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Re: [GNU-linux-libre] "Free GNU/Linux distributions" list update

From: bill-auger
Subject: Re: [GNU-linux-libre] "Free GNU/Linux distributions" list updates
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2017 05:46:08 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:52.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/52.2.1

firstly, let me say that i am pleased that this thread has gotten so
much attention - judging only by the activity on the libreplanet wiki,
the amount of interest in this distro list was not apparent

frankly, i would like to address that and to continue the discussion of
transparency generally before it evaporates

i have been assuming that this mailing list was explicitly intended to
be the public forum (with official FSF participation) for discussion of
the distro evaluation process with the 'Incoming_Distros' wiki page[0]
and section 5 of the 'FreedSoftware' group page[1] as the public
reference for the official results; and that those wiki pages have
simply fallen into neglect over the years - on the other hand, it has
been suggested in this thread that the FSF prefers to be discreet as not
to embarrass distros during the evaluation; which would imply that there
was never intended to be any official source of information documenting
the review process - i do not intend to argue either point but they can
not both be the case; and it is not clear which one is the reality

if discretion is the policy then i would like to point at the list of
"common" distros that "We Don't Endorse"[2] and the list of individual
software projects that are not FSDG-free on the libreplanet wiki[3] - if
the FSF does not have a discretion problem with those well-known
projects then i dont see why "un-common" distros would be exempt from
the same treatment (at least after the evaluation is completed) - in the
end, if a distro is endorsed, it will eventually appear on the "Free
GNU/Linux distributions" page; but otherwise, how would anyone know
whether or not it was ever considered or what the problems were that
prevented it from being endorsed? - it is quite often that someone asks
in the #fsf channel "why is FooDistro not on the list?" - the usual
answer is like: "i dont know - maybe they didnt ask - maybe it failed
(some?) criteria"

ideally - it would be very nice to make the
'Free_System_Distribution_Checklist'[4] more complete and rigorous so
that the criteria are not as subject to interpretation as they seem to
be now; and to keep a public table itemizing the "pass/fail" status of
each criteria for each distro (even if some criteria were still
inherently fuzzy - it would still be more useful than no information at
all) - even if, in the end, a distro did not desire to be (or had not
the resources to become) in fully accordance with the FSDG; still,
anyone reading that table could estimate how much work it would be to
fork or to make their copy of it FSDG-free - just an idea; but as of
now, users have no guide for choosing a distro other than: "yes - it is
endorsed" vs. "i dont know - you figure it out" - even if discretely
omitting explicit details such as the table suggested above, it would
still be helpful (and quite feasible) to distinguish the following four
cases which are well-defined and exhaustive:

* it is endorsed
* it is under consideration
* it was found to be not fully in accordance with the FSDG
* they haven't asked yet (implicit by virtue of it's absence)

note that this currently appears to be the very purpose of the
'Incoming_Distros' wiki page[0], although it is presumably incomplete in
this respect, as it does not indicate that any distro has ever been rejected

that suggestion aside, the existing issue i would like to request a
consensus on is this:

the 'Incoming_Distros' wiki page[0] features the following heading:

> Distros that are defunct or do not comply with the GNU FSDG:
> This list is those distros which were evaluated and turned out
> not to actually be interested in fully complying with the guidelines,
> and/or project development had stopped:

although all distros currently listed under that heading are in the
"defunct" category and it includes none that "do not comply"; it does
imply that the intention was to record those also, much as the list of
individual projects above - i am trying hard not to indicate a
preference here - i just like rules to be applied consistently - so the
question is: "should that heading be changed to ignore those that were
evaluated but rejected, listing only those that went defunct before
evaluation?" - or perhaps that heading should be removed entirely -
IMHO, those defunct distros are hardly worth mentioning at all after the
fact; and i quite assumed that this page originally served as a buffer
for such short-lived attempts

in order to be consistent - either:

* start itemizing distros that were found not to meet the guidelines
after review, specifying precisely which criteria was not met
* OR, remove the "distros we don't endorse" page and the
wiki page

presumably, the latter is not going to happen; so the only fair thing to
do is, after the review process is complete, to subject any
non-compliant distro to the same "wall of shame" treatment as the
"big-guys" and individual software projects - again, i dont intend to
favor either option, only fairness and consistency - both options
perhaps have their merits; but all software projects (big or small)
should deserve either of discretion and/or shaming equally


as a side note (with respect to fairness): it has been suggested in this
thread that new distros should be held to a more stringent standard to
those that have previously been evaluated - i say that this suggestion,
although well-intentioned, is grossly unfair - if new standards are to
be required then ALL distros should be re-evaluated according to the new


as a side note (with respect to connochaetos): jason pointed me to the
original discussion from 2011 and i almost wish he had not - it is not a
very flattering picture of the review process - the disproportionately
over-whelming majority of the long discussion revolved around the use of
the terms "open-source" vs "free-software" on the website with only one
small point made regarding the actual operating system - TLDR: henry
claimed that, living in europe, he was considering the european FSF to
be his official local representative of the FSF and that he was
explicitly told by an FSFE official that there was no problem with such
terminology, and although he gave evidence of that fact, he was quite
berated for it - i dont intend to make an issue of that here (there is
currently a separate active discussion of connochaetos) but i just want
to say that i hope that particular disagreement between the american and
european FSFs was cleared up - if they are indeed branches of the same
organization we should hope that they present a unified message - that
entire discussion was quite unfortunate and unproductive IMHO


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