My concerns about GPLv3 process

MJ Ray mjr at
Fri Feb 3 00:09:59 UTC 2006

Stefano Maffulli <stef at>
[the comments tool]
> What browser are you using? Did you inform the webmaster?  Did you
> submit bug report?  Your help would be appreciated.

A local compilation from Firefox 1.0.x sources that doesn't
use the non-free-software parts.  There is no webmaster or bug
contact listed on the broken comments system that I can see,
but I'm discussing it with a GNU webmaster at the moment.

> > To be clearer: I think FSFE members spoke at about 30 events in
> > 2005.  GNU speakers (mostly RMS) seem to do a similar number.
> > Not all of those would be appropriate opportunities, but there
> > would be plenty to introduce GPLv3 to many interested people.
> We all in FSFs will definitely do this.

This has been news to me. Has anything been announced?

> > Sticking "International" in a conference title and expecting
> > people to dump exhaust fumes into the upper atmosphere in
> > winter (and it's not fun to do much else from Europe at this
> > time of year) is not very good. This is why a multi-site intro
> > is a very good idea.
> Please then help raise funds to support translations.  At the moment FSF
> staff is already working 200% over-time to improve the site and make it
> useful.  Managing translation falls shortly after 'expanding support to
> other browsers than FF'.

As you should remember, there are two problems with this:
1. I won't fund-raise for FSF when it could use that money to
promote non-free-software licences like FDL. Last time I
discussed it with FSFE, we couldn't earmark donations.
2. I can translate into one non-native language, but most of
the FSF sites are not free software either. Is the GPLv3 draft
under a liberal/permissive licence?

> > I think most hackers and users are more familiar with bug trackers
> > than with caucuses. We have a large problem with growing cynicism
> > and falling participation in political processes, while "bazaar"
> > software development seems to be growing, yet FSF looks like it
> > modelled GPLv3 discussion on the declining political processes!
> GPLv3 is not only for hackers.  It is also for lawyers, public
> administration, civil servants, businesses, engineers.  Therefore the
> tool tries to take into consideration many many factors, needs and
> requests.

Are you suggesting that users, including lawyers, public
administration, civil servants, businesses and engineers,
are not more familiar with ticket systems than caucuses or
the legendary comments system?

> If you have suggestions on /how/ to better manage the process
> then please submit them, trying to avoid the words 'democratic' and
> 'open', supplying real use case scenarios as I don't seem to understand
> your point.

Already done. What were the use cases which led to selection of
the current tool? Then I can offer comparative ones.

> Then please point me the literature where 'growing bazaar style
> development' is growing, because I see pretty vertical organizations
> dealing with very large free sw contributions (Eclipse, the whole Apache
> software, OpenSolaris,  I would like to know more about
> this topic.

The Apache Software Foundation is actually a lot of projects
with some shared features, not just the httpd, and is a sort of
structured bazaar.  You can find more literature either from
ASF or the ApacheCon presenters. does seem
like a fairly single-software effort and I know the other two
even less. Beyond that, there are far more "forge" efforts than
before, bringing together collaborators.

> If you want to be in a committee you should ask FSF for an invitation.

I am sceptical of the process, but I would. Sadly, it says to
feed such requests through either the inaccessible comment system
or in person at the Boston conference! The email interface to
the comment system doesn't seem to offer a way to do anything
other than comment on text. Can you see why this seems
ridiculous?  If there is another channel for such requests,
please announce it.

> > FSF has also locked out many free software users by siting the
> > only public event so far in the USA and by requiring a particular
> > browser. Most foreign users of lynx, w3m, links and much other
> > free software need not apply, or can email and pray.
> Oh, come on: look at web site statistics and you will realize that the
> users of text-only browsers are a very little percentage.

I also realise that web site statistics are generated from
headers that are often forged and few webmasters bother to look
whether a graphical browser is running text-only or not because
that's more involved.  Don't you think it's sort of a shame
if FSF doesn't support some free software when following the
specs isn't hard and it claims "Any Browser" on the site?

> And in any
> case, thinking of those like rms that don't use X, FSF provided the
> email interface.

The email interface appears not to serve some tasks.

> There will be at least a conference in Europe and in Latin America, be
> assured. 

This is news to me. Thank you.

> > An open and transparent process with well-understood process and
> > audit trails on all public submissions until the final reckoning.
> > A tin-pot town council can manage it: why not FSF?
> Because the scope of a town council and that of a corporation like FSF
> are totally different?  FSF has a manifesto and the responsibility of
> copyright assignments from hundreds of people.  FSF cannot give up
> completely to this kind of democracy.  

A town council has a manifesto and the responsibility of all
sorts of property assignments from thousands of people, yet it
is given up to a type of democracy. I don't see why FSF shouldn't
at least be accountable and verifiable even if not democratic.

> > 1. migrate the fancy web comments to an open bug tracker
> >    with BTS proxies and helpers on-call for those who need them,
> I won't comment on the choice of the tool as they all have drawbacks and
> advantages.  In any case changing the tool now is out of question.

That comment is so outrageous I can barely answer it.  The
current tool is broken, but migration is out of the question?

> > 2. replace Discussion Committees A-E with geographic forums
> >    (mainly because cultures and time zones make that grouping
> >    as practical as anything else),
> Geographic or other criteria are all equally opinable.

Yes, but do you agree that they should be open forums
rather than private committees?

> > 3. prepare and dispatch GPLv3 briefing packs to all speakers,
> This is done already.

Great! Is there a pack for non-FSF presenters too?

> > 4. organise and call GPLv3 meetings at events,
> This is being prepared.  There is already one date almost fixed and you
> will see communication in this list within few days.


> > 5. make people and materials available to local user groups,
> >    law libraries and whoever else you think is relevant, and
> Lawyers are being called to participate to the process.  Committees C
> has many from few countries.  I you have names to suggest please do:
> write to Moglen and Peter Brown.

I will do so, although I may well be suggesting people who are
already part of the membership because it's not public info.

> Local groups should ask what information they need more than those
> provided on the site, probably also they should help raise funds to
> organize local GPLv3 conferences and have FSF speakers.

I'll encourage other local groups to do so, but funds should
be kept within the group and not paid to FSF beyond expenses
because of the FDL problem.

> > 6. issue calls for participation by non-big-business groups
> >    such as free software projects, cooperatives, charities,
> >    governments and civil society.
> That was done already.  But, again, if you feel someone important was
> left out it was only because FSF is not the Almighty and doesn't know
> everybody on the planet: let FSF know who should participate in the
> Committees.  There is no reason why FSF would not want more members.

Please stop suggesting that I do things which FSF says to do
with the comments system!  It is broken!  I cannot use it!
If you meant to let them know some other way, please be

Hope that explains the extent of the access problems better,
MJ Ray - personal email, see
Work:  Jabber/SIP ask

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