Pranav Jain & Debian, DebConf, unfair rent boy rumors
In our last blog, we looked at the Ubuntu/Canonical employee Lucas Kanashiro coming into Debian as a mentor and having a relationship with an intern. Out of fairness, we need to look at other relationships too.
Back in 2016, Nicolas Dandrimont asked another mentor to mentor Dandrimont's girlfriend. This is the email he sent:
Subject: Recusing myself from Outreachy applicant selection decisions, internships funding
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2016 12:37:46 +0200
From: Nicolas Dandrimont <email@example.com>
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
CC: [mentors, redacted]
As of today, the person I'm involved with, Pauline Pommeret, is applying to an Outreachy internship in Debian (on the GPG cleanroom environment project - I don't see her mail on the list archive yet, so something must have gone wrong, but it should arrive soon enough).
To avoid an obvious conflict of interest, I am recusing myself for any decisions regarding applicant selections for this round.
I'll stay on the firstname.lastname@example.org alias for now, but let me know if you need help ranking applicants, and I'll ask DSA to remove me so you can discuss at ease.
Dandrimont appears to be saying that it is OK for a girlfriend to participate as long as the mentors and Debian Project Leader are informed.
The Debian Project Leader never challenged this email. Or if he did challenge it, they did so in the back room and didn't tell the mentors that Dandrimont was wrong. Therefore, mentors assumed that the process used by Dandrimont could be followed next time too.
It wasn't long before next time:
Subject: Re: Interested in being admin for GSoC
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2018 22:09:09 +0200
From: [redacted / volunteer]
To: Molly de Blanc <email@example.com>, Alexander Wirt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On 26/03/18 11:44, Pranav Jain wrote:
> Hi Team,
> I am Pranav Jain from India (irc : pjain). I have been in past GSoC
> 2016 student with Debian. This year I have been helping a little bit
> by answering questions of students on IRC/Mailing list, coordinating
> with mentors/students etc.
> I am interested to be part of GSoC Admin Team with Debian. I am not
> mentoring any project as of now but might co-mentor one project at
> Could present admin team please let me know about its feasibility?
Here are my comments:
... snip ...
- Pranav has also shown the highest level of integrity in everything, for instance, he is one of the students who told me about his other job offers (not everybody tells their mentor) and he also made me aware of a conflict of interest with his brother applying this round.
There it is, all the admins knew that Pranav's brother Minkush Jain was applying to GSoC.
Pranav's offer to become an administrator wasn't accepted immediately due to this issue. Nonetheless, it is not very different from the case with Nicolas Dandrimont and his girlfriend applying. The Dandrimont case had set a precedent. In fact, most of the women in Debian are somebody's girlfriend anyway.
The same volunteer who alerted Molly de Blanc and Alexander Wirt went on to send more reminders like this:
Subject: Re: [GSoC] topic
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2018 23:11:30 +0200
To: Pranav Jain
, [redacted / other mentors and admin]
One applicant, Minkush Jain, is Pranav's brother. So we have to be cautious about Pranav's involvement in the selection process.
Ack. I am okay to be out of the final decision process (last 2-3 days). I can help with screening the students and reviewing proposals till then.
Note that Pranav was already registered as a mentor but not as an administrator. As a mentor, he could log in to the Google portal and see the applications competing with his brother. He was firmly told not to do that:
Even that is not a good idea. Even if you do it objectively and I'm sure you would try not to have any bias, some other students could be upset if they knew a candidate's brother was looking at them.
The other mentors evaluated the 11 candidates without further input from Pranav. Three slots were available for different components of this project, three students were selected and one of them was Pranav's brother. This was entirely consistent with the precedent set by Nicolas Dandrimont.
At this stage, Pranav's request to become an administrator should have been rejected. It would not be valid to accept his brother as an intern and then appoint Pranav as an administrator. It was discussed in an IRC meeting of the admins and mentors:
<scapegoat> yes, but Pranav is not involved in the selection process because one candidate is his brother <scapegoat> that could be one reason we are waiting until the last minute to confirm the selections * Pranav nods. <mollydb> nice responsibile decision making :) <mollydb> thanks for being so consciencious
Pranav was appointed as an administrator shortly after this meeting but the Debian Project Leader did not revise the delegation email naming the administrators until one year later, effectively making it harder for other candidates and observers to know about Pranav's role. These hidden conflicts of interest are very common in Debian, people see it as a game pretending to be open and transparent.
Nonetheless, Google found out and got really mad. They wanted to expel both Pranav and Minkush but it looks like Chris Lamb and Molly de Blanc did a lot of backstabbing to make it look like somebody else was responsible. This is scapegoating. Molly de Blanc was no less guilty than anybody else in this affair. At the time, other mentors and Google were not informed that Chris Lamb and Molly de Blanc were in that relationship. Lamb used his position as DPL to defend his girlfriend in the eyes of Google.
Nonetheless, there is another big question to answer: what does Pranav Jain actually do in Debian?
He completed a Google Summer of Code internship in 2016. The contributors report doesn't show him doing anything else. He is not a Debian Developer and he did not make any packages. He has only used the mailing list and the wiki:
Despite minimal contributions, Pranav has been invited back to almost every DebConf since 2016. He has been seen at other events in Europe and the US, including Open Source Bridge 2017.
Just weeks after Minkush collected his payment from Google Summer of Code, Pranav stood up at Open Source Summit Europe to give a speech about GSoC. Google employees including Stephanie Taylor were apparently in the audience, humiliated by Debian.
His trip to DebConf19 (Brazil) was fully funded despite the scandals involving his brother in 2018. How could Debian shower the money on this young man while excluding so many others?
Many more experienced developers never receive a travel grant for DebConf. Why has this young man from a developing country become so popular, receiving his tickets just as easily as the young women from developing countries?
It is unfair to all the other developers but it is unfair to Pranav as well. People are speculating that he is the DebConf rent boy. We do not want to speculate that these rumors are true. That is simply the type of rumor that arises when there is no logical explanation for the intense favoritism.
In any other organization this rent boy rumor may sound far-fetched and it would not be worth repeating. Yet the Debian organization has seen a disproportionate emphasis on the demands of certain men. These men have argued that anybody who disagrees with their personal quest for power is guilty of violating the Code of Conduct. We saw exactly the same phenomena around DebConf going to Israel: anybody who expressed empathy for Palestinian children was wrongly accused of anti-semitism. In an environment with this scorched-earth policy on dissent and up to thirty percent LGBT presence at sleepover events, it would hardly be surprising to find the leaders using money to bring a rent-boy.
On one of their many trips, Pranav and Minkush visited Switzerland looking for his former mentor. They have never actually met, the mentor wasn't there at the time.