The Forgotten "F": A Tale of Fedora's Foundations

Stephen Gallagher sgallagh at
Mon Apr 21 15:17:41 UTC 2014

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On 04/21/2014 10:52 AM, Matthew Miller wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 08:36:55AM -0400, Stephen Gallagher wrote:
>> To make things clear: I'm personally closer to the second camp
>> than the first. In fact, in keeping with the subject of this
>> email, I'd like to suggest a fifth Foundation, one to ultimately
>> supersede all the rest: "Functional". Here's a straw-man phrasing
>> of this proposal:
> I think the idea of a "functional" foundation is worth talking
> about, but I'd like to walk it _way_ back from this "one ring to
> rule the rest" idea before we even have that conversation.
> The four foundations represent our _core values_, and while we
> might disagree about their relative balance and particularly about
> the wording used in their descriptions, I think they *do* represent
> who we are and what we strive to be.
> In fact, I think what you are proposing is a stronger wording of
> the existing "features" foundation. ("Features represents our
> commitment to excellence.") Putting friends, features, and first in
> servitude to that doesn't feel right.
> I'd rather strengthen the wording around "features" to clarify that
> this means "functional" too, and isn't just another way of saying
> "first", which of course has its own foundation. We can improve the
> wording around "freedom" as well, but, actually, I think most
> important is to clarify the understanding that sometimes these
> features pull in different directions, and that Fedora overall is a
> balance.

Well, the problem I have with the Foundations is that by the way we
have defined them, we've very clearly identified them as "equal" to
one another. I'm not sure that this is sensible, particularly with
regards to the "Freedom" Foundation. It's very clear that there exist
in our community some hard-liners who will never be satisfied with a
product that in any way allows the use of proprietary apps (I've seen
proposals in the past to disallow Fedora from booting if the kernel is
tainted, for example).

By having "Features" and "Freedom" at the same level, it strongly
implies "only free features" (and that is how it is being interpreted,
particularly by some Board members). I'd argue that while this is the
letter of the law, it violates both the spirit of the law and the
potential for growth in the Fedora Project.

I was forced to ask a question the other week in a Board meeting that
went unfortunately without response (rephrased): At what point did
"freedom" start meaning "you have no right to choose a proprietary

I am trying to have this conversation without specifically calling out
any individuals. I believe everyone on the Board is trying to do their
best with their own interpretation of the Foundations.

However, I think we need to take a look at Fedora's Mission:
The Fedora Project's mission is to lead the advancement of free and
open source software and content as a collaborative community.

I'm trying to assert with this proposal that the best way for us to
advance free and open source software is to continue shipping only
open-source software, while making it easy for users to *transition*.
By setting a hard-line on our users and saying "You can only use FOSS,
unless you jump through these fourteen poorly-documented hoops", we're
discouraging our user-base (and ultimately, contributor base) from

I simply cannot see any way that we are satisfying our Mission by
discouraging users from operating the way that they want to. All it
does is ensure a positive feedback loop such that Fedora will
eventually be used only by the limited set of people that are
comfortable operating under strict restrictions on their behavior[1].

[1] Hmm... that sounds an awful lot like the way Apple behaves...
except they can afford marketing.
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