd be happy of Brazilian
developers told us what they'd like us to do and we be
sympathetic of course.
Hydroxide cdlu: yes, that's exactly it
Joey Hyd: I disagree, but I'm open for innovations. I rather agree to
Diziet that SPI can help but not lead in such issues.
Diziet I don't think SPI ought to get into inter-project communication.
Free software projects should talk to each other directly.
Diziet If we can help with providing venues (of whatever kind) then
that's good. OFTC is a nice example.
Hydroxide joey: it would be more of a facilitating role to sort of get the
ball rolling
Hydroxide diziet: I wasn't thinking of a moderator-type role, more of just
a way of getting things started
Hydroxide diziet: helping to establish contact and collaboration, as it
Diziet Why does that need SPI ? Why do people not just email each other
Hydroxide diziet: not controlling the process
Hydroxide diziet: that will work in some cases, but when one project wants
to collaborate with another project, sometimes there's more to it
Joey Like I said, I truely believe that meetings (such as conferences,
expos, workshops etc.) would help, but that's nothing SPI can
actually do. However, I also believe that those communities will
merge and people will talk to "other communities' people", I
don't exactly understand there to be a problem.
Diziet If you want to start a `Free Software inter-developer outreach'
programme, then that could be an SPI associated project. But it
would be your project (or that of whoever did it).
cdlu right now, we provide links to all member projects (including
less active ones ...) from spi-inc.org's web site. that is
passive facilitation of communication between the projects. If
the projects want more, I think we can do more, but at the moment
I'm not aware of a lot of need for it.
bdale ok, time.
bdale next question
bdale a reminder to everyone watching that if you have any late-
breaking questions, /msg them to me. we've only got another 10
mins or so, though.
bdale If there were one thing you could change in SPI's history, what
would it be?
bdale 3 minutes, go
cdlu the lack of elections until this year
Joey I'd change the entire Open Source Trademark thingy.
Hydroxide I would have had all the board members be elected by and be
accountable to the membership. this is still only partly true
(e.g., Drew Streib and Branden Robinson are two unelected board
cdlu the board would be more functional and could have been years
ahead of where it was today if it was into self-renewal with the
help of elections from the membership
Diziet The answer has to be obvious. I'd want to undo the rift when
Bruce, ESR et al left. Those and subsequent events have caused a
lot of bad blood over the years (some of which sadly remains) and
wasted a lot of people's effort.
Joey (next on my list would be the problems we encountered 1.5 years
ago when I gave up the VP role in deep frustration)
cdlu I wasn't following SPI politics at that time so can not really
address the rifts created at that time.
Diziet If we'd had useful effort rather than in-fighting then, we could
I think have had elections and bylaws properly sorted by now.
Joey (next would be the lost Open Hardware trademark/project)
Hydroxide done
Joey done
Diziet Aside from that, I just wish we'd managed to progress a little
faster. SPI has been very slow in its transformation from self-
perpetuating clique to a proper accountable and efficient
bdale ok, time. We're rapidly running out of our available time...
Diziet done
bdale given the time, this is your last "question".
bdale 5 minutes to make any closing statements and/or ask each other
any burning questions. You can hang around after then and talk,
but in fairness to everyone, we'll end the debate when I next
call time. go.
cdlu Diziet: I'd like to ask you... you've been on the board for a
number of years. What has changed to make SPI more of a priority
now than it was before this election?
Diziet The real answer has to be that it's finally going somewhere.
cdlu Diziet: what do you think has led to SPI finally going somewhere?
Hydroxide joey: what do you want people to think of when they think of
Joey I'd invite people to write inquiries to the SPI board more
frequently, especially those who would get SPI help them
implement anything that fits into SPIs goals.
Diziet There's really two sides to that. One is that the board is
currently fuller of useful people and I think I won't be
terrifically worried if I lose the election.
Joey Hydroxide: a lesser FSF
Hydroxide I personally would like people to think of it as more than just a
shell company
Joey what is a shell company?
Hydroxide I'm not going to enumerate all of the corporate purposes, but
some of them could turn into really cool endeavors if we pursue
Diziet The other is that, if I'm perfectly honest, because of the
elections I have to make a choice now about whether I want to
increase my commitment to SPI to match that of most of the other
board members, or to let others take over.
Joey I'd like to get more people involved, and project leaders
Hydroxide joey: well, what I meant by it is a company that does nothing
more than hold legal assets
cdlu Diziet: ok
Joey that'll be boring
Diziet What has led to it going somewhere ? Having people on the board
who want to be there and have an agenda, rather than people whose
arms were twisted at the last moment !
Hydroxide joey: I'm saying, that's what we are now
cdlu I believe the elections, catalysed by Nils and Joey stepping down
from P/VP, really are what helped SPI move forward.
cdlu That and the publicity it all created earlier this year.
Diziet cdlu: I think you're right, yes.
Hydroxide Some relevant things from the corporate purposes:
cdlu I encourage SPI to continue the path it started this spring in
selecting new blood.
Hydroxide to hold classes, seminars and workshops concerning the proper use
and application of computers and computer systems;
Hydroxide * to endeavor to promote, foster and advance interest in
computers and computer software by all available means and
Joey hyd: yes, let people put their work under the shell of SPI,
that'd be perfect.
weasel Diziet: You mentioned that you want to get the 'election
machinery regularised'. Can you elaborate on that?
Diziet I think that before we start branching out into new territory, we
should make sure that our own internal workings, and financial
systems, are sensible.
Hydroxide to teach and train individuals regarding the use and application
of [free software];
Hydroxide diziet: agreed
bdale ok, time! my thanks to all the candidates for their
participation, to those who submitted questions for me to choose
from, and to everyone watching now. A log of the debate will be
posted and the location announced on at least spi-announce and
debian-devel-announce. Please vote! See www.spi-inc.org for
details on the election, minutes of past board meetings, and
various other information you just can't live without. ;-) this
debate is now over.

Wichert Akkerman <wichert(at)wiggy(dot)net> It is simple to make things.
http://www.wiggy.net/ It is hard to make things simple.