All GNU/Linux distributions have a certain amount of common ground, and the Linux Standard Base (LSB) is attempting to develop and promote a set of standards that will increase compatibility among Linux distributions, hereby enabling software applications to run on any compliant system. The very essence of any distribution, (whether delivered as RPMs, DEBs, Source tarballs or ports) is the choice of policy statements.
Policy statements in Debian specify configuration files to reside in /etc/$package/$package.conf, logfiles go to /var/log/$package/$package.log and the documentation files to be located in /usr/share/doc/$package. CGI-scripts are installed in /usr/lib/cgi-bin.
The policy statements are followed by the tool-chains and libraries used to build the software, and the lists of dependencies, which dictate the prerequisites and order in which the software has to be built and installed.
Policies in Debian are developed within the community. Commonly with a single person or a small team drafting it, with further refinements being discussed in respective mailing lists.
While every single maintainer of a Debian package has to build the package in compliance with the policy he has the ability and the right to decide which software is worth packaging. Normally maintainers choose the software which is used in their own work and they are free to move the development of Debian in a certain direction (as long as they follow the rules of the policy). This is referred to as Do-o-cracy in Debian which means: The doer decides what is done.
Andreas Tille 2005-05-13