Demoted in Death: Debian cabal's final insult to Frans Pop

The recent Debian bookworm release provides a fascinating opportunity to look at the way Debian's inner cabal has behaved towards volunteers who died along the way.

When Joel Klecker died in July 2000, the Debian 2.2 release was dedicated to him.

When Thiemo Seufer died in December 2008, the Debian 5 "lenny" release was dedicated to him.

Yet when Frans Pop died in August 2010, the now infamous Debian Day Volunteer Suicide, they only dedicated one component of the release to him, the Debian installer, but only the beta version. He is missing from the full release announcement. He is missing from the subsequent announcements about the Installer.

This feels like a snub. People actively discussed it on the debian-private leaked gossip emails. Some of their emails are copied below as evidence. Nonetheless, when everybody else was getting a system upgrade, Frans Pop received a downgrade.

Here is one of the email exchanges where Pop signalled he didn't want to be a mere slave for Ubuntu:

Subject: Re: Debian decides to adopt time-based release freezes
From: Frans Pop <>
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 09:28:43 +0200

On Thursday 30 July 2009, Marc Haber wrote:
> I don't think that we shouldn't time our releases according to what
> Mark Shuttleworth says. We are not Ubuntu's slave even if they try
> hard to make it look like that.
> Our 18-to-24-month release cycle was a nice vehicle to stay
> asynchronous with Ubuntu, which _I_ consider a desireable feature to
> prevent Debian from perishing. We are not only major supplier to
> Ubuntu, we have our end customers ourselves. I'd prefer that it stayed
> that way.


People speculated that Dr Norbert Preining was the first Debian demotion during the Debian Christmas Lynchings of 2018. Then we heard the story of Daniel Baumann's "demotion" in 2014, the Daniel Baumann experiment. Yet what they did to Frans Pop can also be thought of as a demotion.

Looking at the work Pop did over so many years, it appears possible he did a lot more than Joel Klecker or Thiemo Seufer. Why didn't he receive equal recognition?

One possible reason, not explicitly stated in the discussion, is that the release following the suicide of Frans Pop had the code name squeeze. How would it look if the squeeze was dedicated to a suicide victim?

The Debian Installer team is pleased to announce the second beta release of the installer for Debian GNU/Linux Squeeze.

This release is dedicated to Frans Pop

In a previous blog, I charted the ever-growing volume of debian-private emails before the suicide. To call it a death by a thousand emails feels appropriate.

Pop had expressed concern about being a slave for Ubuntu. It looks like some people felt it would be convenient for him to literally die quietly. There is more evidence that is yet to be published. Nonetheless, we can see that when the Debian founder Ian Murdock committed suicide in 2015, they went back to the practice of dedicating the entire release to him. Murdock died by hanging, the Debian 9 release had the codename "stretch".

Frans Pop, FOSDEM, 2008

Lior Kaplan was first to support Frans ...

Subject: 	Re: Death of Frans Pop
Date: 	Sat, 21 Aug 2010 13:52:11 +0300
From: 	Lior Kaplan <>

Oh my god (!)... I'm so sorry to hear this.

It might be jumping ahead, but could we dedicate this coming release to

Tiago Bortoletto Vaz supported the dedication too...

Subject: Re: Death of Frans Pop
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2010 09:23:07 -0300
From: Tiago Bortoletto Vaz <>

sad sad. No words :(

On Sat, Aug 21, 2010 at 01:52:11PM +0300, Lior Kaplan wrote:
> Oh my god (!)... I'm so sorry to hear this.
> It might be jumping ahead, but could we dedicate this coming release to
> Frans?


Nico Golde was the third supporter ...

Subject: Re: Death of Frans Pop
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2010 14:17:06 +0200
From: Nico Golde 

* Steve McIntyre  [2010-08-21 12:59]:
> I have bad news to share with people, I'm afraid. This morning, I've
> just received an email from the parents of Frans Pop telling me that
> he died yesterday.
> "Yesterday morning our son Frans Pop has died. He took his own life,
> in a well-considered, courageous, and considerate manner. During the
> last years his main concern was his work for Debian. I would like to
> ask you to inform those members of the Debian community who knew him
> well."
I have problems to find the right words in this case but I feel really sad
and I think this is a great loss. I would also welcome it if we could dedicate the next release to him.

Kind regards
Nico Golde - - - GPG: 0xA0A0AAAA
For security reasons, all text in this mail is double-rot13 encrypted.

More about the Debian.Day volunteer suicide