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The information on this page, while public, will primarily be of interest to future Debian Developers.

Step 3: Philosophy and Procedures


The Applicant is expected to fit into the Debian community, which is built around the philosophy of Free Software. What Debian understands as "free" and how this is applied is explained in the Social Contract and the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
Prospective Developers need to understand these documents well enough to express the ideas and ideals described there in their own words. Just exactly how this understanding is accomplished and communicated is left up to the Applicant and their manager to determine. The following methods are only intended as a suggestion, not as a requirement, but they are examples of ways to complete this step of the process. Several opportunities will be provided for the Applicant to show understanding in these areas.

Note: Though we require Applicants to agree with the Debian philosophy, this is limited to work done for Debian. We understand that people need to earn their living and are sometimes required to work on non-free projects for their employer or customer.

Debian makes no attempt to control what the Applicant thinks about these subjects, but it is important to the stability of such a large and amorphous project that all participants work within the same set of basic principles and beliefs.

The Application Manager (AM) will decide when the criteria for each step have been satisfied. The following guidelines only try to provide useful examples. In most cases, a mix of all of them will be used.
The AM and the Applicant may decide on other tasks than the ones specified here. Those tasks must be documented clearly in the final report to the Debian Account Manager.

1. The Social Contract

The Social Contract declares Debian's goals and aspirations. It also tries to express our self-imposed responsibilities to the rest of the community.
A proper understanding of the priorities we give to these various responsibilities and agreement with them is essential for any Applicant.

The understanding can be documented in various ways:

  • A discussion with the AM about the various terms in the Social Contract, expressing how they relate to each other and Debian's organization.
  • A discussion about the Applicant's personal goals for Debian, how they fit in with the Social Contract can in some cases be enough.
  • The Applicant can put the Social Contract in their own words, explaining some of the more complex parts and how Debian strives to comply to them.
    Note: This is the usually chosen way.

2. The Debian Free Software Guidelines

These principles act as guidelines for determining the freedom delivered by a particular license.

Although most Applicants aren't lawyers, every one should be able to express and use the understanding of the basic principles set forth in these guidelines.

The understanding can be documented in various ways:

  • The Applicant discusses several licenses and tries to show if they're free or not. In this process, the AM can point out special cases and ask further questions regarding the DFSG.
    Note: This is the usually chosen way.
  • The Applicant compares the Debian Free Software Guidelines to other statements about Free Software and points out similarities and differences.

Whatever method is used, the Applicant must agree with these principles, as well as show an understanding of their meaning and content.

Failure to agree with these terms will terminate the application process.


The standard procedures and policies that have evolved in the creation of the Debian system are very important to manage the distributed work of volunteers. They ensure the overall quality of Debian and often help to prevent problems between Developers by providing a set of guidelines for the interaction in special cases.

How the Applicant has to show their understanding is up to the Application Manager, but there are some essentials that should always be covered. The following list documents what is a must for the Procedures checks:

There are of course many other topics that can be covered by the New Member checks, but the AM should only choose those that are relevant for the area the Applicants wants to work in. The most important quality is that prospective Developers know where to look for information concerning them.

Applicants should also read the Debian Machine Usage Policy (DMUP) and agree to abide by it.

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