the Fedora filters

Paul W. Frields stickster at
Wed Mar 19 15:03:28 UTC 2008

Thanks for posting this, Karsten.  Since we have a lot of subscribers to
this list who wouldn't know otherwise, I wanted to mention that this
comes directly out of a conversation we had at the Board meeting
yesterday.  I'm glad you beat me to it, because I like what you did
better than what I drafted. :-)  I've subsumed some of my thoughts into
comments below....

On Tue, 2008-03-18 at 16:42 -0700, Karsten 'quaid' Wade wrote:
> A community has a set of filters, spoken or unspoken, that are
> used to judge various matters, such as entrance into the 
> community, exit from the community, interaction of ideas, etc.  A
> common mistake is to assume that "all open source communities
> share values and filters."  In the end, we are all as different
> as all communities can be from one another.

Right.  The values that the Fedora community has represent a common
ground that we can all live with, so that we can continue to work with
each other and advance the project.  Even inside this project there are
differences of opinion, and sometimes friction, but friction != bad.
Friction can be one way to light a fire (get things done).

> In Fedora we have such filtering, with priority given to values
> and other considerations, which we use when deciding if a package
> comes in to the community, what we'll ship in the distribution,
> how we route packets, etc.
> When making decisions that involve philosophy and practicality,
> what is the Fedora filter?  Based on what I've seen around here,
> and on how I've seen decisions tend to be made, here is a first
> poke at ordering our filter.  What is strange to me is that
> sometimes I feel as if we apply this filter in _reverse_, such as
> with IT decisions.  Is that what we want?  Do different parts of
> the Project apply the filters differently?
> These decision filters are in order of usage/importance.  Please
> discuss:

I note that 12 hours pass without comment -- which really *ought* to be
a rarity for discussing universals like this, especially when posts
about, e.g., how to use %{?dist} generate huge response -- not that we
don't have to solve those problems too. ;-)

But *why* do we solve them?

> =         Open source is first and best, regardless of what           =
> =                       patents it leans on                           =
>      We prefer our software to be 100% free but when the hairs
>      are split, having an OSI license is the decider.
>      In the near and far future, open source is the more
>      practical solution.
> ==       Software patents are bad, Fedora is at risk shipping        ==
> ==                         encumbered software                       ==
>      We recognize that all laws are not the same in all
>      countries, but in the end, Fedora cannot put US-based
>      sponsors at risk by breaking US laws.
>      There are other similar considerations in this filter, such
>      as US export laws for cryptography, and so forth.
> ===               Educating and changing the world                  ===
>      It's not good enough to live the life.  We'll never see
>      software truly be free for all unless underlying laws and
>      values in society are addressed.
>      Fedora is not here to force it's opinion on anyone else, but
>      there is value in explaining about Fedora's philosophy of
>      open source practicality.
>      By finding ways to grow the contributor and user base, we
>      make ourselves more relevant and are better able to change
>      the world.

I like the ordering of #3 compared to the first two, because it makes it
clear that we need to strive to do the right thing, even if that means
we don't get voted as the Homecoming Queen every time.  If the order
changes, and we put this item first, our message instead is:

"The most important issue to Fedora is to appeal to as many people as
possible, because it means we're getting more users familiar with FOSS."

I don't think that message needs to be labeled as pure evil for us to
disagree with it.

> ====                   Usability, Pragmatism                       ====
>      We choose software solutions that are most usable and do the
>      best job of solving our problems, user's problems, and
>      society's problems.
>      We recognize that everything is not free and open source,
>      and won't be until the world is different.  In the interests
>      of running a modern distribution, we have to rely upon
>      proprietary firmware, network hardware and storage, and
>      other resources.
>      Using open source is the best pragmatic solution, but may
>      not always be an option.
> =====            Open Community Projects are Better               =====
>      We seek solutions that are common and open, rather than
>      inventing solutions just for Fedora.  We prefer to push
>      changes upstream and inherit solutions with everyone else.
>      When given a choice, we prefer to adopt solutions that are
>      part of an active community.
> ======                 Budget and Resources                      ======
>      Our pockets are not infinitely deep, nor do we have endless
>      numbers of contributors to help.  Even when an idea is sound
>      and practical by other filters, it may not be feasible to
>      pursue that idea due to resource considerations.

Here's a thought about the "filter" concept:  Some of these filters are
emergency cutoffs, like legality or resource constraints.  In other
cases the filters are an escape valve that relieves pressure.  Is there
room for the concept of weighting for these filters, or (in the sense of
"perfect" being the enemy of the "good," and "good" being the enemy of
"good enough") is binary *good enough* for decision making?`

Paul W. Frields                      
  gpg fingerprint: 3DA6 A0AC 6D58 FEC4 0233  5906 ACDB C937 BD11 3717   -  -  -  - stickster @ #fedora-docs, #fedora-devel, #fredlug
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