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[GNU-linux-libre] outstanding workgroup conflicts

From: bill-auger
Subject: [GNU-linux-libre] outstanding workgroup conflicts
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2019 06:44:41 -0400

this is a clarification of the recent thread posted by quiliro,
which was not received as intended, in order to put the
discussion on the appropriate track

the title of that thread is unfortunate - it does not indicate
to the essential issue to discuss in this workgroup; but one of
it's symptoms - more unfortunately, that symptom is all that got
a response, and nothing to the core essence of the post - the
primary concerns raised in that OP are not related to guix nor
chromium specifically; and it is not reporting anything new - it
is an attempt to resolve conflicts within the FSDG community
workgroup, and the FSDG endorsement process, which are long
over-due - there are two long-standing and critical issues that
this workgroup faces:

1) is the debian kernel FSDG-free?
  - if yes: then henry deserves a long-belated apology
  - if no: then all FSDG distros should remove it
2) is chromium FSDG-free?
  - if yes: then any FSDG distro may choose to distribute it,
            and webengine
  - if no: then all FSDG distros should remove it,
           and probably webengine also

the community discussions have run their course on both of those
issues, since about 18 months ago; and only definitive guidance
from the FSF can resolve them - that is yet to happen for either
conflict - both of which are embarrassments, IMHO; because the
history of this workgroup shows that some distros have been
asked to remove either the debian kernel or chromium, and other
distros have been allowed to distribute them without consequence
- as far as i am concerned, there is nothing more to discuss on
this list until both of those conflicts are resolved, and the
FSF is shown to be willing to step in when necessary, to ensure
that the guidelines are adequate to be, and indeed are, applied
uniformly to all distros, at all times, perpetually

for the sake of anyone new to this discussion, i will summarize
the specific issue of the guix chromium package, to illuminate
why the most recent thread was focusing on a symptom, and not
addressing the core issue

until about six months ago, everyone was content to let the
chromium controversy rest on the consensus that is was not
convincingly fit for FSDG distros - that included those on the
guix mailing list who were discussing to add it in late 2018,
when i invited them to discuss it on the FSDG list - at that
time, the consensus in guix appeared to be that chromium would
be kept in a personal repo of the package maintainer; so there
was nothing further to discuss with the FSDG workgroup - a few
months later, the decision to add it to the guix standard repos
came, by all appearances, from the guix management and without
any public discussion that challenged the intention of the
package maintainer to keep it in a personal repo - to be clear
though, that is not something that i would care to argue about -
i do not see any of that as necessarily running afoul with the
FSDG, strictly speaking; but it had the effect of diluting the
FSDG, and diminishing the efforts of the FSDG workgroup

in the absence of any authoritative stance from the FSF, that
event set a precedent, that any of the FSDG grey-areas were
subject to arbitrary interpretation by any distro; effectively
rendering any and all FSDG discussions, and the workgroup
itself, as irrelevant, and IMHO, greatly diminishing the value
of FSDG endorsement, and the dignity of the FSDG itself - maybe
thats just the way it is going to be; but i dont think that the
community as a whole prefers it that way

much effort over the years has gone into making the FSDG and the
distro endorsement process as transparent, democratic, and
respectable as possible, by many people who want FSDG
endorsement to be more than merely a one-time achievement award,
that distros can earn, post on their website as a trophy, and
then forget about - it is impossible for the FSDG to itemize
every potential freedom/privacy flaw and anti-feature - in order
to remain healthy and relevant, there needs to be an on-going,
collaborative endeavor of cross-distro consensus building, in
the face of new technologies, with some guidance and occasional
authoritative decisions from the FSF - that is what is at stake,
and why quiliro started that thread - it was yet another attempt
to reclaim some dignity for the FSDG and the good folks who care
about it's future, and who have spent countless hours arguing
it's finer points for the sake of presenting a uniform
interpretation of the grey-areas

that is the philosophical problem facing the FSDG workgroup now;
but that event created a very practical problem also; in that it
forced the distro endorsement process into the dubious position
of holding new distros to a higher standard than what would be
challenged against an already endorsed distro - without going
into details, the situation is that currently, no new distro can
pass the community evaluation criteria, then move forward to the
final FSF endorsement phase, if it distributes chromium or
derivatives - that effectively makes it impossible for any such
distro to be endorsed

for the sake of fairness and professionalism, no FSDG distro
should be distributing chromium while new distros would be
penalized for doing so - again, this is not specifically
about chromium nor guix - they just happen to be the case in
point currently; but the way things are now, any analogous
situatino could arise again - it is upon any FSDG distro that
wants any program badly enough, which is on the "ugly-list" (i
will call it for brevity), to challenge the FSF on that point,
_before_ hosting it in their public repos; if only for the
reason that it is unfair to new distros to do otherwise - for
better or worse, there are only three ways this can be done

1) an acceptable liberation procedure for chromium
   would be published
2) the FSF would remove chromium from the "ugly-list"
3) the FSF would uphold the validity of "ugly-list",
   declaring chromium non-FSDG-free 

again, the specific details of the chromium code-base and the
guix bug report are not the essential issues raised in quiliro's
post - those are relevant, but only in so far as they may inform
an acceptable liberation procedure or a definitive FSF decision 

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