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Re: Documentation Standards was Re: [ox-en] UserLinux

 Fri, Dec 05, 2003 at 01:31:21PM [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED], helvetius wrote:
I'm interested in the (implied? or am I reading that into your
post?) idea of documentation standards being an essential part of
what makes Free Software Free.

I wasn't implying anything about the quality of the documentation
being written. That said, I certainly think that the documentation is
an *essential* companion to computer programs and I also think freedom
to modify this documentation so that it reaches or stays at a high
level quality (or consistency) is essential as well.

Can you pass on any links where the Debian FS guidelines explicitly
cover documentation? Any other related sources would also be of
great interest.

There was a 3000 message series of threads on debian-legal and a lot
of this is internal Debian stuff. The key issue is that the first big
of the Debian Social Contract says: "Debian shall remain 100% Free

Now in terms of documentation, we've got three major ways to interpret
this: (1) Debian is 100% *software* therefore non-software (e.g.,
documentation) can not be in Debian; (2) the 100% free thing only
pertains to programs and non programs can be less free; or (3) we're
working with a rather broad definition of software here so docs, as
far as the DFSG are concerned, *are* software and need to be held to
the same standard of freedom.

The consensus on -legal is that (1) is unacceptable and that (2) is
also unacceptable unless we define what the limits on that less free
bit is (which isn't done). The situation this leaves us in is that
until a 3:1 supermajority can agree on a set of guidelines for how
documentation should be free, documentation in Debian must be held up
to the DFSG.

Manoj Srivastava position statement (which is still currently down)
tries to distill the resolution to those big threads on -legal: 

Also, Branden Robinson's new proposed changes to the social contract
actually try to clarify things by changing "Debian is 100% Free
Software" into "Debian is 100% Free."

The subtext (perhaps all the stuff above is the subtext and this is
the main text) to all of this is the fact that GFDL, written by RMS,
includes invariant, non-removable sections and a few other things that
people don't like. The question this raises is: is it alright to
attached invariant, non-removable political texts to technical works
and still have it be free (in a discussion of free software
here). More fundamentally, it may be: is it alright to attach
invariant non-removable bits to any document/software/etc and call it
free in any the context of free software.

This is more complex that it seems. Licenses themselves are invariant
and non-removable. So are copyright statements. It's necessary! We
all agree that the GPL is free but it allows you to create invariant,
non-removable bits of text as well (see section 2(c)). Also, the BSD
advertising clauses creates these as well. To reduce this one final
time, we need to first decide where a packaging restriction ends and
where a real loss of freedom begins.

We have some sort of agreement in the world in software (but not
nearly as much as you'd think). Of course, when you start talking
about non-programs, the answer begins to vary very much in the free
software communities -- which of course is why there are 3000 messages
on the subject on debian-legal.

In terms of the GFDL, the good news is that this process has seemed to
bring about some good conversations (and a whole lot of bad ones)
between Debian and the FSF that may eventually result in a DFSG
compliant GFDL.


Benjamin Mako Hill

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