Discussion:
Q to both candidates: universality
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martin f krafft
2017-03-25 12:04:51 UTC
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Chris & Mehdi,

You're running for the leadership position of the project sporting
the slogan (makers of) "The Universal Operating System".

I have a couple of questions relating to this:

- What does universality mean to you and the project?

- How universal do you think we are?

- Can you identify ways in which we may be a bit blinded by our
own claims?

- How important is the strive towards "universality", and why?

- In what ways do you think does it obstruct us?

Thanks,
--
.''`. martin f. krafft <***@d.o> @martinkrafft
: :' : proud Debian developer
`. `'` http://people.debian.org/~madduck
`- Debian - when you have better things to do than fixing systems

"it isn't pollution that's harming the environment.
it's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
- dan quayle
Chris Lamb
2017-03-26 10:47:44 UTC
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Hi Martin,
Post by martin f krafft
What does universality mean to you and the project?
To me, the concept of Debian as the "Universal Operating System" is
primarily one of accomodating an extremely wide variety of technical
use-cases. For example, if someone wanted to put Debian onto their
lawnmower we don't turn around and say "Welll, Debian isn't really
for that kind of thing."

In that sense, we are indeed universal; Debian is used on all sorts
of devices from the humdrum desktop computer to the latest Internet
of Things gadgets. As a somewhat objective confirmation of this, Debian
is regularly picked by hobby projects as a base (eg. Raspbian, et. al).

Personally, I really like this angle to Debian, especially as it
attracts all sorts of viewpoints, inputs and people to the project
who can stimulate interesting ideas, can prevent myopic thinking and
generally improve the operating system for everyone as a whole.

~

Where the "universal" term becomes less useful IMHO is when it is
applied outside of the technical realm. For example, whilst Debian has
a commitment — both de facto and de jure — to promote diversity etc., to
co-opt the phrase or ideas behind "The Universal Operating System" and
apply them the social realm here actually does both worthy concepts a
disservice by diluting their individual impact.

The more we casually throw around the word "universal" or use it as a
cute rhethorical flourish, the less weight it will actually carry.

~

In terms of negatives, technical universality necessarily implies that
we support a large number of (for example) architectures, bootloaders
and — dare I mention it? — init systems. This, naturally, requires more
work and communication.

It also means we must be more conservative as we have users using older
configurations that we can't simply dismiss for the latest and greatest.

Whilst this is an attractive and desirable property that brings many to
Debian, this conservative nature can also been seen leaking in other
angles of the project that don't necessarily need it, such as marketing,
image, etc.


Best wishes,
--
,''`.
: :' : Chris Lamb
`. `'` ***@debian.org / chris-lamb.co.uk
`-
Mehdi Dogguy
2017-03-29 23:40:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by martin f krafft
- What does universality mean to you and the project?
To me, in short, it means that we are able to address a wide range
of different needs in a single homogeneous system. Debian has been
successful as a general and stable platform where others can build
on top of it to produce a more specialized product. The universality
of Debian on the technical side has some consequences on how its
community works and how it is built. Those different implemented needs
were brought by people with different perspectives. Despite their
differences, they were able to collaborate and work together in order
to build a rich and unique operating system. I believe this aspect
helped us to build a strong and diverse community over the years.

But sometimes, some specific areas of Debian need special care. And
due to the nature of our project, we are often unable to mobilize
needed resources to make necessary changes.

Universality may also bring some complexity. This leads us to situations
where we can be stuck and are unable to embrace the change because it
breaks old solutions (still useful to many). We eventually take the
good decisions, but it takes a long time.

At the same time, many contribute to Debian because it is fun. So if
we are not careful, we may lose long-time contributors only because
some change wasn't well understood (or well-explained, depending on
which side you stand).

Finally... while Debian contributors did a great job by integrating
thousands of projects in one archive, I still think more efforts should
be spent on making Debian easier to install, documentation easier to
find, etc... I believe those points can help us to reach a higher level
of universality.
--
Mehdi
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