Debian and Democracy

Posted 8 Oct 2003 at 00:56 UTC by exa Share This

Two unrelated words. From experience.

Now, what is the problem with debian? It's because debian claims to be democratic, but it isn't. It claims to be open, but it isn't open. It has a "secret" mailing list. And some guys who are in charge never change, like James Troup who is basically a village idiot. Now, in an open organization there are no dictators, but in debian there is. James Troup gets to decide who can get an account all by himself. Project leader changes, but he doesn't change. He is the administrator of everything. He is Mr. Debian.

I'll make a summary for you guys who wonder what debian really is.

1. I volunteered to make some packages for debian. 2. I applied for an account 3. I got into a few flamewars in debian-devel 4. I had so many packages that it became too time consuming to deal with them without an account. 5. I waited for the account, it wasn't opened. (Because I must have pissed off Mr. Debian or one of his buddies) 6. I waited for many months, and wrote several times that I needed to account to do some meaningful work 7. Meanwhile James Troup, the idiot elmo of debian, told me "you need to get 5 sponsors blah blah" I found 4, but they scared out every 5th one! I was at a later time told that it was a way of rejecting my application by one of the other idiots. 8. It was 2 years of wait. 9. Then, some of them tell me "well if you maintain your packages we'll consider the account". But I didn't back off from my position. I said I needed an account first. 9. Today these idiots write to me, we reject your application because you didn't maintain your packages and got into some flamewars.

Well, for those who don't know debian lists have always been full of flamewars and I did apologize to people whom I had arguments with except a moron called Branden Robinson. I also heavily criticized James Troup because I thought he wasn't performing his duties. Anyway, it's obvious that he had a problem with me, and now I have a problem with him because his action confirms what I had suspected of him.

So, why am I writing this? To cause these fools to write rebuttals full of poor rhetoric which are so typical of them? No. It's because I think the really enthusiastic members of debian project should find ways to make their project more open and more democratic. I don't want to contribute to the project any longer, if I had wanted I would have maintained my packages for the last 1.5 years despite that moron called elmo. I was frustrated by the issues I've summarized, so I decided to wait and see when this idiot would reject my application. Then, I could voice my opinion.

Well, here it goes.

beaurocracy, posted 8 Oct 2003 at 07:20 UTC by judge » (Master)

Debian seems to be very "democratic". Democratic to the point that it's very hard to enter the project. Personal example: the other iRATE author is still trying to get iRATE accepted and is running out into all kinds of "paperwork" and beaurocracy. However we will prevail :)

Beaurocracy ^ 2, posted 8 Oct 2003 at 08:11 UTC by davidw » (Master)

Debian managed to find a way to reject Norm Walsh as an applicant. It was a misunderstanding, but still... jeez.

That said, I think there are a lot of problems that come as part of trying to manage 1000+ people and 10000+ packages. It's not a solved problem. Personally, I would like to see Debian become more of a meritocracy - I've had a very positive experience with the Apache Software Foundation's way of doing things. Ideally, it would be easy for someone like the article's author to maintain their packages sans account, and after X months of steady, successful work, they are granted developership.

Calling people idiots and morons and whatnot in public is pretty rude, though, and I disaprove. I can see why people might have thought you a little too hot-headed for the project (although you certainly wouldn't be the only one with poor social skills).

IHBT, posted 8 Oct 2003 at 14:33 UTC by jaldhar » (Journeyer)

*sigh* I don't know why I'm responding to this but being recently on the receiving end of some Debian bureaucracy myself I've been thinking about this. It's all very nice to complain about rules and regulations, we all do it from time to time. And who wouldn't say that democracy is a good thing? But the thing is in any group of more than 2 people you have to have procedures and the larger the group, the more procedures you have to have and the more formal they get. Consequently the more liberty you lose. That's one side of the equation. The other is how much you can gain by being part of a cohesive group. Debian is far far better, and more comprehensive, and more widespread than anything you and I could come up with on our own. The bureaucracy is the relatively small price you pay for it. If one doesn't like it one has to go somewhere else with a different rules/results ratio but it is incredibly naive to think the issue cn be avoided altogether.

