Proposed constitution for the Debian Project (v0.2)

1. Introduction

The Debian Project is an association of individuals who have made common cause to create a free operating system. This document describes what decisions are made how in the Debian Project.

This document describes the organisational structure for formal decisionmaking in the Project. It does not describe the goals of the Project or how it achieves them, or contain any specific nontechnical policies not directly related to the decisionmaking process.

2. Decisionmaking bodies and individuals

Each decision in the Project is made by one or more of the following:
  1. The individual developer working on a particular task;
  2. The developers, by way of General Resolution or an election;
  3. The Project Leader;
  4. The Technical Committee and/or its Chairman;
  5. The Project Secretary;
  6. Delegates appointed by the Project Leader for specific tasks.
Most of the remainder of this document will outline the powers of these bodies, their composition and appointment, and the procedure for their decisionmaking. The powers of a person or body may be subject to review and/or limitation by others; in this case the reviewing body or person's entry will state this.

2.1. General rules

  1. Nothing in this constitution imposes an obligation on anyone to do work for the Project. A person who does not want to do perform a task which has been delegated or assigned to them does not need to do it. However, they must not actively work against these rules and decisions properly made under them.

  2. A person may hold several posts, except that the Project Leader, Project Secretary and the Chairman of the Technical Committee must be distinct, and that the Leader cannot appoint themselves as their own Delegate.

3. Individual developers

3.1. Powers

An individual developer may
  1. make any technical or nontechnical decision with regard to their own work;
  2. propose or second draft General Resolutions;
  3. propose themselves as a Project Leader candidate in elections;
  4. vote on General Resolutions and in Leadership elections.

3.2. Composition and appointment

Developers are volunteers who agree to further the aims of the Project insofar as they participate in it, and who maintain package(s) for the Project or do other work which the Project Leader's Delegate(s) consider worthwhile.

The Project Leader's Delegate(s) may choose not to admit new developers, or expel existing evelopers. If the developers feel that the Delegates are abusing their authority they can of course override the decision by way of General Resolution - see s.4.1(3), s.4.2.

3.3. Procedure

Developers may make these decisions as they see fit.

4. The developers by way of General Resolution or election

4.1. Powers

Together, the developers may:
  1. Appoint or recall the Project Leader.

  2. Amend this constitution, provided they agree with a 2:1 majority.

  3. Override any decision by the Project Leader or a Delegate.

  4. Issue nontechnical policy documents and statements.

    These include documents describing the goals of the project, its relationship with other free software entities, and nontechnical policies such as the free software licence terms that Debian software must meet.

    They may also include position statements about issues of the day.

  5. Together with the Project Leader and SPI, make decisions about Debian's property. (See s.9.1.)

4.2. Procedure

The developers follow the Standard Resolution Procedure, below. A resolution or amendment is introduced if proposed by any developer and seconded by at least Q other developers, or if proposed by the Project Leader or the Technical Committee.

If a resolution to overrule a decision by the Project Leader or their Delegate is seconded by at least 2Q developers (or Q developers in the case of a resolution to overrule a decison to vary a discussion or voting period), or is proposed or seconded by the Technical Committee, it will (if it so requests) stay the relevant decision. In this case an immediate vote is held to determine whether the decision will stand or its implementation be delayed until the Standard Resolution Procedure is complete. The Project Leader or Delegate (as appropriate) may prevent this vote by withdrawing their decision.

Votes are secret and taken by the Project Secretary. The voting period is 2 weeks, but may be varied by up to 1 week by the Project Leader.

The minimum discussion period is 2 weeks, but may be varied by up to 1 week by the Project Leader. The Project Leader has only a casting vote.

Q, above, is half of the square root of the number of current developers.

5. Project Leader

5.1. Powers

The Project Leader may:
  1. Appoint Delegates or delegate decisions to the Technical Committee.

    The Leader may define an area of ongoing responsibility or a specific decision and hand it over to another developer or to the Techical Committee.

    Once a particular decision has been delegated and made the Project Leader may not withdraw that delegation; however, they may withdraw an ongoing delegation of particular area of responsibility.

  2. Lend authority to other developers.

    The Project Leader may make statements of support for points of view or for other members of the project, when asked or otherwise; these statements have force if and only if the Leader would be empowered to make the decision in question.

