jdub, svu: I am not sure I fully buy the ‘proof’ here. The issue is much more complex than one person quiting Debian being the ultimate proof. First of all I need to say that as a singular example the flags are probably without ‘value/meaning’, but as one component in a bigger picture and trend it might be of importance.
What is boils down to is what a free software community is about and what drives its members into action, ties them together and brings in new people. In that context being as edible as possible might not actually be ‘the right solution’.
To explain my thinking I like to use the recent process of choosing the Democratic candidate for their upcoming US Presidental election as an example. To simplify it, you had Howard Dean, the candidate who (dared) speak boldly and hold some relativly controversial standpoints on one side and you had the ‘edible by all’ candidate John Kerry with the typical politician fuzzyness/political correctness on the other side.
The initial reaction would be to say ‘hey, Kerry won so being very round in the edges was once again proven to be the best strategy’. Well I beg to differ, our short term needs is not having as many people as possible like us, but have as many people as possible being enganged enough in what we do to actually help out. And from this point of view Howard Dean ‘won’ over Kerry. He had a order of magnitude more people activly invovled in his campaign.
Or in other words; if you are building a house it is much nicer to have 10 people willing to help out than having a 1000 people giving you applause for taking on such a big task alone.
So back to the flag issue. Yes doing things that might be controversial might turn some people away, like jdub’s URL was an example of, but as my example above was meant to hightlight so taking away all controversy might eventually be more damaging; as some small controvesy is a smaller risk for us than stagnancy caused by lack of engagement from developers would be. So my worry here is not the flags, I was done with them after the last round, but that it will be the first step among many towards diluting the underlaying values that makes contributing to projects for volunteers (like myself) interesting. Free Software is not just about producing a product, if it where then we are nothing more than stupid people working for free, it is as much about promoting some clear values associated with it; like freedom of information, equal access to the basic infrastructure of our society and help bridging the digital divide. These values are much more important for my motivation for working on free software than being able to write my email in a program I can download without paying.