Older blog entries for slef (starting at number 320)

SPI Elections: Corrections

Well, yesterday I asked

"WTF? There seem to be some 30 or 40 voters who really dislike me, but didn't tell me that straight, preferring to be silent then vote me down. Are you cowards, or what?"

Not the most polite of questions(!), but it's what I was wondering at the time.

I had some good replies in the comments and a reply by Pingback that I didn't like, but it turned out to be a very educational reply in the end.

A comment from Filipus Klutiero included:

"Sometimes, it's not really possible to explain a bad opinion of someone, because we forget the reasons for that opinion. However, if you think that voting based on reputation is a bad idea, you probably can't understand these "cowards"."

I've mentioned before that I don't seem to fit the debian developers stereotype, so I guess it's not surprising if I don't understand them sometimes.

If reputation is always going to be such a big factor, one problem I need to overcome in debian and SPI is that some other participants do make crap up about me. You can usually spot it by phrases like "seems to think" (there are not that many mind-readers out there), but eventually, mud sticks. How to overcome this? Patiently post corrections, or is that futile?

Here are posts from Andrew Pollock and Matt Palmer which I think are wrong on several points:-

First off, I haven't decided to call anyone cowards - it was a question, albeit a bit "nasty, british and short". The underlying sentiment was continued disappointment and puzzlement at why voters behave like that in a non-secret vote, not rage. It was not really an "outburst," coming a week after the results.

I'm not unhappy with the results - I've congratulated the winners by several methods, including the last post, although I mentioned my mixed feelings. Isn't that usual? I think very few non-elected candidates express unbridled joy about the experience. After all, it's not an easy decision to stand, but I did it for two main reasons: shortage of other candidates I really liked, at the time I chose to stand (as I mentioned in my platform); and for practical experience of how Condorcet behaves.

I'm not rabid - I've even written against the Rabid Right recently - and I'm not rabidly anti-Google. I had polite chats with various people from Sun, Microsoft and Google at debconf - I don't like those companies, but I don't feel a need to tell their workers that at every point. I think reasons to like and dislike Sun and Microsoft are old and well-known, but a few years ago, I got so bored of explaining why I don't agree that Google is God's Gift to our communities that I posted a FAQ-ish page about it, which I update as I look at its new developments. Let's politely disagree, until Google fix the bugs which brought me to that view.

Andrew Pollock's point about debian-legal is vague and maybe fair comment. It's not often a fun or popular thing. But "precious ego"? Ha! Yes, a guy who humiliates himself with cheap stunts for environmental protests is clearly very precious about his ego(!) (Sorry if that's rude, but I find it hilarious.)

I don't mind people having different opinions, but it would be nice if their opinions about me were mostly based on reality, instead of misunderstandings.

One fair point from Matt Palmer's post and also, I discovered eventually, from Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho's site, is that SPI's elections apparently are meant to be secret, as far as I can tell from the starts of Article Five and Article Seven of the SPI by-laws.

I tend to value practice more than theory and the current voting practice is merely confidential, not secret. I think that's part of why I didn't understand the approach taken by some voters - they were treating it as a secret ballot. That's fine and now that I realise it's meant to be secret, I've suggested making it a secret ballot.

Syndicated 2007-08-08 09:15:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

SPI Election Results

I wasn't elected to SPI's board. I didn't think I would be once I saw all the other candidates (I nominated before all declared), but it looks like I would have been elected with those votes under some other common systems.

I think both first-past-the-post and alternative vote (also known as instant run-off voting, reportedly recommended by Robert's Rules for election-by-mail) would have resulted in this same board:

  1. Bdale Garbee
  2. David Graham
  3. Joshua D. Drake
  4. Martin 'Joey' Schulze
  5. Luk Claes
  6. MJ Ray

Instead, the results were:

  1. Bdale Garbee
  2. David Graham
  3. Luk Claes
  4. Joshua D. Drake
  5. Joerg Jaspert
  6. Martin Zobel-Helas

Nevertheless, well done to the new members. On one hand, I'm happier, because there's still two of my top four there and now I've less required work. On the other hand, I would have liked a crack at it myself and both boards are disappointing because there's no Ian Jackson.

An interesting thing is how many times I appear in each position in voting lists: (5, 1, 2, 1, 9, 6, 6, 3, 3, 4, 2, 9, 37), or as a bar chart:

  1. st

  2. nd

  3. rd

  4. th

  5. th

  6. th

  7. th

  8. th

  9. th

  10. th

  11. th

  12. th

  13. th

A fairly acceptable middle-of-road candidate for most of it, but then a huge spike at the low end. Note that a majority of voters put me in positions 11-13. There wasn't much warning of that one coming during hustings. WTF? There seem to be some 30 or 40 voters who really dislike me, but didn't tell me that straight, preferring to be silent then vote me down. Are you cowards, or what?

