Debian Election 2006 (March 26, 2006)

The Debian Linux distribution is currently electing its project leader for 2006. Debian uses secret ballots, but I am going to post my votes online here nonetheless.

In general, it is a real pleasure reading the platforms and rebuttals of so many thoughtful and enthusiastic people. Software distributions are a core part of people's computing experiences, and Debian thus fills a vital role. Debian is my favorite Linux distribution, because it allows new people to contribute relatively easily, and thus it has grown to 900 developers (at last count) who maintain over 10,000 packages.

I am personally a very minor Debian developer, contributing just enough that I do in fact get a vote. While I like working on Debian, I usually have plenty of neglected research projects that can soak up any spare hours I find.

My desiderata for a project leader are:

  1. Someone who thinks of Debian as producing a Linux distribution. This sounds obvious, but most of the leaders' platforms are about bureaucratic procedures. The fact that Ubuntu is making a good distribution for desktop users is a fringe discussion topic not even mentioned by many of the candidates. I favor candidates who make it the main topic. Remember the goal!
  2. Debian's legal decisions are amateurish and extreme. The debian-legal list is happy to wax about law theories and legal hair splitting, e.g. the difference between contracts and agreements. At the end of this "process", they reject software that is perfectly well free for all practical purposes. This is an important subtopic of point 1: as a Linux distribution, you need to get used to the idea of distributing existing free Linux software. I would like a project leader who pushes for realistic and practical legal decisions, instead of trying to make Debian to spend its time practicing amateur law.
  3. Leaders should be good leaders. For example, they should have a lot of experience with the project, not just interesting ideas. They should be good at working with people, including when they disagree.
  4. The "DLT" is a bad idea. The idea is something like, a subgroup of the Debian Developers have secret meetings and then make things happen when the general group is too slow to make it happen. I love the idea of having vital subgroups. I intensely dislike giving any such group an official status, however. There should be many DLT's, not one, and they should all have to air their ideas in public before making any decisions that affect the group. This is a subpoint of point 3: Anyone who pushed for the DLT is not following good leadership.

Not a soul cares about my point 2. Debian developers of today seem happy to browbeat open-source developers for not being open-source enough. Yuck--this may motivate me to leave the project. In the meantime, the focus is on the other three:

Finally, here is my (Condorcet) vote:

  1. Anthony Towns. He has been a release manager for the project. He thus has in-depth knowledge of what is in the project and what it takes to actually produce a Linux distribution (see point 1!). His writing comes off as very friendly, and the other leader nominees all say they can work with him (did I mention that Debian includes many of honest and forthright people?).
  2. Steve McIntyre. His experience with making Debian CD's is positive in my accounting (point 1). An the other hand, he is a heavy proponent of a code of conduct. I admire his attention to improving communication, but I do not know if a code of conduct is the right kind of procedure to implement.
  3. Jeroen van Wolffelaar. He does not have lengthy experience, but that experience is intense. Unfortunately, that experience is part of the DLT. I promote him nonetheless because he appears to be a good leader otherwise: he wants to facilitate communication, and otherwise (from my quick reading) not to do much else as the project leader.
  4. Andreas Schuldei. He really likes the DLT. As good of a candidate as he is otherwise, I really think that DLT's undermine the Debian's democratic system. If he comes up with another organization for the DLT, I could happily rank him higher next year.
  5. Bill Allombert. He is openly more interested in the "political significance" of Debian than the actual work of it. See my point 1. I enjoy reading Mr. Allombert's thoughts, but I would prefer for the project leader someone who focuses on getting things done.
  6. Ted Walther. Ted rocks. He is very fun to read. He would be an awful leader.
  7. Ari Pollak. As snarky as I am feeling this morning, I would not vote a cat ahead of a human. Shame on anyone who did. Commentary is fun and all, but actual votes should be taken seriously.

Lex Spoon