1. Personal Introduction
Hi, my name is Jonathan Carter, also known as highvoltage, with the Debian account name of jcc, and I'm running for a second DPL term.
I am a 39 year old Debian Developer who have various areas of interest within the Debian project. Like many other individuals and organisations that contribute to Debian, I contribute to the project because I enjoy using the products of our work and would like that to continue to exist, Debian remains unique in delivering a distribution unencumbered by stringent licensing limitations, while delivering stable releases and security updates along with a very large selection of software packages. I believe that Debian is an extremely important software project and it's social contract adds to the project's uniqueness by explicitly putting the priorities of our users first. We do not answer to shareholders or this quarter's bottom line, but instead we work together to try to find the best solutions for our users. While this isn't always easy or straightforward, I find it very rewarding and work that is worth while doing.
2. Why I'm running for DPL
During my last term, I aimed to bring a sense of stability and normality to the project. Despite all the chaos that has prevailed in the world around us, and with the help of other project members, I think that we've succeeded in establishing that stability. Overall, our project has many strong points, we have an active and vibrant community, we have enough funds to carry the project for a while, we're also on track for making a new stable release this year with the initial freezes for Debian 11 happening on schedule.
I would really like to see a growth spurt for Debian, but I don't think that the project is ready for that. We've grown a lot over the years already, but haven't kept up with that growth administratively. We now have several weak spots that I believe should be addressed before the project grows significantly further or it may have unwanted consequences in the future.
In this term, I'd like to continue the work that I started in my previous term, with an additional focus on improving our administrative problems.
3.1. Addressing administrative weak spots
Improve accounting. It's really hard to keep track of how much money we have and how much we spend (and exactly what we spend it on), we don't have much transparency on our finances, not even to our project members. I've posted some financial updates to debian-private and included some of it in my "bits from the DPL" talks, but I believe it's really something that our treasurer team should have oversight of. Typically those reports are based on public records from our TOs, which may be up to several months old. The treasurer team has some great ideas to address some of this, like line-item accounting with shared item codes between TOs so that we could get better real-time reporting. Overall, I would like for the treasurer team to be better enabled to do the work they set out to do, and ideally reduce some load from the DPL, I'll address some of that in the following points since some of the issues are intermingled.
Implement an expendature policy. In order to do our work in Debian, we often have to spend some of the project's money. Sometimes this is for meetings (travel, refreshments, venue, etc), for hardware (specialised equipment, personal hardware, hosting costs, etc) or for administrative purposes (like domain names, trademark fees, legal fees, etc). I would like to implement a policy that makes it easier for Debian Developers to understand what they could spend money on and how. During my term I have learned that there is a lot of inconsistency among project members on what they believe Debian money could be used for, often causing members not to use Debian money which could have been used to the benefit of the project. I believe that a proper policy could encourage better spending and foster project growth. I also think that if we have a proper expendature policy, we could delegate spending approvals. For example, we could have a checklist that if met, the delegation can approve the expendature without DPL intervention, reducing some load on the DPL. I believe that it would be a natural fit for such a task to be performed by the treasurer team, although if they feel it's a bad fit then it could also be a new delegation.
Trusted organisations. Our relationships with TOs need more work. Last year, we had a (at least minor) dispute with SPI regarding administrative fees on DebConf donations. It turns out that there were at least two different (conflicting) agreements made between different sets of people who had discussions on the matter. In the past, we may have been small enough so that verbal "gentleman agreements" might have worked, but we've clearly grown to a point where we really need to commit any agreements to paper. The situation with the DebConf donations caused enough grief already, but unfortunately it gets a lot worse. In a legal matter, the members involved wanted to represent Debian, but since Debian isn't incorporated as a registered organisation anywhere we felt it would be natural to fall back to SPI as our registered organisation in that matter. The legal firm wanted the agreement/contract between Debian and SPI in order to continue, but alarmingly neither myself nor SPI could find any such document and it doesn't seem to exist. We have critera for TOs on our wiki, but those do not equate to being a legal agreement between two parties. We also have had two TOs that have gone defunct, and we have no idea what happened to the funds that was held by those TOs. We've exhaustively tried to get hold of the individuals responsible and tried to get answers. Unfortunately, I fear that lack of any kind of formal agreements might mean that we've lost some money permanently. I have lots of confidence in our current TOs, those being SPI, Debian France and Debian.ch, but I do think that we need to better formalize our relationships with our trusted organisations and also better enforce our requirements of TOs as listed on our wiki.
Consider formal registration of the Debian organisation. I'd like to initiate discussions on registering Debian as a formal organisation. Last year, Brian Gupta's DPL campaign largely revolved around founding a Foundation for the Debian project. I agree with many of his reasons for wanting to pursue that. This is probably a good time to clarify that my DPL campaign is neither a referendum on this matter and neither is this a campaign promise, I believe it's something that we need to seriously address together as a project. Above I have mentioned that I believe we need better agreements between our TOs. Some people with legal experience (although not lawyers) have pointed out to me that an agreement between an unregistered association of volunteers and a TO won't mean much in many countries, and that we would need to make such an agreement from our registered organisation for it to mean anything. From what I've read so far, a Foundation would be overkill for Debian's purposes. It would need a board and would have stringent auditing requirements. From what I understand, a simple registered non-profit organisation where its membership equals Debian project membership may be a lot more appriate. From what I understand, such a registered organization would also decrease individual legal liability within the project. I believe that we should spend some money on consulting to find out what might be the best for the project and collectively decide on how we want to proceed, it will likely result in a general resolution ballot.
3.2. Continuation of goals for current term
Local Teams. I'm very happy that the local teams effort got rebooted at DebConf 20. I'd like to pour some more energy into this so that we're in a good position to have a lot more in-person events when it's safe to do so again, and that local teams have everything they need to attract curious people to their events. I'd like the local teams administration to grow in to a delegation that could take on some of the responsibilities of the DPL when it comes to local team decisions. I still believe that local teams organising meetings and events is a good strategy to increase both diversity and participation within the project and that it should be a priority.
Continue to improve onboarding. I'd like to specifically thank Enrico Zini for his work on making the new maintainers process easier over the last year, that has certainly already made major improvements and has very likely resulted in more DDs and DMs than we would've had without those improvements. I do think we can do even better and have some introductory videos and documents on the tools we use and how they work (like Salsa, the wiki, mailing lists, etc). I'd like some further project input on whether we should consider competitions or bounties for such content.
- I used Zack's platform layout as a base for this one.
This platform is version controlled in a git repository.
- 3.0.0: New platform for 2021 DPL elections.