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fsf-gnu relationship 

FSF is currently seeking comment about how it should handle its relationship with GNU now that RMS is no longer FSF president. I sent them my feedback, and in the interest of transparency I will be posting it here. it's a bit long so this is gonna be a thread.

fsf-gnu relationship 

Hello,

First, some very brief background about who I am: Since 2012 I've been part of the GNU/FSF community. I've attended multiple LibrePlanet conferences and was a speaker at 2 of them, was an FSF associate member, contributed to several GNU projects including being a core developer (though not a maintainer) for one, and spent a year as the FSF's full-time web developer.

I strongly believe that any future GNU-FSF relationship that includes Richard Stallman remaining the sole leader of GNU would not be appropriate or effective.  While RMS defined the ideology of Free Software and planted the seed from which our community has grown, something I have much gratitude for, it has been made abundantly clear to me that he is no longer able to provide adequate leadership.  GNU is currently fading into irrelevance because of both technical and social reasons that have remained unaddressed for years, and the buck ultimately stops at RMS.

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fsf-gnu relationship 

Analysis of GNU releases [0] shows that activity in GNU has been on the decline since 2014.  I believe this is happening because GNU, under RMS' leadership, is unable to attract and retain new contributors.  Simultaneously, GNU has lost or is on the verge of losing many longstanding contributors due to a toxic internal environment (such as the GNU mailing lists) where any and all attempts to propose changes, no matter how small, are met with seemingly insurmountable resistance.  This has created an environment where many fear speaking up and eventually leave, and all that remains are the loudest voices that have been allowed to cause this marginalization with no penalty.  RMS, as leader, has a responsibility to create a welcoming environment, but he is unable or unwilling to do so.

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fsf-gnu relationship 

RMS, as Chief GNUisance, has the ultimate authority to make final decisions.  Unfortunately, when he uses this authority, it is almost always to the detriment of GNU such as in the recent case of the glibc abort documentation incident.  A more personal experience: As the FSF web developer and assistant chief GNU webmaster back in 2014, I proposed that gnu.org switch from CVS to Git, partly because I thought it was a technically better tool (which could be debated in a healthy fashion), but partly because the new members of the gnu.org team that we were seeking at the time tended to already know Git and CVS was proving to be a barrier to entry.  This proposal never got off the ground, but was brought up again by someone else years later, where it was ultimately vetoed by RMS simply because he was not comfortable using Git.  More recently, a simple request for a wiki was denied.

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fsf-gnu relationship 

These are only two anecdotes, but it's part of a pattern of behavior where earnest attempts to improve GNU (technically or socially) are blocked because RMS' personal preferences, which are at times alienating and/or offensive, take priority over the rest of the community. People can only withstand so much of this before they leave, and it makes would-be newcomers run away. These days I restrict my interaction with GNU to the couple of subprojects that I know to have a healthy and welcoming community.

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fsf-gnu relationship 

Fortunately, GNU has many maintainers who are still very invested in GNU and the free software movement and I believe they could provide excellent leadership together. Some of these maintainers signed onto a joint statement [1] stating that they have no confidence in RMS' ability to lead GNU and believe that collective leadership would be a better governance model than the "benevolent dictator for life" model. My name is on this statement (as a mere contributor.) I strongly believe that a collective governance model for GNU is a must-have feature to ensure the health of GNU and its relationship with the FSF into the future.

I appreciate that public comment has been requested in this matter and I trust that the FSF will do the right thing.

Regards,

- Dave

[0] wingolog.org/archives/2020/02/
[1] guix.gnu.org/blog/2019/joint-s

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fsf-gnu relationship 

@dthompson thank you for writing this and for sharing it. Very well said.

fsf-gnu relationship 

@dthompson

Thanks

I appreciate this

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