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Re: GNU Kind Communication Guidelines versus social contract or Codes of

From: Jean Louis
Subject: Re: GNU Kind Communication Guidelines versus social contract or Codes of Conduct
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 17:56:03 +0530
User-agent: Mutt/1.10.1 (2018-07-13)

* Federico Leva <> [2019-11-12 15:13]:
> A common example is a self-appointed enforcer attached to an entity
> accountable only to itself (as many USA foundations are). If you add
> it on top of a project whose community is a do-ocracy or democracy,
> based on some values, there is no way to make sure the enforcer
> respects the community's values.

Speaking from my experience as corporate registration provider since
2002. US private foundation may have complex structures. The founding
document such as Memorandum and Articles or Trust Charter define
purposes of foundation.

For example FSF's Memorandum is defined that purpose is to encourage,
foster and promote free exchange of computer software by distributing
and disseminating software and increasing public's access to computers
and other high technology devices. Reference:

It does its purpose very well! I would say that rarely some foundation
achieves its purposes to the degree that FSF did achieve and is still

While there is community around GNU, the purpose is not community but
encouraging, promoting, fostering exchange of computer
software... that maybe implies community for some people, yet
community is not defined as a purpose of the FSF, it is we can say,
very nice and wanted side impact, but it is not a purpose. It is
important part of the overall activity.

Every foundation, or trust, or company, has to abide by constitution,
then underlying laws of the country, state, and then comes Memorandum
and Articles which define the governance of the foundation, trust,

Enforcers, if one could say so, of such foundations are defined in it
Articles of Association or Incorporation, it is usually board of
directors or trustees. Founder could have a position within, yet need
not have any. Usually founder still has some powers to change the
founding documents, and should be respected in general. 

GNU project and its underlying free software philosophy is the basis
for the FSF, even though, that may not be well defined in the founding
documents. It is defined elsewhere, such as in decisions of the board
of the FSF, and it reflects well on their website and in the FSF

GNU project, different from FSF, did envision community and that
community started as small one and later developed to global smaller
communities all in itself, independent, and that is great achievement
in general. Yet the main purpose of GNU project was not to have
community in first place, but to have free operating system. Community
is also for GNU very beneficial and could be said, implied side

Because all of the articles of the free software philosophy are
published with the free license, everybody is free to develop GNU
communities in its associated or not associated manner, or call them
as they wish, for example Linux User Groups were formed based on
free software philosophy, see here: and many such
groups were totally independent of each other, all having in common
free software philosophy. Not every member of such community would
know it.

> (Forgive the following analogy.) Many software projects have a
> constitution but said constitution has no teeth. If you add a
> criminal law and there is no way to hold the respective
> executive/judicial power in check, whatever values the constitution
> proclaims are no longer worth the paper they're printed on.
> The traditional GNU structure at least is coherent because there is
> a single source of legitimacy. In Debian, as far as I understand,
> everything is under the project leader, who is however elected. In
> Wikimedia there's a self-appointed legal entity with its own
> bureaucracy (Wikimedia Foundation) and a separate community with its
> own values and processes. These things are not easy to get right.

Yes, and yes. There are however many other aspects to
consider. Purpose of a project is most important. It implies creation
of communities, but not necessarily.

Programming a free operating system could be possible by one single
person without any community around. Several people have proven it to
be possible, for example Professor Tannenbaum and many others.

If it is interesting enough, communities would most probably be
self-created and self-managed.


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