debian in Stalder 2018

managed as common resources available to everyone (who
accepts their licensing agreements). This can best be explained with an
example. One of the oldest projects in the area of free software -- and
one that continues to be of relevance today -- is Debian, a so-called
"distribution" (that is, a compilation of software components) that has
existed since 1993. According to its own website:

::: {.extract}
The Debian Project is an association of individuals who have made common
cause to create a free operating system. \[...\] An operating system is
the set of basic programs and utilities that make your computer run.
\[...\] Debian comes with over 43000 packages (precompiled software that
is bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine).
\[...\] All of it free.[^74^](#c3-note-0074){#c3-note-0074a}

The special thing about Unix-like operating systems is

number of independent yet interacting programs.
The task of a distribution -- and this task is hardly trivial -- is to
combine this modular variety into a whole that provides, in an
integrated manner, all of the functions of a contemporary computer.
Debian is particularly []{#Page_156 type="pagebreak"
title="156"}important because the community sets extremely high
standards for itself, and it is for this reason that the distribution is
not only used by many server administrators but is also the foundation
of numerous end-user-oriented services, including Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

The Debian Project has developed a complex form of organization that is
based on a set of fundamental principles defined by the members
themselves. These are delineated in the Debian Social Contract, which
was first formulated in 1997 and subsequently revised in
2004.[^75^](#c3-note-0075){#c3-note-0075a} It stipulates that the
software has to remain "100% free" at all times, in the sense that the
software license guarantees the f

ch\'s terms, input legitimation comes before output
legitimation. The initiators silently assume that the project\'s basic
ethical, technical, and social orientations will result in high quality,
but they do not place this goal above any other.

The Debian Social Contract is the basis for cooperation and the central
reference point for dealing with conflicts. It forms the normative core
of a community that is distinguished by its equal treatment of ethical,
political, technical, and economic issues. Th

this attitude
has become for each of them, and the more sustainable the community has
become as a whole. In other words, it has taken on a concrete form that
is relevant to the activities of everyday
life.[^76^](#c3-note-0076){#c3-note-0076a} Today, Debian is a global
project with a stable core of about a thousand developers, most of whom
live in Europe, the United States, and Latin
America.[^77^](#c3-note-0077){#c3-note-0077a} The Debian commons is a
high-grade collaborative organization, []{#Page_157 type="pagebreak"
title="157"}the necessary cooperation for which is enabled by a complex
infrastructure that automates many routine tasks. This is the only
efficient way to manage the p

venues for exchanging
information and planning the coordination of the project; they have also
helped to create a sense of mutual trust, without which this form of
voluntary collaboration would not be possible.

Despite the considerable size of the Debian Project, it is just one part
of a much larger institutional ecology that includes other communities,
universities, and businesses. Most of the 43,000 software packets of the
Debian distribution are programmed by groups of developers that do not
belong to the Debian Project. Debian is "just" a compilation of these
many individual programs. One of these programs written by outsiders is
the Linux kernel, which in many respects is the central and most complex
program within a GNU/Linux operating system. Governing the organization

8 type="pagebreak" title="158"}businesses that finance the
Linux Foundation may be profit-oriented institutions, but the main work
of the developers -- the program code -- flows back into the common pool
of resources, which the explicitly non-profit Debian Project can then
use to compile its distribution. The freedoms guaranteed by the free
license render this transfer from commercial to non-commercial use not
only legally unproblematic but even desirable to the for-profit service
providers, as they themselves also need entire operating systems and not
just the kernel.

The Debian Project draws from this pool of resources and is at the same
time a part of it. Therefore others can use Debian\'s software code,
which happens to a large extent, for instance through other Linux
distributions. This is not understood as competition for market share
but rather as an expression of the community\'s vitality, which for
Debian represents a central and normative point of pride. As the Debian
Social Contract explicitly states, "We will allow others to create
distributions containing both the Debian system and other works, without
any fee."

Thus, over the years, a multifaceted institutional landscape has been
created in which collaboration can take place between for-profit and
non-profit entities -- between formal organizations and informal

and strategic goals. Tensions can also run high between the communities,
foundations, and com­panies that cooperate and compete with one another
(sometimes more directly, sometimes less directly). To cite one example,
the relationship between the Debian Project and Canonical, the company
that produces the Ubuntu operating system, was strained for several
years. At the heart of the conflict was the issue of whether Ubuntu\'s
developers were giving enough back to the Debian Project or whether they
were simply exploiting it. Although the Debian Social Contract expressly
allows the commercial use of its operating system, Canonical was and
remains dependent on the software commons functioning as []{#Page_159
type="pagebreak" title="159"}a whole, because, after all, the company
needs to be able to make use of the latest developments in the Debian
system. It took years to defuse the conflict, and this was only achieved
when forums were set up to guarantee that information and codes could
flow in both directions. The Debian community, for example, introduced
something called a "derivatives front desk" to improve its communication
with programmers of distributions that, like Ubuntu, derive from Debian.
For its part, Canonical improved its internal processes so that code
could flow back into the Debian Project, and their systems for
bug-tracking were partially integrated to avoid duplicates. After
several years of strife, Raphaël Hertzog, a prominent member of the
Debian community, was able to summarize matters as follows:

::: {.extract}
The Debian--Ubuntu relationship used to be a hot topic, but that\'s no
longer the case thanks to regular efforts made on both sides. Conflicts
between individuals still happen, but there are multiple places where
they can be reported and discussed \[...\]. Docu

chieving an
ideal -- as Hertzog stressed, not every conflict can be set aside -- but
rather of reaching pragmatic solutions that allow actors to pursue, on
equal terms, their own divergent goals within the common project.

The immense commons of the Debian Project encompasses a nearly
unfathomable number of variations. The distribution is available in over
70 languages (in comparison, Apple\'s operating system is sold in 22
languages), and diverse versions exist to suit different application

l Property: Environmentalism for the Net?" *Duke Law Journal*
47 (1997): 87--116.

[74](#c3-note-0074a){#c3-note-0074}  Quoted from:

[75](#c3-note-0075a){#c3-note-0075}  The Debian Social Contract can be
read at: \<>\>.

[76](#c3-note-0076a){#c3-note-0076}  Gabriella E. Coleman and Benjamin
Hill, "The Social Production of Ethics in Debian and Free Software
Communities: Anthropological Lessons for Vocational Ethics," in Stefan
Koch (ed.), *Free/Open Source Software Development* (Hershey, PA: Idea
Group, 2005), pp. 273--95.

[77](#c3-note-0077a){#c3-note-0077}  While it is relatively


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