More generally, is this type of Condorcet ever likely to elect someone who polarises views, or who many inexplicably dislike? What does this say for any plan to use a Condorcet for debian's social committee? Could majorities always prevent minority reps?

Finally, as I understand it, turn-out was 25% of voting members (not the 25% of SPI members that some press reported). Why was turn-out so low?

Syndicated 2007-08-07 10:33:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

SPI Elections

I'm standing in the SPI elections on a very clear platform including cooperative values and principles and reviewing SPI against the good practice standards (last done in June 2005) so please go vote for me if you're an SPI voting member. Voting closes Saturday. The last turnout I saw was a disappointing 15%.

Syndicated 2007-07-27 09:46:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Debian Maintainers

I've voted in favour of the Debian Maintainers GR because, despite flaws like micro-managing the initial situation [Sven Mueller], I believe it is a useful step towards reforming the New Maintainer process.

Those of you with long memories may recall that I think NM should be a modern portfolio-based qualification [-project, April 2006, but probably not the first time I explained it] instead of the current, inconsistent AM-dependent one which sees good people applying too early and sometimes being turned away, sometimes being accepted too quickly, but most often sitting in DAMnation.

Despite some claims to be interested in fixing NM [Raphael Hertzog], it seems the current NM team requires throwing more people at the buggy system [Raphael Hertzog] before even considering fixing the damn bugs. Of course, I suspect any suggestion would be met with a claim that NM then wasn't performing too badly, now that it had more people. I think that's damage, so I hope the DM GR can be a first stepping stone in a new path to becoming a DD which routes around the damage.

Syndicated 2007-07-27 09:37:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Bradley Wiggins Should Have Stayed in Race, According to UCI President

OK, this is probably my last Tour post for a while... back to business, software and the village after this, but I heard this on the radio over breakfast and I can't see much about it online.

One of the most disappointing things for English Tour fans about Moreni's failed dope test [tdfblog] is the departure of his Cofidis team-mate Bradley Wiggins from the race, days before the last (and most Wiggins-winnable) of the individual time trials.

In an interview this morning on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme at about 07:45 (in case you can Listen Again to it), there was the question:

"We've had whole teams withdrawing. It's not just the two who test positive. It's the sense that those are the tip of an iceberg, isn't it? The whole team pulls out and you don't really know how many others in that team are affected by the same behaviour."

and UCI president Pat McQuaid answered:

"Well, I mean, the fact that the whole team pulled out is something which the UCI is quite annoyed about, in actual fact, and it was that the organisers asked the teams to pull out. It wasn't the fact that the teams pulled out of their own accord. The organisers said to them, as a result of the positive, that they got the one person and they said they want the whole team out of it. That actually goes against the rules and it shouldn't have happened. Erm, so, from that point of view, you can't put anything on the other riders. You can't say that the other riders are up to anything just because they're not in the race. They were asked by the organisers to get out."

The interview continues to point out how there's much more testing in cycling now than ever before, and more than in any other sport (remember, Puerto implicated footballers and others too), but it's interesting how the whole-team-out approach is criticised for removing the other riders on a team from the race testing!

Anyway, by the UCI president's reasoning, Bradley Wiggins should still be racing. Well done to UCI and the tour for catching Moreni and almost-well-done to Moreni for admitting it, but boo Cofidis for pulling the whole team out!

Syndicated 2007-07-26 09:35:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

The Dopey Tour de France

After my comments about the TV audience figures, Ismael Valladolid Torres commented:

"Audience in Spain will keep on raising while Contador keeps playing such a big race!"

I hope that's still the case after the recent revelations. The evidence suggests that Vinokourov had someone else's blood [tdfblog] and Cofidis's Moreni was using something like a nutsack patch [tdfblog] while Rabobank have fired race leader Rasmussen for telling them he was in Mexico when he was in Italty [tdfblog] so it looks like this year's race is still really unpredictable as the dopes are caught and kicked out.

Maybe my hopes for a Valverde (now 6th, 10:18 back) win still stand a chance... (My "serious" prediction, Klöden, left with Vino.)

Syndicated 2007-07-25 23:29:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Reply of FSF Radio Interviewee about Skype

Peter Brown replied:

"Thanks for the message. Here are some comments on the issues you raise:

"> - On the Radio New Internationalist show "Up in Smoke", during an interview with Peter Brown of FSF (about 43 minutes in), I was surprised to hear the following revelation that FSF uses Skype and the failure to challenge the claim that Skype is free software:"

The FSF doesn't use Skype. I would appreciate if you would clarify that on your blog post. The interviewer used Skype to telephone me on an FSF telephone. I agree that from what I said, it would be easy to infer that FSF uses Skype, but it doesn't. The interview lasted about an hour and we covered a lot of ground. Also, in this exchange I didn't clarify for the listener that when the interviewer remarked that "Skype was free", they meant as in price, but not as in freedom.