Eray's social skills: You have an example of Mr. Chuckles' rhetorical aptitude above. 'nuff said.

James Troup: If there was any evidence that he was rejecting applicants based on personal animus, I have no doubt he would be swiftly booted from his position dictator or not. He does occasionally have a time crunch as we all do, and this can become a bottleneck which is a cause for concern. But currently the flow of new maintainers seems to be moving along at a brisk pace as far as I can tell.

Norm Walsh: davidw I don't think he was rejected so muh as gave up halfway through and asked his application manager to remove him. This is still not a good thing but it puts a slightly different perspective on the situation don't you think?

Openness, posted 8 Oct 2003 at 17:03 UTC by neil » (Master)

Interesting words. I hope you're going to give KDE as much attention in your calls for openness, since KDE has at least as many secrets as Debian does.

Sure, we're not as democratic as people might like. Great!, posted 8 Oct 2003 at 20:07 UTC by thom » (Master)

Debian has problems, we'll all admit that. But. I think one of the great strengths is that you *don't* need an account to help. You need precisely none of debian's resources. You need a sponsor. And even then, you're likely to find that if you ask nicely, you'll find one with no problems.
Obviously, if a newbie to any community comes in, ignore's people's help and advice, starts flamewars and is generally rude and abusive, they're not going to meet with a good response.
Whining in public does nothing to help.
davidw: this is already the situation. Your sponsor will nominate you to become a developer, and then you pass through the checks. Because so much of the deadweight is being weeded out through the requirement for a sponsor and preexisting work for debian, this is a much faster process.

But Debian is not a Democracy, posted 8 Oct 2003 at 20:13 UTC by srivasta » (Master)

Debian has never claimed to be a Democracy. It has a few democratic processes: electing a project leader is a democratic process. Passing General Resolutions is a democratic process. Very few other things are; trying to craft technical solutions based on popularity is a stunningly bad idea.

For the most part, Debian is a Bazaar of Cathedrals; with a few procedures in place to override the low level cathedral in exceptional situations. Each developer has, within reason, full control over his packages, modulo following Debian Technical policy, thus creating the low level cathedral. The Technical committee, and the General Resolution Protocol offer means of overriding developer decisions about their own packages.

Software integration, and development, new policies, etc, are mostly driven by informal cooperation and rough consensus -- thus an ability to persuade ones fellow developers is critical for success as a project member.

However, the original post was not about Debian, per se, but about the gating protocol for getting into the project itself.

Democracy and idiocy, posted 9 Oct 2003 at 03:34 UTC by vorlon » (Master)

Hmm, mounting evidence that the Advogato trust metrics are too generous.

The real irony here is that someone would whine that Debian is insufficiently democratic, while pointing out that not even five developers out of 900 would stand up for him. And making Debian more democratic would help someone who can't gain a .5% approval rating how, exactly?

I wouldn't comment, but..., posted 10 Oct 2003 at 02:47 UTC by exa » (Master)

It's just that I really knew only 4 people out of 900 closely. And yes, every 5th person who said he was gonna vouch for me "magically" disappeared!! In a few cases, I was able to track down people who actually threatened those who wished to write that mail. And I must remind you that it was unfair, I having maintained what 5-6 source packages some of which were large without an account, was forced to such an unusual admission requirement while many people got an account with only a small easy package. I understood the reason perfectly, but they always denied. Anyway.

I don't have much time to dedicate to an easy task as writing some package scripts and compiling programs, that's more or less kid's stuff, but somebody's gotta do it, and I volunteered for it and put my work. I did think it was enjoyable while it lasted, because there are several people who use what you did and thank for the convenience. But I am a very critical person, and I will criticize what I hold to be a wrong practice. I voiced my opinion several times, and some of these idiots didn't like it.

james troup has been a complete asshole and hypocrite, and only because of him what I could have contributed to the project has been taken away, that I regret. I don't really give a damn about branden robinson, everybody knows he's a psychopath. james troup is more dangerous, he is a typical obsessive, silly computer geek who pretends to be very methodical and logical while he is a lazy, ignorant, dishonest, numb bastard and overall a dummy who doesn't really grok anything. (He stalls the packages of people he doesn't like for instance, and then pretends nothing has happened, oh yeah he is the "ftp master" as well, pathetic lamer....)

