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Re: State of the GNUnion 2020

From: Eli Zaretskii
Subject: Re: State of the GNUnion 2020
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2020 10:39:41 +0200

> From: DJ Delorie <>
> Cc:
> Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 13:10:49 -0500
> (Alfred M. Szmidt) writes:
> > That speaks more to the fact that the GNU project leadership has no
> > impact on project adaptation, or contributor activity.  But rather it
> > is a individual effort by each project maintainer.
> One could argue that this indicates that what you term "GNU leadership"
> is not providing leadership to the projects, and that the maintainers
> must provide that leadership themselves.  What is the point of
> leadership that has no impact?

No one, not even the above quote, said they have "no impact" in
general.  The guiding principles of what it takes to be a maintainer
of a GNU project are communicated to each one of us when he or she is
appointed.  Those principles have very important impact on what we do,
day in and day out, as part of our job as maintainers.

But whether to accept this or that changeset, in what direction to
develop the project, which new features are more important then
others, how to attract more contributors, etc. etc. -- here the
leadership has almost no impact.  They will if we ask them for advice
or help, but we rarely if ever do, because we generally know how to
that stuff ourselves, and because besides general advice an outsider
cannot really help in these matters.

So the actual health and longevity of each project is almost
completely dependent on the project maintainers, and the leadership
has almost no influence there -- until and unless there's a crisis, of
which we had a few: the Emacs/XEmacs fork, the EGCS split, the glibc
incident, etc.  Those are the few and far-in-between exceptions that
IMO squarely tell us what the rule is.

> Perhaps this view does not align with your view, but we must also
> consider how the general public (or at least the general
> free-software-involved public) views us from the outside.  If they are
> more likely to be influenced by the maintainers than by RMS, from
> *their* point of view, the maintainers *are* the GNU leadership.  We
> should not be blind to how we are perceived by others.

Are you really saying that the general public cares about our
day-to-day decisions, or about how frequently we make releases, or our
commit rate?  IME, they only care when there's some potentially
scandalous issue, or one that seems to be brewing.  If you disagree,
please show a few examples of such interest, where deeper involvement
of the leadership in routine management of a project did or could have
mattered as far as general public is concerned.  I could think of
none, but maybe my memory is biased.

> And don't fall into the trap of thinking leadership can only come from
> one person.  RMS may be "the leader" but he's not the only one providing
> leadership to others.

"Can provide" or "does provide"?  Are you saying that leadership _can_
be from more than one person, or are you saying that it already is?
If the latter, who specifically did you have in mind that is providing
leadership to others at this time, or did in the past?  And what kind
of leadership is/was that?

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