Vote; rhymes with smote [0]

So, for various reasons I ran for DPL this year. My platform’s available, and as a bonus feature includes links to about a dozen posts on the -vote list that expand on some points. There’s also David Schmitt’s excellent q-and-a summary, the debate transcript and the full -vote archives. Voting’s ongoing, though according to the secretary we’ve achieved the lowest turnout on record and if Planet Debian‘s anything to go by, we might be looking at a None of the Above victory, and starting over again. Fun.

It’s probably going to be difficult to say anything more while sticking to the right side of the “campaigning’s over dude” line, but, hey, it’s my blog, and where else are my mindless thoughts going to go? And hey, this is exactly what my “seemore” plugin is for anyway.

Campaigning was definitely kind-of odd. You can see it a bit in the -vote list stats for March, even. I posted 70 messages, Matthew 44, Andreas 23, Jonathan 14, Branden 11 and Gus 10. Which is a bit unbalanced to begin with, but seems even more so when you consider MJ Ray posted 87 messages and Thomas Bushnell 72 — both more than than any individual candidate, and more than Andreas, Jonathan, Branden and Gus combined. Sven Luther (53 posts), Martin Krafft (38 posts, though a fair few were about organising the debate), Ean Schuessler (28 posts), Frank Kuster (25 posts), David Schmitt (21 posts), Andrew Suffield (21 posts), and Henning Makholm (19 posts) all also posted more to the list than the majority of candidates. Weird.

Last year was complicated by the simultaneous debate on removing non-free — but the two candidates that year at least posted a fair amount during the campaigning period (49 mails from Branden, 50 from Martin), people who posted more in that period were Michael Banck (57), Anthony Towns (68), Raul Miller (72), Sven Luther (111) and Thomas Bushnell (155). In 2003, Branden posted the most with 30 messages, Martin followed with 12, Raphael with 11, Bdale with 8; Manoj also posted 8 mails as project secretary and another 6 without wearing that hat; similarly in 2002, Branden posted the most with 39 messages, Raphael posted 28, Bdale posted 20; the next highest poster was outgoing DPL, Ben Collins on 15 mails — in both years no one posted more than any of the candidates. In March last year, including the tail end of the non-free debate and the proposal and discussion of the “editorial” changes as well as the DPL campaign period, -vote received 1063 messages. This year, with just the DPL proceedings, there have been 888. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, traffic on -vote for February and March combined was between 260 and 320 messages.

It all combines to be… well, weird. And then, of course, there’s the unprecedented array of candidates, too. And that’s not to mention the impact of Ubuntu on Debian that’s become a factor over the last year, or the ongoing controversies with SPI, the Social Contract, DFSG interpretation, the technical committee, communication issues, the (non-)existance of the Cabal, and whatever else. And then there’s the Vancouver plan to stop releasing all but a handful of architectures, too. And, of course, actually releasing sarge before we get to woody’s third birthday. And, no doubt, more.

I’m tending towards the idea that Debian’s pretty much at an inflection point — not so much in relation to who gets to play DPL for a year, but more in relation to what we’re going to be as a distro. There seem to me to be a whole range of things that could happen: we could effectively become Ubuntu’s community arm, with people contributing to Debian now and then, but using Ubuntu where it counts; we could become the new GNU, fighting for freedom but never quite managing to release our OS; we could implode completely, with everyone just getting fed up with dealing with everyone else, and no one being left to claim the remains; we could become a boring mainstream OS that’s just like Red Hat or Fedora, only with debs instead of rpm; we could become a boring niche OS that’s not really all that useful except on a bunch of rarely seen computers that no one else can be bothered writing software for; or maybe we’ll avoid all those pitfalls and live up to the hopes of all the folks who’ve supported Debian over the years and go on to bigger and better things.

It’s particularly frustrating in that I can’t seem to decide whether Debian’s going to collapse, whither, die, and just not be very interesting to me anymore — and if I should just cut my losses and spend my free time on other things; or if the cool things I think Debian ought to be able to manage actually have some chance of happening, and I should be putting my shoulder, back, thighs, and other body parts into helping make it happen. I even spent more or less six months after stepping down as RM seeing if there were folks waiting in the wings for me to get out of the road to take Debian to new and better things, with pretty much nothing eventuating…

Oh well, at least there’s something like a four in seven chance I’ll know exactly what I want to do after the vote’s done, and in any case there’ll be another datapoint as to what’s going on — hopefully one with a little precision to it, given the number of candidates this time. Here’s to hoping we work out wtf we’re doing sometime soon, and not prolong the suffering too much more.

Vote: also rhymes with asymptote.

[0] Rhymes with footnote too!

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