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Frank de Lange frank at unternet.org
Wed May 9 14:44:59 UTC 2001

All this 'infighting'...

It reminds me of when I was a member of a student fraternity, some years ago.
But that, as we all knew, was just play-acting. Or was it a rehearsal for what
some of my friends would call 'real life'?

Not my life. And not the life of most people I know who are interested in the
philosophy behind Free Software.

It seems to me there are some workable examples of Free-<something>
organisations around which we could use as a template for the FSFE. Examples

 - Debian
 - FSF :-)

I don't know if many of you are familiar with the way Greenpeace is run, but it
looks as if the current FSFE structure is headed that way. Greenpeace is a
self-proclaimed non-democracy, with a reason: it is the most efficient way to
reach some of their targets.

This may be true, but it also creates a lot of internal struggles and it breeds
ego like a petri dish. Many Greenpeace-volunteers who still have their heart
with 'the cause', distance themselves from the organisation simply because they
can not stand the people in command.

A 'purely democratic' organisational structure is probably the most agreeable
for everybody, but... it also imposes a *huge* overhead on everything.
Everything needs to be discussed, and discussed again, until consensus is
reached. Which eventually leads to the same result as the example above. People
who agree with the cause will leave the organisation, only this time because of

Still, I think the Debian way is probably the best way to go. An organisation
like this will have to be 'booted' however, just like Debian was booted by
Deborah and Ian Murdock. As soon as possible, something like a 'constitution'
should be drafted, and something like the Debian social contract should be
instituted and agreed upon by FSFE 'members'. This will (to a certain extent)
safeguard the organisation from the problems Jos described. Should someone in
any 'official' position ever misuse his or her 'power', this person can be
removed from said position by democratic vote. Of course it is still possible
for people to play the politician's game (make friends in the right places,
make promises to said friends in return for votes, etc), but I don't see this
as a big threat given the character of most people I know who are involved in
Free Software...

So, let's keep the goals and targets (eek, management-speak) in our sights, and
create an organisation which supports and upholds those targets. A 'power base'
certainly does NOT uphold those targets, but neither does a debating society
which never gets anything done...

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