  3. Make any decision which requires urgent action.

    This does not apply to decisions which have only become gradually urgent through lack of relevant action, unless there is a fixed deadline.

  4. Make any decision for whom noone else has responsibility.

  5. Propose draft General Resolutions and amendments.

  6. Together with the Technical Committee, appoint new members to the Committee. (See s.6.2.)

  7. Use a casting vote when Developers vote.

    The Project Leader does not have a normal vote in such ballots.

  8. Vary the discussion period for developers' votes (as above).

  9. Lead discussions amongst developers.

    The Project Leader should attempt to participate in discussions amongst the developers in a helpful way which seeks to bring the discussion to bear on the key issues at hand. The Project Leader should not use the Leadership position to promote their own personal views.

  10. Together with SPI, make decisions affecting Debian's property. (See s.9.1.)

5.2. Appointment

  1. The Project Leader is elected by the developers.
  2. The election begins nine weeks before the leadership post becomes vacant, or (if it is too late already) immediately.
  3. For the following three weeks any developer may nominate themselves as a candidate Project Leader.
  4. For three weeks after that no more candidates may be nominated; candidates should use this time for campaigning (to make their identities and positions known). If there are no candidates at the end of the nomination period then the nomination period is extended for three further weeks, repeatedly if necessary.
  5. The next three weeks are the polling period during which developers may cast their votes.
  6. The options on the ballot will be those candidates who have nominated themselves and have not yet withdrawn, plus None Of The Above. The decison will be made using the Concorde Vote Counting. If None Of The Above wins the election then the election procedure is repeated, many times if necessary.
  7. The Project Leader serves for one year from their election.

5.3. Procedure

The Project Leader should attempt to make decisions which are consistent with the consensus of the opinions of the developers.

Where practical the Project Leader should informally solicit the views of the developers.

The Project Leader should avoid overemphasizing their own point of view when making decisions in their capacity as Leader.

6. Technical committee

6.1. Powers

The Technical Committee may:
  1. Decide on any matter of technical policy.

    This includes the contents of the technical policy manuals, developers' reference materials, example packages and the behaviour of non-experimental package building tools. (In each case the usual maintainer of the relevant software or documentation makes decisions initially, however; see 6.3(5).)

  2. Decide any technical matter where developers' jurisdictions overlap.

    In cases where developers need to implement compatible technical policies or stances (for example, if they disagree about the priorities of conflicting packages, or about ownership of a command name, or about which package is responsible for a bug that both maintainers agree is a bug, or about who should be the maintainer for a package) the technical committee may decide the matter.

  3. Make a decision when asked to do so.

    Any person or body may delegate a decision of their own to the Technical Committee, or seek advice from it.

  4. Overrule a developer (requires a 3:1 majority).

    The Technical Committee may ask a developer to take a particular technical course of action even if the developer does not wish to; this requires a 3:1 majority. For example, the Committee may determine that a complaint made by the submitter of a bug is justified and that the submitter's proposed solution should be implemented.

  5. Offer advice.

    The Technical Committee may make formal or informal announcements about its views on any matter.

  6. Together with the Project Leader, appoint new members to itself. (See s.6.2.)

  7. Appoint the Chairman of the Technical Committee.

    The Chairman is elected by the Committee from its members. All members of the committee are automatically nominated; the committee vote starting one week before the post will become vacant (or immediately, if it is already too late). The members may vote by public acclamation for any fellow committee member, including themselves; there is no None Of The Above option. The vote finishes when all the members have voted or when the outcome is no longer in doubt. The result is determined according to Concorde Vote Counting.

  8. The Chairman can stand in for the Leader, together with the Secretary

    As detailed in s.7.1(2), the Chairman of the Technical Committee and the Project Secretary may together stand in for the Leader if there is no Leader.

6.2. Composition

The Technical Committee consists of up to 8 developers, and should usually have at least 4 members.

When there are fewer than 8 members the Technical Committee may recommend new member(s) to the Project Leader, who may choose (individually) to appoint them or not.

When there are 5 members or fewer the Technical Committee may appoint new member(s) until the number of members reaches 6.

When there have been 5 members or fewer for at least one week the Project Leader may appoint new member(s) until the number of members reaches 6, at intervals of at least one week per appointment.