I wish I cared enough about debian to start some kind of political struggle. But first, I don't have the stomach to deal with the likes of vorlon, james troup or branden robinson. Second, I think debian has lost its relevance, about 2 years ago. Third, I can be a happy hacker and even a contributor to prestigious projects without joining a huge crowd led by mega lamers (Yes, you, mighty DPL, tbm who kisses james troup's ass and enjoys it)

I *will* remove my association with debian project on advogato. I do not wish to be seen as such. And those who are buddies of the debian cabal, should never ever communicate with me. They are not worth a dime. There were some emails I received but I erased them without reading, something I have done maybe less than 5 times in my whole life.

My personal opinion is that I think RMS should be debian's leader, and he should change the name to "The GNU Operating System" or "The GNU Distribution". Only with a leader who knows the value of equality can the project get rid of these idiots.

I was once very hopeful that debian could become a great example of future democratic online communities with a sense of purpose on the internet. Having seen the contrary, and on such a personal account was very sad.

Whining about one Debian-related incident?, posted 10 Oct 2003 at 08:21 UTC by Mysidia » (Journeyer)

Now, what is the problem with debian? It's because debian claims to be democratic, but it isn't.

It claims to be open, but it isn't open. It has a "secret" mailing list.

A large project like debian can be reasonably open, yet still keep some things confidential, such as security vulnerability reports.

some guys who are in charge never change, like James Troup who is basically a village idiot.

Full of ad Hominem attacks like this one... calling people names does not strengthen the arguments of the article, the attacks make it sound like a big whining rant based on pre-judgements of people, (and Debian) .

Exa, your hands appear so dirty, that I (for one) am compelled to dismiss the article as mostly fabrication. The conclusions about Debian seem to be based on a sketchy anecdote that supports other conclusions, i.e. unwillingness to compromise, flaming, etc ("lists full of flames" does not justify the position of flaming.),

tied to some unfounded thoughts on how open organizations may choose to have certain resources managed.

In particular, you have an obnoxious habit of labelling people as "morons" or "idiots".

Labels don't serve as arguments against a perceived misguided action, and if you wish for intelligent people to take what you say seriously, then you should try your very best to avoid labelling people as things or bashing them personally.

Bizarrity, posted 10 Oct 2003 at 10:29 UTC by slef » (Master)

Many bizarre things here, including confusing democracy with public majority votes on everything and confusing elmo's general slowness and conservatism with some sort of vendetta. There are things in Debian that need fixing, but there is little to indicate they cannot be fixed. There are some things that need fixing in certain people who refuse to interface properly with Debian and I don't know if they are willing to fix them. It's so much easier to believe in the conspiracy theories and rant rather than fix, isn't it?

Once again, I wonder about advo's trust metric and desirability of a "bozo" level.

you like turkey?, posted 10 Oct 2003 at 13:39 UTC by badvogato » (Master)

but you can't.
turkey. Slang. a. A disliked person. b. a failure; flop.

you like democracy? democracy is worse than turkey.
democracy: 3. Majority rule. 4. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community
respect? does it come before the equality or after? social equality is only enforcable when people speak the same language and avert foul play whenever there is a third party who has no direct interest in individual feud.

not a democracy!, posted 10 Oct 2003 at 18:41 UTC by splork » (Master)

thanks srivasta. exactly what i was going to say. debian is not a democracy and never has been. if it were it would be a shitty distribution because the majority of the users and "people" the democracy would represent don't know jack about how to build a good distro.

exa is not doing himself any favors by whining in a front page article on advogato. thats what diary entries are for.

Whats my beef with debian? I run it. But they do let perfection get in the way of having up to date packages available in a semi-stable timely release (no, "testing" does not count though it helps a lot). The more hands in the pot the more difficult it becomes to accomplish something coherent. Maybe you should be proud to not be associated with that exa...

