Today I had jitsi breakfast with a group of hackers in another city -- old free s/w friends I had not seen for years, and since covid we meet frequently.
They were all happy at the creation of the Assembly and virtual backslapping went on.
A very good piece of advice given was:
"Define your governance before you make any significant decisions. Otherwise those decisions will come from the early volunteers instead of from the accepted governing body.
So maybe we do need to put something in place quickly.
It was also proposed that we take Gnome, Debian, and Python as examples and distill the best elements from those. It would be great to have a political science student write an undergraduate thesis on this, but there is probably not enough time.
I went and re-read my email archive on the Gnome foundation deliberations in 2000-07 (my recent move to emacs+notmuch makes this easy) and was able to find web archives from *almost* the start of Gnome. (Sadly the internal email links don't work anymore, but one can still form the picture.)
The whole thing started when a company Andover donated $50k to Gnome in 2000-02. Gnome had no place to put it, and Richard Stallman said he would take it and disburse it if he thought reasonable. Here is a bit of Miguel de Icaza's email on that subject:
Andover was sending the money to the FSF and the issue was being
discussed on the FSF mailing list. Richard pointed out that they
would keep the money and be willing to spend it on things Richard
considered "ok", this the actual text:
> GNOME does not have any other organization, so the funds will be sent
> by Andover.net to the FSF to be held in reserve for GNOME. Miguel
> said gnome-hackers are discussing how they would like to use the funds.
> Ok, that sounds good. Please run the final or semi-final
> recommendations past me; if they are reasonable, I will say yes.
I did not like this, first of all, because I do not think all of
the GNOME hackers might want to get Richard's clearance. I can ask
Andover to change the check and send it to Software in the Public
Interest (SPI, the dudes behind debian) if people want.
I hate more than anyone to be in the middle of this. So what do
you guys think? FSF with RMS as a filter for spending the money, or
Finally we went our way with Gnome and went through the soul-searching process and came up with a charter. I'll point here to some early drafts of that because some of it applies. (I don't think the "advisory board" of companies applies, but who knows? I would think of it as a future direction if ever.)
It's interesting to note that even then there were discussions of keeping the FSF at arm's length. At the time I weighed in with: "don't worry: FSF is there to give us leadership on legal license issues, but they won't interfere with technical direction".
Jim Gettys (one of the X authors and interested in early Gnome stuff) pointed out a different and important angle:
Also understand that some of RMS's actions in the past have alienated
major companies trying to behave in good faith. As a result, many companies
(and people) will not deal with FSF, even those who have made major
contributions to free software in the past. An arms-length approach to
the FSF is most likely to garner general support (while not sacrificing
the goals of a free desktop).
Jim was quite prophetic on this, more than I was!
This email is longish and about the past, so I'll discuss next steps in a follow-up.
Here are the links to Gnome prehistory:
* Bar Decrem posts "Charter 3rd draft":
* Summarized by Havoc Pennington at:
* Jim Getty's comments in response to my post:
* Bart and George on who is a member:
* Nat Friedman - the first practical enumeration of who is a member
* Alan Cox:
Alan makes lots of points, not necessarily that clear or on-point, but it mentions something that made my ears perk up: he discusses the LSB (Linux Standards Base). I do a lot of release engineering, and I have been very annoyed at what seems to be the the disappearance of the LSB. Coherent definition of free s/w interface points is important, and the GNU Assembly could play an interesting role.
The OSUOSL https://osuosl.org/ have offered a couple of vms (4
instances sharing 8 vcpus, 16GB ram, 1000GB volume storage) for hosting
the GNU Assembly. It is on a fully free software (open)stack, the
free software (it uses the unmodified OpenStack interface
http://wiki.osuosl.org/openstack/). They can also provide backups if we
need those (I think we do).
This isn't RyF certified hardware (the FSF do have a cluster of
machines which are, but they haven't offered hosting yet). But I
believe it is a step up because this is fully Free Software otherwise.
Our current hosting (kindly donated by Andy) is on linode which doesn't
have a free management interface.
I know we don't have an official governance body yet, but I like to
accept it for the GNU Assembly and migrate our current services, wiki,
web, lists and git to it. Those are currently all hosted on the same
vm, I would like to split them into 4 VMs so the services are better
isolated. I'll work with the current teams of sysadmins, mailing list
maintainers, web site maintainers and the wiki maintainer to give them
access to the new VMs when they are setup.
Comments, questions, requests?
Martin Michlmayr published two reports on Free Software Foundations:
Growing Open Source Projects with a Stable Foundation
This primer covers non-technical aspects that the majority of projects
will have to consider at some point. It also explains how FOSS
foundations can help projects grow and succeed.
This primer explains:
What issues and areas to consider
How other projects and foundations have approached these topics
What FOSS foundations bring to the table
How to choose a FOSS foundation
The research report describes the findings of the research and aims to
help understand the operations and challenges FOSS foundations face.
This report covers topics such as:
Role and activities of foundations
Challenges faced and gaps in the service offerings
Operational aspects, including reasons for starting an org
and choice of jurisdiction
Trends, such as the "foundation in a foundation" model
Recommendations for different stakeholders
These are really good reads to determine what kind of foundation we
would like to join or create.