6.3. Procedure

  1. The Technical Committee uses the Standard Resolution Procedure.

    A draft resolution or amendment may be proposed by any member of the Technical Committee. There is no minimum discussion period; the voting period lasts for up to one week, or until the outcome is no longer in doubt. The Chairman has only a casting vote.

  2. Public discussion and decisionmaking.

    Discussion, draft resolutions and amendments, and votes by members of the committee, are made public on the Technical Committee public discussion list. There is no separate secretary for the Committee.

  3. Confidentiality of appointments.

    The Technical Committee may hold confidential discussions via private email or a private mailing list or other means to discuss appointments to the Committee. However, votes on appointments must be public.

  4. No detailed design work.

    Then Technical Committee does not engage in design of new proposals and policies. Such design work should be carried out by individuals privately or together and discussed in ordinary technical policy and design forums.

    The Technical Committee restricts itself to choosing from or adopting compromises between solutions and decisions which have been proposed and reasonably thoroughly discussed elsewhere.

    Individual members of the technical commitee may of course participate on their own behalf in any aspect of design and policy work.

  5. Technical Committee makes decisions only as last resort.

    The Technical Committee does not make a technical decision until efforts to resolve it via consensus have been tried and failed, unless it has been asked to make a decision by the person or body who would normally be responsible for it.

7. The Project Secretary

7.1. Powers

The Secretary:
  1. Takes votes amongst the Developers when required.

  2. Can stand in for the Leader, together with the Chairman of the Technical Committee.

    If there is no Project Leader then the Chairman of the Technical Committee and the Project Secretary may by joint agreement make decisions if they consider it imperative to do so.

  3. Adjudicates any disputes about interpretation of the constitution.

  4. May delegate part or all of their authority to someone else, or withdraw such a delegation at any time.

7.2. Appointment

The Project Secretary is appointed by the Project Leader and the current Project Secretary.

If the Project Leader and the current Project Secretary cannot agree on a new appointment they must ask the board of SPI to appoint a Secretary.

If there is no Project Secretary or the current Secretary is unavailable and has not delegated authority for a decision then the decision may be made or delegated by the Chairman of the Technical Committee, as Acting Secretary.

The Project Secretary's term of office is 1 year, at which point they or another Secretary must be (re)appointed.

8. The Project Leader's Delegates

8.1. Powers

The Project Leader's Delegates:
  1. have powers delegated to them by the Project Leader;
  2. may make certain decisions which the Leader may not make directly, including vetting or expelling developers or designating people as developers who do not maintain packages. This is to avoid concentration of power, particularly over membership as a developer, in the hands of the Project Leader.

8.2. Appointment

The Delegates are appointed by the Project Leader and may be replaced by the Leader at their discretion. The Project Leader may not make the position as a Delegate conditional on particular decisons by the Delegate, nor may they override a decision made by a Delegate once made.

8.3. Procedure

Delegates may make decisions as they see fit, but should attempt to implement good technical decisions and/or follow consensus opinion.

9. Software in the Public Interest

SPI and Debian are separate organisations who share some goals. Debian is grateful for the legal support framework offered by SPI.

9.1. Management of Debian's property

  1. SPI will hold Debian's money, trademarks and other tangible and intangible property and manage other affairs requiring legal personality, tax exempt status or the like.
  2. Such property will be accounted for separately and held in trust for Debian.
  3. SPI does not spend money or otherwise dispose of or use Debian's property without permission from Debian, which may be granted by the Project Leader or by General Resolution of the Developers.
  4. SPI will consider spending money or disposing of Debian's property when asked to do so by the Project Leader.
  5. SPI will spend money or dispose of Debian's property when asked to do so by a General Resolution of the Developers.

9.2. Authority

  1. SPI has no authority regarding Debian's technical or nontechnical decisions, except that no decision by Debian with respect to Debian's property held by SPI shall require SPI to act outside its legal authority, and that Debian may occasionally use SPI as a decision body of last recourse.
  2. Debian has no authority over SPI other than that over Debian's property, as described above.

A. Standard Resolution Procedure

These rules apply to communal decisonmaking by committees and plebiscites, where stated above.

A.1. Proposal

The formal procedure begins when a draft resolution is proposed and seconded, as required.

