Should organizations relating to the defense sector being able to sponsor NixOS?

There have been some attempts to come up with a general principle we can apply as a policy and some arguments made in both directions. I feel that it would be useful to give my specific reason for being against this sponsorship:

I strongly dislike the killbot hellscape future Anduril is selling, and would like to avoid helping them in bringing it about.

Smarter people than me have come up with better arguments than I could come up with. The gist is that pushing autonomous weapons capabilities on one side will cause the other sides to respond in kind. I believe Anduril to be the one pushing this line the most, which is why my arguments are specifically about them.

I’m not sure how to formulate a policy that encapsulates this problem, that everyone could agree on. Maybe excluding sufficiently controversial sponsors?

I also think people might feel more strongly about this than about a normal sponsorship because their work is in Nixpkgs and likely being used to build these systems.

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I would like to separate the questions about moral judgements about a company from the question of whether or not it is suitable as a sponsor. “Taking money from”, “advertising for” and “endorsing” a company are three related but distinct things and in my view these distinctions currently matter here.

And I understand that people who dislike military companies most likely will not want to have any advertising done for these. On the converse, this still leaves room for people who feel neutral or otherwise about these companies to still disagree with doing any sponsorships for them.

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Feel free to raise a third signature website that does not explicitly support the Western values system and Western countries’ maintenance of those. The fact that there are more than two potential positions in this debate doesn’t necessarily mean I am conducting a false flag operation.

I would be very happy if you started another repo where people can help you write a message focused strictly on anti-censorship and respecting every individual in the community, whatever their personal views are. I would still believe this is better than the current state of affairs; I simply personally believe this is not good enough anymore as it’s not only about people feeling welcomed at events anymore, but much bigger then just NixOS community events with much direr consequences if wider tech community doesn’t stop this, but this is my take.

Go and push for yours, which is more centrist. And yes, it’s probably easier to get signatures, as so far I have gotten none except for plenty of private messages of support, but none public, which tells a lot that you may be right about my approach being the wrong one. The centrist approach may be more effective, but I still believe it’s not the right one.

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They registered their NixOS Discourse account merely 14 hours ago, solely to post that single comment. This coincided precisely with the creation of their repository on GitHub and their initial commit.

This sequence of events has only heightened my suspicion that we’re dealing with a false flag operation.

Update: I’ve just read Max’s comment and find myself in agreement.

Hi @kiara

That’s true specifically because of the defence industry. If the west collectively decide to become pacifists and decommission all weapons and war machines, that would not be the case anymore. It’s a hypothetical scenario where the evil defence contractors don’t exist anymore. Of course militaries could stop using contractors and make everything in house but I don’t think outsourcing is the issue here. I’m challenging the pacifist view that calls for the demilitarisation of democratic nations. Autocratic nations won’t be affected, especially when they are the only ones left with weapons.

Hi @AngryAnt
Thank you for challenging me in my comment. As I mentioned it should be decided on a case by case basis. In those countries contractors have very close ties to the government and I personally oppose ones that actively support and perpetrate genocide and oppression among other things. It’s not about any single country.

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take a serious look at the people on the signatories list. as of 2 days ago, it covered 29% of all non-r-ryantm PRs against nixpkgs, and it’s got more signatures since then. that’s not insignificant. this isn’t some “if we persuade them to our viewpoint they’ll understand why Anduril should be a sponsor” issue. it seems rather to be a “sponsoring Anduril is fundamentally incompatible with the passions which motivate those volunteers to be here at all” issue.

you don’t have to agree with anyone’s morals. you don’t even have to understand why a large portion of NixOS holds to this line: there is no single answer to that. you only have to decide at this point whether continued Anduril sponsorship is worth more than 30% of nixpkgs. the other stuff is important, yes, but it’s this point which is immediate, and real.

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If I understand the calculation being made here, displaying advertisements for weapons manufacturers is apparently more essential to the long term future of the Nix project than the goodwill of a substantial portion of the people actually doing the work.

Seems to me like we’re gambling away quite a lot of volunteers just for the opportunity to attract more… Western Imperialism fans(?) to the project. I hope they like writing docs.

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The very point of open source software is that one shouldn’t judge on where contributions comefrom.

SELinux came from the NSA? Huawei wants to make contributions to the networking stack in the kernel? Some random defence start-up wants to contribute a patch to a webserver? Cool, does it improve the project for everyone? Awesome then, onto the next PR.

And at the same time, anyone can use the code for whatever purpose they want to. And if anyone can use, anyone can pay people to then go and make further improvements (in theory at least).

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This has exactly zero to do with the issue at hand. Don’t derail the conversation please.