Is debian a democracy, posted 11 Oct 2003 at 00:18 UTC by yeupou » (Master)

Indeed, Debian is not a democracy. I noticed that in free software, like in software more generally, most of the people I met (virtually or not) are completely ignorant about political concept and most of them are also in favor of some kind of meritocracy (well, maybe a consequence of the first point).

So it would be a big surprise if an association of people with these feelings was a democracy: no desire to build such regime, not able to build such regime. This crappy talk about how bad a democratic distro would be says all.

We Praise Thee, O Democracy, posted 11 Oct 2003 at 04:23 UTC by tk » (Observer)

Hmm, obviously democracy has become a sacred, indisputable concept for somed people. Democracy is axiomatically good! The excellence of democracy is self-evident! Self-evident, that is, except to morons! *sigh*

By the way, I think if exa can provide more information on the facts of his case (read: evidence), it'll improve the quality of this discussion a great deal.

Break glass in case reasoning fails, posted 11 Oct 2003 at 04:37 UTC by nymia » (Master)

Let's figure this out. OK.

First, exa went and used the proper channels but was turned-away.

Second, exa went again to use the proper channels and again failed.

Third, exa, knowing how Pavlov works decided it will always fail no matter what.

See the pattern now. Is that Democracy? or what?

Break glass in case judgement fails, posted 11 Oct 2003 at 12:31 UTC by slef » (Master)

Try this instead:

First, exa fails to follow the documented processes.

Secondly, exa tries to issue an ultimatum to those running the documented processes and fails.

Finally, exa posts an article full of inaccuracies (you try and find where "Debian claims to be a democracy" - the developer reference manual even says "Debian isn't a democracy" in section 3.3) and personal attacks to advogato's front page.

See the problem now? There have always been bozos and probably will be until Darwin speeds up. Please don't believe everything you read on the web.

KDE vs Debian, posted 11 Oct 2003 at 14:03 UTC by daniels » (Master)

neil: Er, no, dude. kde-core-devel is public, and all. There's only one private list, and that's only because members of a certain company don't want to have all their discussion and work public, because of the company culture - it just doesn't happen there. sysadmin@ is a private alias, for obvious reasons - way too much sensitive data.

KDE is very, very open, trust me. Debian is also a fair bit more open than Eray alleges.

As someone with pretty intimate experience of both projects and their respective developer application processes, let me assure that KDE is actually extremely open - I walked up to Waldo, asked for an account, and got one. Who gains/loses accounts is public on kde-cvs, etc.

Why are you so insistent on trolling KDE everywhere after the whole army thing?

Debian and Democracy, posted 11 Oct 2003 at 17:53 UTC by bjf » (Journeyer)

Debian isn't a democracy, it's a shining example of a meritocracy, with all it's advantages and disadvantages.

The underlying principle of democracy is that all people are the same in the eyes of the law. Everyone (theoreticaly) as stakeholders can equally contribute their say towards how the state is run.

Meritocracy, on the other hand, for better or for worse, is somewhat of a Right-wing notion in that it embraces the idea that people are inherantly unequal, and that people with high levels of knowledge and ability have a far higher degree of control and input into the running of the process in question (and to a degree, so they should -- meritocracy is one instance where 'inequality' is desireable to an extent). Inequality in this context is not a bad thing: should everybody have an equal says as the engineers as to what features or fixes get incorporated into the Linux kernel? Want a bug fixed? Please send a patch.

This isn't to say that end-users, as stakeholders, shouldn't have any sort of input whatsoever, of course -- since without users, software lacks a reason to exist, and software authors don't get the kudos they seem to like so much. All the same, in Debian, the people at the top of the tree are there because they're extremely competant and have proven themselves though getting the job done. If they want to behave like prima donnas, they can get away with it, because being a wanker in itself detracts comparatively little from their merit and their reason for being there. If, however, they were incompetant, or were just complainers who did no work, they wouldn't be there in the first place, even if they were agreeable team players.

A meritocracy, albeit one which gives everybody the opportunity to contribute and prove his worth should not be confused to democracy, not by a long shot.