A.1. Discussion and Amendment

  1. Following the proposal, the resolution may be discussed. Amendments may be made formal by being proposed and seconded (requirements as for a new resolution).
  2. A formal amendment may be accepted by the proposer, in which case the formal resolution draft is immediately changed to match.
  3. If a formal amendment is not accepted, or one of the seconders of the resolution does not agree with the acceptance by the proposer of a formal amendment, the amendment remains and will be voted on.
  4. If an amendment accepted by the original proposer is not to the liking of others, they may propose another amendment to reverse the earlier change (again, they must meet the requirements for proposer and seconder(s).)

A.2. Calling for a vote

  1. The proposer of a motion or an amendment may call for a vote, providing that the minimum discussion period (if any) has elapsed.
  2. The proposer of a motion may call for a vote on any or all of the amendments individually or together; the proposer of an amendment may call for a vote only on that amendment and related amendments.
  3. The minimum discussion period is counted from the time the last formal amendment was accepted, or the last related formal amendment was accepted if an amendment is being voted on, or since the whole resolution was proposed if no amendments have been proposed and accepted.

A.3. Voting procedure

  1. Each independent set of related amendments is voted on in a separate ballot. Each such ballot has as options all the sensible combinations of amendments and options, and an option Further Discussion. If Further Discussion wins then the entire resolution procedure is set back to the start of the discussion period.
  2. When the final form of the resolution has been determined it is voted on in a final ballot, in which the options are Yes, No and Further Discussion. If Further Discussion wins then the entire procedure is set back to the start of the discussion period.
  3. The vote taker (if there is one) or the voters (if voting is done by public pronouncement) may arrange for these ballots to be held simultaneously, even (for example) using a single voting message. If amendment ballot(s) and the final ballot are combined in this way then it must be possible for a voter to vote differently in the final ballot for each of the possible forms of the final draft resolution.
  4. Votes may be cast during the voting period, as specified elsewhere.
  5. The votes are counted according to the Concorde Vote Counting.
  6. In cases of doubt the Project Secretary shall decide on matters of procedure (for example, whether particular amendments should be considered independent or not).

A.3. Withdrawing resolutions or amendments

The proposer and/or seconder(s) of a resolution or amendment (unless it has been accepted) may withdraw it. In this case new proposer(s) and/or seconder(s) may come forward keep it alive, in which case the first remaining seconder becomes the new proposer (if the original proposer withdrew) and in any case the other proposer(s) and/or seconder(s) become seconders.

A.4. Expiry

If a proposed resolution has not been discussed, amended, voted on or otherwise dealt with for 4 weeks then it is considered to have been withdrawn.

A.5. Concorde Vote Counting

  1. This is used to determine the winner amongst a list of options. Each ballot paper gives a ranking of the voter's preferred options. (The ranking need not be complete.)
  2. Option A is said to Dominate option B if strictly more ballots prefer A to B than prefer B to A.
  3. All options which are Dominated by at least one other option are discarded, and references to them in ballot papers will be ignored.
  4. If there is any option which Dominates all others then that is the winner.
  5. If there is now more than one option remaining Single Transferrable Vote will be applied to choose amongst those remaining:
  6. In the case of ties the elector with a casting vote will decide. That elector does not get a normal vote.
  7. If a supermajority is required the number of Yes votes in the final ballot is reduced by an appropriate factor. Strictly speaking, for a supermajority of F:A, the number of ballots which prefer Yes to X (when considering whether Yes Dominates X or X Dominates Yes) or the number of ballots whose first (remaining) preference is Yes (when doing STV comparisons for winner and elimination purposes) is multiplied by a factor A/F before the comparison is done. This means that a 2:1 vote, for example, means twice as many people voted for as against; abstentions are not counted.
When the Standard Resolution Procedure is to be used, the text which refers to it must specify what is sufficient to have a draft resolution proposed and/or seconded, what the minimum discussion period is, and what the voting period is.

B. Use of language and typography

The present indicative (`is', for example) means that the statement is a rule in this consitution. `May' or `can' indicates that the person or body has discretion. `Should' means that it would be considered a good thing if the sentence were obeyed, but it is not binding. Text marked as a citation, such as this, is rationale and does not form part of the constitution. It may be used only to aid interpretation in cases of doubt.