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Are commits to nixpkgs the measure of how to have your voice heard in the nix community? I’ve spend countless hours in chatroom talking to people about nix, getting them oriented in the ecosystems, helping troubleshoot problems. Are these contributions worth less? Do they diminish the value of my voice compared to those with high commit counts?

Then is there really a need for discussion here after 160+ posts? If this is the feeling, then shouldn’t this group just take their next action?

It seems sort of odd that that a large minority of people would expect a foundation that represents a huge diversity of view points to adopt their specific political stance. There probably won’t be much that most people can agree on, save that the foundation should work to advance the use and functionality of nix.

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(post deleted by author)

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Apparently there still is to many people here, but for those who just want to move on with it work is happening in a different thread: NixCon NA 2024 is getting sponsored by Anduril, what to do about it

So far it looks like I’m the only one to have made a concrete proposal (next to @tomberek’s initial work from a couple of months ago), but feel free to join me and add yours.

Quoting @thufschmitt on Matrix:

[…] there’s an open call next Wednesday to discuss a lightweight short-term policy that we can use right now (I’m personally leaning towards having something that requires publishing a tentative list of sponsors early enough in advance so that people can voice their potential concern, but as I said, that’s something to discuss there).

we should have something ready to show by then.

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Quick heads-up (this was already mentioned in other related channels, but making sure that folks don’t miss it):

  • There’s an open call next Wednesday which will be the occasion to discuss a lightweight short-term policy that we can use right away (I know you just mentioned it @piegames, but it’s easy to miss as it’s hidden within a quote, so I’d rather make it more visible);
  • Several people asked how they could make sure that this was followed-up on and wouldn’t just die-off once the tide is over. Beyond the general discussion (which risks to die-off indeed), I think that the best way forward is to open a a pull-request to GitHub - NixOS/foundation: This is the home of the NixOS Foundation with a draft proposal.

And asked for precise changes.

What the individuals who signed do, or don’t do, about this situation is a personal choice.

I am of the opinion that leaving the project at this point is simply giving it on a platter. It is better to keep being involved, and observe how this turns out.

This week, we’ve shown that there is a proportion of the community who wants to see change on this topic. The silent do not necessarily agree. I (too) have received private messages from people who privately support the overall sentiment. I also know of people who didn’t sign because it did not go “far enough”.

This is not the total sum of displeased people, but a sample of those who keep up-to-date with the happenings in the broader community, and have the luxury and privilege to be able to voice their shared interest.

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@adingbatponder@fosstodon.org writes:

Very sorry about the Russians comment; especially since they contribute so much to culture, science and technology, and nixOS (thanks! we love you). Nothing against “Russians”, just the war they started. “The Russians” is a sloppy, but idiomatic, way of saying “Russia” in the context of war. …

There’s a simple solution for that: just state how it really is by inlining definitions, then your

When my kids, or kids’ kids, are conscripted to fight the Russians etc. I want their tanks running nixOS and not stuck in the mud due to some Chinese trojan living undetected in a hacked OS till activated at doomsday.

becomes

When nomenklatura (Nomenklatura - Wikipedia AKA the political class) holding the bridles of power in my country conscripts my kids, or my kids’ kids, to fight the Russian kids conscripted by the nomenklatura holding the bridles of power over there, I want their tanks running NixOS …

And now you can deliberate whether you would really prefer that over, for instance, tactical-nuking nomenklatura’s bunkers instead of letting them play toy soldiers by enslaving children to kill other children (and let’s be honest, 18-21-year-olds are children regardless of what the laws say, forceful military draft and military mobilization are types of slavery, slavery is a crime against humanity).

@all

Now, having signed the “against MIC advertisements on NixCon” petition, personally, I think above stated principle should be applied to all NixCon advertisements.

I.e. I would prefer it be more granular so that NixCon sponsors could freely advertise and hunt hires into projects that respect and protect individual freedoms but can’t do those things for projects that exploit and/or kill innocent people. (Yes.)

In cases where company’s main products are all dystopian and so the simple association is counter-productive I would prefer NixOS foundation to only take donations instead of sponsorships, yes.
(And yes, for me that means that I would rather both Google and Microsoft not be sponsors anytime soon. And, yes, I was against staying on GitHub after Microsoft bought it.)

I.e., in the case of Anduril, my problem is not with the tech itself. I just highly doubt that they sell any of their tech (that one could not replicate with off-the-shelf components) to any non-nomenklatura private individuals.
The state of the world where all The Presidents and Prime Ministers are safe but all inconvenient investigative journalists and whistle-blowers are assassinated by AI-controlled micro-drones running memory-safe dependently-typed Haskell code running on purely-functional NixOS Linux distribution (all the things to which I’m an eager contributor to) seems disheartening and demotivating to me.

