Open Letter to the Free Software Community

2 Apr 2017

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To the free software community:

Over the past six months, the Libreboot project has been in a state of discord. After an issue with a transgender employee at the FSF escalated, Libreboot publicly left GNU with little consultation from the community. Relations with so many people were strained. Friendships broken, lines of code never written: the chaos needs to come to an end.

A series of organisational issues with Libreboot enabled this fallout to occur. We have since corrected them:

Previously, the libreboot repository and the website could only be modified by the project leader, Leah Rowe. This setup created a single point of failure, with little leeway for dissenting contributors. Since then, I have joined the project as the sysadmin. Along with another contributor, Sebastian “Swift Geek” Grzywna, direct access to the code and servers is shared. Though the project cannot yet be completely decentralised, this change is a win for transparency.

Previously, most of, including public statements such as those regarding GNU, were issued by Leah herself. The rest of the team and the community were not consulted. As Damien Zammit, a former contributor noted, the word “we” on old Libreboot notices meant “Leah”. But alas, there is no room for the “royal we” in democracy.

Finally, on a personal note, Leah was at the time struggling with gender dysphoria and substance abuse. Since then, she has been managing these issues. She agrees that her behaviour was rash and is determined to find a unifying solution.

With all of this in mind, were the allegations against the Free Software Foundation true? Perhaps. Perhaps not. At this point, it doesn’t matter. Indeed, it is unlikely that Libreboot will ever rejoin GNU, but feuding in an already fragmented community helps nobody. The world of free software is shrinking and under attack. Though the FSF may make mistakes from time to time, so do we. We do not need another divide.

Similarly, we would like to work closely with librecore, another project working to deblob coreboot, whose team includes Damien Zammit. Once librecore matures, libreboot plans to switch to librecore in lieu of our current deblobbed fork. That is, there will be less duplication of effort; instead of competing with librecore, libreboot will complement it.

As a technical update, we are currently working on a Libreboot port to the X220. Leah and Swift are investigating ways to disable the ME on Sandybridge hardware, which potentially means more modern Intel hardware may be supported. Additionally, Paul Kocialkowski has been working on supporting several new Chromebooks with ARM chips; these ports will also be available in an upcoming release.

No more “royal we”. No more notorious surprises. No more late night “typofixes”.

Transparency and collaboration are the way forward.

~Alyssa Rosenzweig

A message from Leah, to further complement Alyssa’s submission:

I acknowledge that what I did was wrong. Although I felt justified at the time, I ended up hurting a lot of people, most of whom were uninvolved with any of the relevant events. At the time of taking Libreboot out of GNU, I was going through intense personal difficulty in my life, and I was highly unstable. Presented with a similiar situation, I likely won’t respond the way I did before. I’ve changed a lot, and I promise this type of thing won’t happen again.

What I’d like the most, is to simply focus on Libreboot as I’ve always done, and to forget about what happened in the past and move on.

I sincerely hope that the FSF, GNU project and others who I have hurt, can do the same. My only goal at present is to continue improving Libreboot, and to do everything in my power to make libre hardware a reality for everyone, as is the goal of the Libreboot project.

I will remain in my place as a developer in this project, but everything that I do from now on will be the result of open collaboration with others in the project. I very nearly single handedly destroyed this project, and caused a lot of damage to the entire community, damage which I now wish to repair. I love Libreboot, Free Software and the community, and my only wish is to see it thrive.

I wish well any and all outreach organisations that do work with the FSF; e.g. Outreachy, who are working to do what they can to improve conditions for women, LGBT people and other minorities in the sphere of computing and engineering fields, related to Free Software.

I hope that any damage I caused to the community is not permanent.

I’m deeply sorry for the damage and upset that I caused. I will not repeat the same mistakes twice. To a very specific person, who cannot be named in the interest of their privacy, but for whom context will allow that person to know this is for them: I’m especially sorry for the damage that I did to you during those months, and I sincerely hope that you get what you are currently seeking. I fully support you in your endeavour, and if I could help you, I would. You still mean a great deal to me.

I’m especially sorry to John Sullivan and Ruben Rodriguez of the FSF, both of whom I publicly slandered on the Libreboot website. They did not deserve any of that. I was being highly abusive towards you both.

I would also like to express my sincerest apology to those GNU maintainers whose emails I published on the Libreboot website, when all of that chaos was underway.

I’m sorry to all the other Libreboot maintainers at the time, some of whom felt like they had no choice but to quit the project because of my actions. Doubly so for Damien Zammit and Timothy Pearson, both of whom I let down in various ways afterwards aswell.

I would like to sincerely apologize to Timothy Pearson of Raptor Engineering in particular, for the damage that I caused with Libreboot’s exit from GNU, while you were running your TALOS workstation campaign. Although I do not know whether the campaign would have succeeded without all that chaos, my own actions certainly did not help.

Finally, I would like to once again apologize to the community as a whole, for the damage that I caused. I hope that I can prove to you all that I do wish to make amends for the damage, and to improve, and to re-build bridges with the community, and to once again work with the community in bringing Libreboot and Free Software forward, into the future.

~Leah Rowe

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