Maybe it's because..., posted 11 Oct 2003 at 22:12 UTC by hadess » (Master)

... you acted just like you did now?

KDE, posted 12 Oct 2003 at 01:51 UTC by neil » (Master)

Wrong, Mr. Stone. I wasn't even thinking of ev-membership. I was thinking of administration, security, packaging mailing lists.

Closed lists, posted 12 Oct 2003 at 03:42 UTC by daniels » (Master)

I was referring to another list, not ev-membership. KDE eV is independent of the KDE project - it's their perogative to have a closed list, so I don't see why you're trying to take this out on KDE.

Closed lists for security are very important. Can you think of what would happen if they were a free-for-all? I've already mentioned the sysadmin alias, and kde-packager is mainly security stuff and people saying "kdenetwork doesn't work, please apply this patch and re-roll the tarball". As someone who lurked there as a packager and, later, assistant packager, let me assure you it's actually stunningly dull.

I'm not seeing your point, Mr. Stevens.

Make up your mind, posted 12 Oct 2003 at 16:14 UTC by neil » (Master)

First you claim KDE is open, then make excuse after excuse for secret list after secret list.

All three of them, posted 13 Oct 2003 at 00:20 UTC by daniels » (Master)

I've said my piece.

The Truth About Secret Mailing Lists, posted 13 Oct 2003 at 06:50 UTC by tk » (Observer)

Big Evil Leader Behind the Scenes: OK, you, do you have anything to report?

Puppet Project Leader #1: Sir, the members of the Foo GUI and Bar GUI projects are apparently working towards a truce, despite our efforts to foster hatred between the two camps.

Big Evil Leader: Hrm. I put you in charge of the Foo and Bar projects, so that you can attract skilled coders and occupy their minds with frivolous flame wars. If a truce happens, then our grand plan of divide-and-conquer will be in great danger. Find out who's behind the truce, and kill him. Next, you.

Puppet Leader #2: Aye, Sir. I and my men have managed to collect over 800,000 user passwords through the backdoor in our BazSSH client. We should be able to reach the target of 1 million passwords by 2 months.

Big Evil Leader: Excellent! Excellent! I'll reward you handsomely when the deed's done. In any case, by that time, the world will be ours! Bwahahahahaha!

re: tk, posted 14 Oct 2003 at 11:38 UTC by exa » (Master)

Yea, funny, right, like they achieve anything at all.

The thing is I have no idea why there are such things in a so-called open organization. That mega lamer called james troup can kiss my ass, by the way.

re: daniels, posted 14 Oct 2003 at 11:59 UTC by exa » (Master)

daniels seems to be right about KDE. he is also possibly correct about private lists not being a major event like I implied.

The main thing that separates KDE from debian is not some kind of constitution, though. It has always seemed to me that the quality of work and people (that is not to say there are not excellent people in debian doing excellent things, but there is a difference)

I would love to be able to make a positive contribution to a discussion about debian, but you will have to forgive me.


re: re: tk, posted 14 Oct 2003 at 15:48 UTC by tk » (Observer)

You gotcha. And, do you know that the whole GNU/Linux project is actually the brain child of Bill Gates the Evil Emperor? Or, more correctly, even Gates himself is a puppet under another Dark Lord. In fact, in this world, everyone is actually a puppet undersome other evil master, so the true Evil Emperor is everyone and no one.

Oh yes, the secret mailing lists. Some ignorant people claim that these lists are "secret" simply because there's a cost involved in keeping list archives. But obviously, this "explanation" is too naive to be true! The fact is, all the secret mailing lists in the world are part of a huge network, controlled by a single Evil Emperor (or is it all the Evil Emperors, but never mind). These lists are connected to Evil Mailing Lists Behind the Scenes whose addresses aren't even publicized, which in turn are connected to even more Evil Mailing Lists Behind the Scenes, and so on.

re: re: re: tk, posted 15 Oct 2003 at 01:21 UTC by ralsina » (Master)

Uhh... are you saying that the reason why debian-private (or whatever it's called) is not on the web is because the archive would be too expensive? I mean, as compared to the archives of the other 90 mailing lists? Just what is passed along in that list? ISO images?