I'm glad to be joining the Assembly. Thank you to everyone involved in
creating this space.
I and the GNU Radio project support the GNU Social contract and the
collaborative and accountable goals of the GNU Assembly. Can I please be
added as an individual supporter?
Derek Kozel <www.derekkozel.com> (GNU Radio) <https://www.gnuradio.org>
I'm joining as representative of the GNU Radio project. We restructured
ourselves last year into an unincorporated association with a General
Assembly of members nominated out of the community, a Board elected by
the General Assembly, and a President elected by the Board. The initial
structure is heavily inspired by the KDE e.V. organization. We also
found the FOSS Governance Collection a useful resource. I am the current
president. Elections will be held every two years. We have had several
fiscal sponsors including our own Foundation, the FSF, and now the SETI
Institute. We use the Condorcet Internet Voting Service (MIT licenced).
Our Articles of Association, By-Laws, and formal voting record can be
I've been a volunteer with the GNU Radio project since 2015 and a lead
since 2018. We have code maintainers for the main and maintenance
branches and leads for specific efforts. We are in the process of
forming a standing Code of Conduct committee to replace our ad-hoc
current system. We currently use the Contributor Covenant Code of
Conduct, but are working to expand and improve it using Otter
Technology's references and training.
When the Assembly supports member projects GNU Radio would like to
formally join. We've already decided unanimously as a board and have the
support of our General Assembly.
The other day, while discussing on #gnuassembly (Freenode IRC), we
realized two things: that we were tired of drama, and that the Assembly
had better make itself known quickly.
So Ricardo and I came up with a preliminary web site (with Ricardo doing
all the cute things, logo and design), which Mark deployed overnight:
(user: assembly; pass: endorse)
The idea is to make something attractive, positive, and fun: we state
our goals in a colloquial tone, link to the foundational documents, and
call for contributors. We show what looks like the seeds of a new
umbrella project. It already feels more concrete to me. :-)
It’d be great to have it published and announced ideally by Thursday.
Pages are written in Markdown, with the Haunt static web site generator
putting things together:
Eventually we could move more of the ikiwiki contents. We’ll have to
add 302 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones for things like the
Depending on the structure that the assembly takes we may need to vote
Does anyone have any opinions on FOSS voting tools?
I recently saw Helios Voting discussed (https://heliosvoting.org/),
but I haven't looked at the license or what is required to run the
What’s our shared technical vision? What’s our strategy?
In a way it’s not as urgent as setting up a proper governance model, but
OTOH, it’s a key motivating factor for the geeks and activists in us.
Lack of technical leadership means that nothing happened in terms of
defining a direction since the GNU Manifesto. Maybe we cannot yet
positively define a new vision, but maybe we can have a shared view on
where GNU fits in the whole free software movement.
For example, I recently read this article:
It’s part of a longstanding push towards non-copyleft software and away
from the GNU toolchain, but it also raises technical questions relevant
to GNU packages: on writing memory-safe programs (relevant to GCC and
notably its Rust frontend, to Guile), on assembling OSes/distros
(toolchain, Guix), on bootstrapping (Mes), on increasing OS
fault-tolerance and security (Hurd), etc.
Perhaps we can’t define yet a shared vision for GNU Assembly packages,
but we could, in this example, work out a shared response. Plus, that
would be good use of our brand new gnu.tools blog.
I propose to make the site public tomorrow around this time:
date --date="2021-04-15 14:00:00 CEST"
At that point, <https://gnu.tools> and <https://www.gnu.tools> will
point to the new web site (Mark will do the switcheroo).
It would be nice if each one of us could at that time announce it to
free software non-profits they may be affiliated with, to their
project(s) if appropriate, on “social media”, that sort of thing.
Mark Wielaard <mark(a)klomp.org> skribis:
> On Thu, Mar 25, 2021 at 06:39:18PM +0100, Ludovic Courtès wrote:
>> Unfortunately, the letter also calls to “[r]efuse to contribute to
>> projects related to the FSF and RMS”. As Andy explained³, this is
>> something that’s hard for us to sign, as people who maintain and
>> contribute to “projects related to the FSF”.
> Note that several GNU projects and individual contributors (including
> some assembly members) have already signed that open letter. It also
> says "We urge those in a position to do so..." which implies a
> transitional period for those who cannot yet.
To me (and to Andreas and Andy, AIUI), it can be interpreted as “stop
contributing to GNU”. I don’t see “those in a position to do so” as
having any concrete effect; at best, it can be interpreted as “stop
contributing to GNU eventually”.
> First action item is finishing the rules to allow new GNU Assembly
> members. We have some requests to join this list that I cannot act
> upon because we haven't exactly established what is required to join.
Agreed; we should start a thread on this topic.
> Note that this does mean we will have to find a solution for those GNU
> projects (like the GNU toolchain and GNU Guix) currently using the FSF
> Working together fund to start using a different financial setup. This
> will be somewhat painful. But associating with a different foundation
> (or start our own) can also be seen as a fresh start.
That’s another topic (and a tricky one!) that toolchain and Guix folks
will have to sort out. It requires thought and planning, if/when those
projects decide to look for a different fiscal sponsor.