Also, yes, code contributions are donations, kind of. But let’s not pretend that contributing a chunk of code to a FLOSS project is a purely selfless act, it also eases your own maintenance burdens.

Also, if “but they contributed such and such chunk of code to Nix community” is an argument for allowing advertisements on NixCon then I propose that all individuals who contributed code to Nix should also be allowed to advertise whatever they want on NixCon website and in official materials in proportion to their past contributions.
(Like, if we are doing that, I – who happen to be on-and-off contributing to Nixpkgs since SVN days — would love to see advertisements for https://perkeep.org/, which I like very much, and my own latest baby over-project Own Data Privateer · GitHub both of which are virtually unknown, highly useful, and respect your freedoms.)
Let those evil advertisements drown in stuff useful to more than the “top” (generously speaking) 0.00001%.

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Fair enough. I have changed my mind. I actually think that the nixOS board should seek consensus and if there is a problem they should get rid of the problem. We all need to work together and show the monopolistic data thieving mega companies how it can be done. I would rather that they pull the advertising and forgo the cash to keep as many good techies on board and avoid political disputes - irrespective of the “right” and “wrong” or “majority” view - we should just have as much as possible in common. One thing is for sure though, open source cannot be prevented from helping the bad guys and the good guys - so we are truly apolitical really. Even the Chinese are helped by FOSS… so be it…

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May I formally register my explicit refusal to endorse this goal as stated? (I have nothing against explaining more in direct messages or in a thread where it would not be offtopic)


A purely procedural/logical observation: the board of the foundation has repeatedly, consistently taken position on various topics (not only the sponsorship) that it does not consider itself to have a mandate to make a case-by-case judgement call without having an established policy to follow. This is in fact why interim sponsorship policy mimics Apache’s one, minimising case-by-case judgement calls. At the same time, we have approximately zero precedents of succesful decision making «by community» without rather involved process policies. (Hmmm, can it be because we don’t really have and cannot have in any healthy way a cohesive community given the diversity of interests?). What I want to say is — if you start by assuming that a consistent foundation board position is bad judgement, uhm, maybe stop calling for them to make judgement calls with zero policy guidance?

I think the current board position is reasonable, but proposing a policy, assuming it is actually a policy text that can be generally applied, to be applied to new decisions since its finalisation but not retroactively, is also reasonable decision making. Some outlines of possible policies here look like they can indeed be finished.

In contrast, demanding case-by-case judgement calls from people whose judgement call has already been made as «we are not in a position where making case-by-case pure judgemenet calls would be proper» might achieve or not the direct result desired, but it is definitely not leading us to a place where we have decision making compatible with reason.


An observation on conflict of interest: strictly speaking, not only people linked in one way or another to companies with large contracts with the military have a conflict of interest here. The interpretation of sponsorships as more of an advertisement sale or more of an endorsement is also relevant to companies who estimate their chances of being kicked as low.

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Note that one can agree with that line of thought, and still be of the opinion that companies like Anduril should not sponsor NixCon or any other NixOS-Foundation related events.

In the case of Anduril, one further argument against them is that their founder, Lucky Palmer, has been suspected to have fascist ideals, or at least openly associated with fascists before.


On a different note, I feel like many people in this thread don’t understand that Travis Whitaker is lead of one of Anduril’s software development teams. This makes it clear why he’s trying to derail this thread like he does. He’s not incapable of following arguments, just trying to put a spin on things.

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Completely agree with you, and thank you for the reply. I don’t know enough about this specific company and their leadership to endorse them, my comment was a response to arguments in this thread that assume the universal default opinion that making weapons or engaging in war is unacceptable. In my understanding, such isolationist or pacifist approaches enabled fascism in the past - both recent far - and likely will again in the future.

The one issue, that I see the most critical, is the public perception.

I do consider the scenario, that open source outlets, Youtuber and that like, at one point, get wind of an endorsement of a defense company (to call it politely) and thats the end of NixOS as a choice for many, many people.

We will never get rid of this, and this will be our equivalent of the Amazon catastrophy and we will never shake this off.

People will forever assosiate us with murdering, sociopathical companies, who also develop anti-immigration tools and are strongly connected to Donald Trump.

So completely irrelevant, if you think, NixOS is not a political project - other people think it is, and judge it accordingly.

No matter if you think, that matters, it definitely puts us into a light, that will lead to many people leaving, and a ton not joining because of that.

If we like to take that risk - for 5000 $ - I think we deserve to fail.

This is a very clear decision. And that we have such a long discussion over this, is deeply concerning in regards to the secure attachment towards the rest of the community.

We dont want to become outcasts.

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