I was hoping to give the FSF another week to clarify which direction
they want to go.
I agree that there is no rush, even more than a week is fine. It might take us longer
than that to do the needed structural soul-searching.
For example, and this is without thinking about it in a focused manner, we should decide
on the level at which the GNU assembly should operate.
The entirety of what the GNU project (with the closely associated FSF) is big. It
involves at least the following:
1. branding as a GNU project
2. sometimes fiscal sponsorship
3. sometimes actual funding
4. a technical infrastructure with savannah, ftpd, httpd, mailman, ...
5. maintaining the GNU coding standards (there is some good in a long-lived consistent set
of standards, although some evolution might be needed)
6. stewardship of the GNU General Public License and the other FSF licenses
7. I'm sure there's more
While that was all available and working it was fine for GNU projects to use the services
But the world has moved on, and in my opinion it is a much better place. On the
management side we now know that there are good and functional free s/w organizations that
promote good behaviors and a good environment. Gnome foundation is an example, and there
Looking at the points above, it seems that we do not need to tell projects that we offer
*all* of them. We can point out a path to GNU projects to achieve much of that without
offering it ourselves, while offering a few things ourselves.
Going through the list:
1. branding as a GNU project: I think that GNU is not trademarked in the world of
software, so we could establish certain criteria (commitment to s/w freedom; a tech goal
of playing well with the rest of the free s/w world) where we list projects as GNU.
Without any need for a public split, we would just maintain a page of GNU projects
recognized by the GNU assembly, pointing out that these are projects deeply rooted in
software freedom, and with non-toxic governance.
2. sometimes fiscal sponsorship: this is a tougher one. (a) not all projects need it,
which solves the problem. (b) fiscal sponsorship loses money, since the 10% or so that the
sponsor takes from your donations is not really enough to offer the full services of
accounting and legal matters. (c) the organizations that offer it for free s/w projects
(debian, gnome foundation, software freedom conservancy, ...) have a particular angle and
I don't think they take just anyone. Asking the Conservancy leadership for advice
might be a good idea. (Note that although I'm on the Conservancy board, I am writing
this purely as a GNU contributor, which I have been since 1984.)
3. sometimes actual funding: I think people might just have to strike out on their own to
get funding. I don't know if there is another central source of GNU funding.
4. a technical infrastructure with...: this one is easy, and we will come out better for
it: not only can you host source code, but, for example, Fosshost will let you host a
jitsi (and maybe big blue button) instance, as might others. In today's tech world
there is no need for us to maintain that infrastructure, and I recommend that we not try
to. But we could put a bit of continuing work into a good awareness of the well-behaved
free s/w mercurial and git services, and making sure that one of these options keeps a
proper archive of all GNU project history. mercurial and git make this a straightforward
5. maintaining the GNU coding standards: this could become an actual GNU project (unlike
now where it's a one-person monopoly) with a tech review process based on the good
tech review approaches used in industry (like language standards committees, ...) with
something maybe akin to the C++ 3-year cycle, or whatever they come up with. We should
have at least 4 people on a standards "board".
6. stewardship of the GNU General Public License...: this one seems impossible, or close.
The best we can do is get good advice on how to best handle the "GPL version X or
later" clause, and pass that good advice to projects so they can decide on their
OK, enough now, but I wanted to get people thinking about an "effort
almost-neutral" approach to achieving a GNU structure as the FSF+GNU system might
The only urgent one is making sure someone develop a mirror of all that's on