Ian Jackson

My background and credentials

Free Software

I have been writing GPL'd software since 1988, and been involved with Free unices since 1992.

My best-known involvement is with the Debian Project: I wrote dpkg, the Bug Tracking System (now heavily modified), and the original versions of many core utilities and documents. During my year as Debian Project Leader I wrote the Constitution, which was later approved by the Developers. Nowadays I'm the Chairman of the (rather underused) Debian Technical Committee, and the maintainer of a handful of packages.

I've also been a longstanding supporter of the GNU Project, and was pleased a few years ago to have some of my other Free Software blessed as GNU packages. The best known and most interesting of my other Free Software packages are GNU adns (a DNS resolver) and GNU userv (a one-of-a-kind security boundary tool).

Finally, of course, I've been on the SPI Board for many years while it has slowly been transformed - by the hard work of many people, of whom I'm probably one of the least - from a clique into a member- controlled organisation and broadened its scope.

Other activities and interests

Aside from my stints as DPL and SPI President and lately Board Member, I've sat on committees of University Societies and am currently the Membership secretary of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society.

I've been a Big-8 USENET Votetaker (before the UVV was set up). I run a small co-located system chiark.greenend.org.uk, on which I give out accounts on a favour basis (around 150 users at the moment). I'm a leafleting activist for a UK political party. I've also had a passing interest in the politics of sexual freedom.

Skills and experience

I hope that it should be clear from the information above that I'm technically competent, have a lot of experience improving the world generally, both in rough-and-tumble of the Free Software world, and elsewhere, and will stick to SPI's Free Software aims.

My worst weakness as a candidate is that I'm often very short of time. For this reason, I make the promise here (and below) that if elected I will dedicate the time necessary to achieve the goals I think are important for SPI.

What is important for SPI


SPI's role is to provide a stable legal entity which can hold assets, and take other roles involving a legal existence, on behalf of the Free Software community; specifically, for its associated projects. SPI aims - and should continue to aim - to be more than just Debian's umbrella organisation.


The most important thing to enable SPI to perform that role effectively is stability. SPI must not disappear, or be captured by people who don't have the interests of Free Software at heart. Nor must it be under the control of excessively strong-minded people who don't listen to outside voices. After the early troubles SPI has done very well on this count.


The next most important thing is that SPI should be able to effectively service the needs of member organisations. We should be able to take donations efficiently, and pay money out when required, and be useful when other issues arise. We have not done as well at this as I would like. Recent moves towards more use of professional clerical assistance will hopefully be helpful but there is unfortunately still some confusion and a lack of transparency.

Quorum problems at board meetings are another major problem which I hope the new Bylaws can help solve:

By-laws, elections, etc.

Finally, SPI needs to regularise its own internal structure. While the minimum necessary level of membership control - that the people controlling the organisation are elected - has been achieved, the mechanism - the board explicitly having to define each election, and approve the results - is poor.

What would be nice for SPI

It would be good if SPI were able to enlarge its public profile and become more widely recognised as an organisation with a substantial Free Software constituency.

Also, of course, I would like to see SPI associated with more and a wider range of Free Software projects.

While these are desirable goals, I think that we should make sure to meet our essential needs first.

What I will do if I am elected

My main positive promise is that if reelected, I will make time to undertake a thorough personal review of the work of the Bylaws Committee, and drive the process of approving new Bylaws.

I will of course support the rest of the Board and the Membership with the continuing work of the organisation. Particularly, I'll try to make sure that our efforts to improve our clerical efficiency succeed.

With respect to political questions, I will be a voice for a strong (but pragmatic) Free Software position. I'll also continue my practice of reading the small print in agreements SPI is considering, so that we can avoid unpleasant commitments and risk, but also so that we can participate usefully when the contracts are reasonable.

Thank you for your attention !