Sorry, dude, Occam's razor only works when the simple reason is not obviously wrong.

re: re: re: re: tk, posted 27 Oct 2003 at 10:30 UTC by daniels » (Master)

The reason -private's not on the web is because it has security-sensitive and developer-sensitive information on it (e.g, addresses, when someone's on vacation), and generally stuff that shouldn't be exposed to the public. That's why it's called -private, guys; it's basically for stuff that *can't* go on -devel for whatever reason.

meritocracy, democracy and where things go wrong..., posted 17 Nov 2003 at 23:10 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

And who wouldn't say that democracy is a good thing?
ME! :)



how to begin without winding people up.

democracy: where "the people" vote on decisions as a group.

there are a number of assumptions about democracy.

firstly, that the people are sufficiently well-informed to make an appropriate decision.

secondly, that the people are sufficiently motivated to _make_ a decision that is in the interests OF THE GROUP AND ITS AIMS.

thirdly that the appropriate decisions can actually be presented in the first place in order for a decision to be made _about_ them!!!

it is also believed, about democracies, that by voting for someone (plural or singular) who is presumed to be more knowledgeable about decision making and passing over responsibility for making decisions on your behalf to them, that the decisions made will somehow be improved.

sadly, what tends to happen is that the democracy becomes a temporary autocracy, with even the people whom have been voted into power being self-deluded in this respect. which is WORSE because they then make autocratic dictatorial decisions with an aura of justification.

at least a _true_ dictator damn well knows how much bloody responsibility he has and makes damn sure he's making the right decisions (e.g. paddy ashdown)

in other words, if you want a really _weak_ group, e.g. a country, you put a democracy in place.

i.e. putting a democracy in debian (or iraq) is a really bad idea.


Meritocracy, on the other hand, for better or for worse, is somewhat of a Right-wing notion in that it embraces the idea that people are inherantly unequal, and that people with high levels of knowledge and ability have a far higher degree of control and input into the running of the process in question (and to a degree, so they should -- meritocracy is one instance where 'inequality' is desireable to an extent).

interesting that you classify meritocracy as "right-wing". i have no idea what right-wing is [something to do with birds? :)]

in my opinion, i believe that you are correct in your assessement that a meritocracy is much more appropriate [for debian].

universities are run along the lines of meritocracy: they get official bits of paper with "phd" and stuff on them, and that somehow magically conveys weight to your arguments.

however, where a meritocracy can fall over is when the meritocrat oversteps their authority.

taking an example of an individual that is an expert coder, the individual somehow automatically assume that this gives them the ability to make sound management decisions, or the ability to make good strategic project management decisions.


i too have seen problems with debian (a developer who can't cope with his package because he is getting swamped by its configuration management, and who refuses to consider a back-door means to let other people help)

i've also seen problems with meritocracy - extreme problems.

i've also seen how democracy fails time and time again.

i really like the ASF charter, esp. the thing about mutual respect.

basically, as an individual, there are roles to fulfil, and as a group, there are roles to fulfil.

there are rules about communication with individuals and groups [i could endeavour to describe some, but this reply is getting on for too long].

respect them, and you will get by fine.

disregard them blatantly, and you will get into trouble.

so my advice, exa, is that you learn what the rules are for someone in your position. take your time, and then follow them. if you don't know what the rules are, for god's sake, _ask_.

btw does anyone in debian reading this believe that it is a good idea to have like a "complaints" list or an equivalent of ACAS (the independent conciliation service)?

if two groups have a beef, someone step in and help them to communicate and thence resolve their differences?

Debian Process, posted 23 Nov 2003 at 21:50 UTC by ndw » (Master)

I stumbled across this essay just today. For the record, Debian didn't reject my application. They've made the application process sufficiently burdensome that I gave up, but that's not quite the same thing.

As far as I can tell, Debian has established a process for evaluating applicants and they apply that process rigorously. That seems entirely proper and reasonable.

I suppose that it's possible that the process can be abused, but there is not one iota of evidence to support an accusation of abuse in how my application was processed.

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