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Bits from the Policy Team, call for volunteers

General Status

Debian Policy work has largely been on hold for the past few months,
partly due to the release freeze but mostly due to lack of time and
resources.  Policy 3.8.1 is in preparation and already includes 12 bug
fixes, 7 normative (affecting the requirements set by Policy rather than
the wording, presentation, or supporting documentation).  The current plan
is to release Policy 3.8.1 very shortly after the lenny release so that
maintainers doing their first squeeze uploads can update to the new
version of Policy at the same time.

There are currently 128 open bugs against Debian Policy, most of which are
not being actively pursued.

Team Membership

Manoj Srivastava has stepped down as a Policy delegate [1].  Manoj's first
upload of the debian-policy package was in October of 1998.  He has spent
over ten years guiding and improving Debian's technical policy, and Debian
is much better for his efforts.

With his resignation, there is only one currently active Policy delegate.
This is obviously insufficient to stay on top of incoming bug reports, let
alone to make significant improvements in Policy, reduce the bug backlog,
or proactively resolve known issues.

More Policy team members are badly needed.  More people working on Policy
in general are needed, including simply participating in discussions on
the mailing lists and evaluating proposals, but we also need experienced
Debian developers who have the time and background required to be full
Policy delegates.  The responsibilities of a Policy team member are:

1. Shepherd debian-policy bugs through to a resolution following the
   Policy changes process [2].  Anyone can do this, but Policy delegates
   have the final responsibility to try to see that every bug receives
   some attention.

2. Make decisions to accept seconded wording or reject proposals at the
   final stages of the Policy changes process.

3. Edit the Debian Policy document and its associated sub-policies for
   consistent wording, fixing typos and mistakes, and so forth.  Hopefully
   also help with converting or rewriting it over time into a newer, more
   standardized and more formalized format.

4. Maintain the debian-policy package as a package, fix packaging
   problems, and upload new versions.

Almost anyone with some experience with Debian packaging and technical
experience with what works and what doesn't in package integration can
usefully participate on the debian-policy mailing list.  A Policy delegate
should additionally have reasonably wide-ranging technical experience, a
sense of where it is reasonable to standardize a practice and where it's
premature, and the ability to pursue a consensus solution to a problem
through multiple iterations.

If you are interested in volunteering to be a Policy delegate, please
contact Russ Allbery <rra@debian.org> and Steve McIntyre in his capacity
as Debian Project Leader <leader@debian.org>.

Policy Process

Currently, there are a large number of open bugs against debian-policy,
many of which have been lingering there for many years.  There are
technical packages for which it's reasonable to carry wishlist bugs for
features until someone has a chance to implement them.  This isn't the
case for Policy.  We should strive for being able to discuss and make a
clear decision about a change proposal in a reasonable length of time.

For each release of Policy, the Policy delegates will try to take a set of
open issues and shepherd them through to resolution in that release.
Anyone can help with this process, and help would be greatly appreciated.
On the Policy wiki page [3] are details for how this process works.

Now is an excellent time for those who aren't busy with the lenny release
to help resolve relatively minor issues.  We won't make a new Policy
upload until after the release, and just after a release is an ideal time
to make Policy changes.

After the release, when Policy 3.8.1 is released, will be an excellent
time to tackle major Policy issues that should affect squeeze development.

DocBook Conversion

One of the things that Manoj had been working on was converting Debian
Policy from DebianDoc-SGML to DocBook and formalizing a new structure that
would make it easier to extract bits of information from Policy
requirements.  This is still a long-term goal.  DebianDoc-SGML is no
longer widely used, and moving to a more standard format will aid Policy
maintenance in the long run.  Policy would also benefit greatly from an
easier way to extract requirements and recommendations in summary form, a
more standardized way of refering to specific requirements in other
documents, and a better description of exactly what one should check for
to determine whether something complies with Policy.

The first step in this process is to develop a new format and style guide.
DocBook seems the natural choice for a source language.  However, DocBook
is a huge language with many, many tags, most of which are probably not
appropriate for Policy.

We would love to get the input of someone with prior DocBook experience on
a style guide.  We need a document format and supporting documentation
that lists the subset of DocBook that will be used in Policy and exactly
when particular tags should be used.  If you would be willing to work on
this, please mail debian-policy@lists.debian.org.


[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-policy/2008/12/msg00005.html
[2] http://wiki.debian.org/PolicyChangesProcess
[3] http://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Policy

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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