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As a new Gentoo developer but with a little experience of management of
open projects, here is my opinion on the subject.
1- On NFP
I was still recently a member of Gentoo user base, and I think what the
user base wants is be sure Gentoo will be there tomorrow and will be
free (as in beer and as in freedom). The average user probably also
wants to have more leverage on the direction it's heading. The developer
wants to make sure his work will not be stolen by a dark corporate
conspiracy and will remain free.
My experience shows that true democracy in open projects is not viable.
When truly implemented, it's an illusion or/and a innovation killer.
Resources are limited, choices must be made, conflicts must be resolved,
someone must have final word. Management is a vertical thing, not an
horizontal one. There must be a benevolent dictator or a small group of
managers. That doesn't seem right, but it's the only effective way. What
if the manager(s) does not follow the will of the community ? What if he
becomes a bad dictator, oppressing his people ? The open source
ecosystem has its answer : the project can be forked. The current lead
should do his best to avoid that, change his views, step down and let
another lead take over. But there always is this ultimate solution. It's
a painful process but ultimately the community will choose. They will
vote with their feet.
So I think the best is a closed model. Since it's more or less the way
it works for now, I think the community can accept it. As long as the
the main goal ('forever free') is clearly built-in.
A lot of devs are here because they love Gentoo's way : technical
issues, not political issues. A lot of devs will leave (and are leaving)
if political issues take over. It's the midlife management crisis for
the Gentoo project, we won't go through unaffected. But hopefully we
will go through stronger and more effective.
2- On Gentoo
Gentoo is a lot of things. To ensure that the open source ecosystem can
be applied to it, we must consider them separately. Each could have its
own lead and fork possibility :
- - Gentoo is portage
The portage technology is the core of the Gentoo system. It's difficult
to change without changing the ebuild tree, but could be changed.
- - Gentoo is a tree of packages using portage
The official portage tree with its arches, ebuilds, stable keywords.
Alternative/additional portage trees can exist.
- - Gentoo is a distribution using the portage tree
A distribution is a little more than a package tree : it has releases,
security updates, installation ISOs, a mirror network... Closely related
to the precedent, but could be separated from it.
- - Gentoo is a helpful community using the distribution
The forums and the mailing-lists are also what makes Gentoo a success. A
lot of users of others distributions find the Gentoo forums more useful
than their own dist forums. A fork at community level is probably not
Should a single NFP cover the whole thing ? Or should you have a portage
open source project, a tree+distribution NFP, and a community with its
own hierarchy of moderators ?
3- on Coop
I think the coop idea is very interesting and innovative. But I also
think it can easily be separated from the NFP/Management issues. The
coop(s) decide where money is spent. The university-driven coop(s) can
fund a particular developer if they want his particular work to advance
full-time. The coop(s) don't have to have the same lead as the NFP(s).
If they don't like the way it goes, they can just cut the money flow and
induce a fork by funding a parallel project. Vote using their wallet.
I think we can have a global solution with a distribution (under one or
several NFP projects with closed leadership), a community not directly
depending on the distribution (that can choose with their feet between
forks) and separate coop(s) (that can influence where it goes by using
its money). I think I rephrase what klieber already said, but I like to
be verbose, despite my bad English :)
email@example.com -- Gentoo Security project
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