"> - I was disappointed not to find much on the FSF web site about the need for free VoIP software, building on GNU oSIP and other free software, instead of Skype's proprietary software, which has contained spyware and worms already. Will you be adding such information soon? What is the official FSF view of Skype and similar proprietary VoIP systems?"

Skype is proprietary and we don't use it. In that section of the interview we were discussing telecoms monopoly and net neutrality, and I lost the focus on the free software issue - my bad. As far as adding an article about VOIP on fsf.org I think that's a great idea. Unfortunately, I don't think we can cover that immediately, as we have some campaigns we have other campaign activities to focus on. We would be glad to take a contribution though, if you would like to write such an article - we might also want to think about using such an article as a basis for a campaign.

"> - Nevertheless, well done for covering DRM, net neutrality and the privacy problems of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in a relatively short interview."

Thanks. I actually used to work at the New Internationalist in Oxford, and they are a great coop. I have been working with them now for a couple of years, tying to encourage them to cover free software related issues for their audience. Have you seen the article Bruce Byfield (Newsforge) wrote that I got placed in the November issue of the magazine?

all the best


Thanks for the reply! To my shame, I'd completely forgotten that Skype can also call ordinary telephones and the interview didn't remind me. I guess that might be because my main awareness of Skype is when it's a problem, when someone gives a skype: address instead of a sip: one or a real phone number.

However, I'm not sure a called person would usually say that they were being called over Skype, rather than being telephoned. FSF people are smarties, though, so can hear the artefacts, or maybe the interviewer had mentioned it beforehand.

Anyone else want to summarise the benefits of free software VoIP compared to Skype systems? I won't get time before next month.

kris commented:

"There's openwengo, it has more features than skype (i.e. video), is encrypted, open and free. Enjoy."

I keep meaning to try openwengo, but each time I look at it, I fail to find the source tarball for the latest release. It also seems to be Qt-only, which I also try to avoid installing (as it'd be a fourth set of desktop widgets).

At the moment, I'm using linphone from the command-line. I sometimes consider replacing it with a stand-alone telephone adapter. I wonder: are any running free software?

Syndicated 2007-07-25 20:51:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Preface to FSF Radio Interviewee Promotes Skype

Preface to the last post: I'm aware that my surprise at FSF using Skype does raise the old question "where do you draw the line?" - For example, do you refuse to use the fixed-line telephone system if your exchanges are not running free software?

Me, I use the telephone system because it's effectively a monopoly and we don't have an alternative that works for me. I sometimes try to nibble at the system with the Phone Co-op and more VoIP use, but it's no fun banging my head against a wall. However, I boycott Skype because I can't tell what it's doing, there have been enough bad reports that I don't trust it and the alternatives of SIP and IAX work for me, but I expected FSF not to use Skype for idealistic reasons.

FSF leaders like RMS have promoted things like Why schools should exclusively use free software [by Richard Stallman], carefully corrected inaccurate claims about free software and refused to mention some proprietary software products. They were often criticised for it, but they continued to do it (for good reasons IMO, even when I disagreed with them).

So, FSF's Controller giving an interview over Skype seemed a rather surprising about-face. Then the interviewer claimed "Skype is free" and it went unchallenged. After the show, I sent the email...

Syndicated 2007-07-24 15:13:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

FSF Radio Interviewee Promotes Skype

I just sent this: Dear FSF,

On the Radio New Internationalist show "Up in Smoke", during an interview with Peter Brown of FSF (about 43 minutes in), I was surprised to hear the following revelation that FSF uses Skype and the failure to challenge the claim that Skype is free software:

"Peter Brown: ... This interview today is being transmitted through Skype. We're talking through Skype. Now, that obviously is a direct threat to the entrenched telecoms and they would like to restrict that, to lower the quality of the voice connection and they want to do that with lots of other types of transmission.

Rachel Maher: And can they do that? Because Skype of course is free and there's a really direct benefit for organisations like ours, which is a non-profit organisation using Skype technology. Will they be able to do that?

Peter Brown: Yes, so what they can do is easily identify types of information being passed, so what they can typically do is downgrade the service that you're using, so that - for instance, voice communication - those packets of data can be slowed down, effectively making voice communciation more difficult. Now this can only really be achieved if they're able to manipulate legislation. Unfortunately, they have a long history of being very successful at this. I mentioned earlier on that Digital Restrictions Management are a threat to our freedoms because it's allowing them to erect gateways and to control what it is that we can view and do with our computers. ..."

I was disappointed not to find much on the FSF web site about the need for free VoIP software, building on GNU oSIP and other free software, instead of Skype's proprietary software, which has contained spyware and worms already. Will you be adding such information soon? What is the official FSF view of Skype and similar proprietary VoIP systems?

Nevertheless, well done for covering DRM, net neutrality and the privacy problems of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in a relatively short interview.

Regards, MJR

Syndicated 2007-07-24 13:26:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

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