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Bits from the DPL (April 2019)

Dear Debian:

It's with excitement and some trepidation that I write to the Debian
community as your new 
project leader.  I want to give the community my best and I'm looking
forward to the challenge.

The first week has already been a whirlwind.  Within a day of being
elected, I attracted my very own Internet trolls.  At the same time I
met a number of people who reached out and offered their support as well
as people who reached out to talk about how important Debian was to them
as they wished me the best of luck.

Most of that time has been spent learning about how Debian and its
processes work.  I am still coming up to speed on the financial aspects
and the intricacies of DebConf governance.

The release team continuse to work towards the Buster release.  It is
exciting to see the release process mature.

Outgoing Transition

for the avoidance of doubt, I specifically reaffirm any actions Chris
took after his term officially ended before I was elected that were
either documented in mail to leader@debian.org or in the Bits from the
DPL daily archive for April stored on master.debian.org [1].

During April, Chris worked on a number of reimbursements.

There was a fair bit of discussion as our cloud team [2] is
restructuring how accounts work with the major cloud providers in
preparation for the Buster release.

Chris issued two Debian Developer certificates during April.

  [1]: https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/DPL
  [2]: https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Cloud

Capturing Items from the Campaign

during the DPL campaign, we had a lively discussion [3] of various ways
that we would like to improve Debian.

I'd like to take three important items from that exchange and lead
discussions with the community to move issues forward.  For each issue I
plan to start a discussion explaining the issue and seeking a
consensus.  If it's clear we don't want to move forward, that's easy.
If we reach a point where we want to move forward, but where details
remain to be worked through, I can delegate those details to the
appropriate parties.  For example I could delegate to the technical
committee or policy process.  I want to emphasize that no decisions have
been made yet: the point of the discussion is to get community input.
As DPL I'm saying these issues are important enough to decide on; it is
my job to facilitate not to decide.

* Moving to dh  [4] as our preferred package build system, to encourage
  uniformity of packaging.

* Moving to git repositories on Salsa [5] as the preferred location for
  all Debian source packages

* Git push turns into an upload and we move away from source packages

I plan to start with the question of preferring dh as a package build
tool.  https://trends.debian.net/ has already added not using dh as a
"package smell" and so I'd like to validate whether the project agrees
with that.  I'll start a discussion on debian-devel about this issue the
week of May 5.  While you can of course start a discussion earlier or
even start a meta discussion about whether we should have a discussion
or whether I'm the right person to start it, I hope that doesn't happen.
I'm organizing some material to frame the discussion.  I understand that
if we make a change it is likely to be a policy change.  So perhaps I
could have started the discussion on debian-policy rather than
debian-devel.  I think that for the high level question debian-devel is
more appropriate.  If we get down to details then shifting to -policy is
likely to be a good choice.

The other two issues are far more complex and I'm still thinking through
how to facilitate a discussion.

  [4]: https://salsa.debian.org/debian/debhelper
  [5] https://salsa.debian.org/
  [6] https://lists.debian.org/87ftrhk21s.fsf@debian.org

Community Meetings and Papercuts

In his platform Jonathan Carter [7] proposed several ideas.  I'd like to
see us capture the momentum of the other candidate's platforms and so
we're going to start with a couple of these.

The first is periodic community meetings.  We're going to start with an
ask the new DPL anything [8] meeting.  It will be May 10 at 10:00 UTC on
the #debian-meeting channel on OFTC.  The link includes instructions.

The second idea is Jonathan's project to collect the top hundred
paper cuts that slow down Debian development.  He's going to work on
collecting small issues that get in the way and make our jobs harder.
We will be discussing how to  move forward on that when I return from

  [7]: https://www.debian.org/vote/2019/platforms/jcc
  [8]: https://bits.debian.org/2019/04/ask-dpl-anything.html

Martin's Money Ideas

In his platform [9], Martin Michlmayr proposed several ideas related to
getting better funding for Debian.  I hope we can explore three of them:

* While coordinating with the Partners team, see if there are ways we
  can approach companies and encourage them to fund employee time to
  work on Debian.

* collect a list of grants that Debian developers could apply to for
  funding Debian work.

* Have a discussion about the broader area of paying for Debian work;
  exploring what we are comfortable with and what we are not.  As Martin
  points out it's been  a long time since we've had that discussion.

I reached out to Martin.  He said that he doesn't have a lot of time,
but he'd get back to me in mid May and let me know where he could help
out.  These are not ideas that I have time to drive myself, but they are
things I'd love to support if the right person were driving them.
If you would be interested in helping with any of these items please
write to leader@debian.org.

  [9]: https://www.debian.org/vote/2019/platforms/tbm

Financial matters

One area that took up a fair bit of time during my first week was trying
to come up to speed on finances in Debian.  I'm certainly not there yet,
but I made good progress.

I approved one request for travel from a member of the Outreach team [10].

That started some internal discussion between me and the treasury team [11]
about the criteria we use for evaluating expense requests.  We're still
in the early stages of that discussion.  I don't expect any huge
changes, but I expect us to have better tools to evaluate corner cases.

DebConf is going to make a budget request for more money for travel
bursaries which I will approve.  I asked them to consolidate this budget
request in with a couple of others that are pending.  As part of
advising the DPL per their delegation, I'm asking the DebConf Committee
[12] to look at the holistic impact of budget amendments on the DebConf
finances.  They should be in a better position than I am to think about
expenses vs income within the DebConf specific context.  It's my job to
evaluate that at a broader level against the Debian context as a whole.

  [10]: https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Outreach
  [11]: https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Treasurer Vacation
DPL Vacation

I will be on vacation and entirely out of communication between May 1
and May 5.  In the exceedingly unlikely event that a DPL decision is
required during that time, the Technical Committee Chair and Secretary
can act per our constitution instead of the DPL.  To the extent that the
secretary determines that a delegation would be required since there is
a sitting DPL, this paragraph serves as such a time-limited delegation.

Representing Debian

During the campaign period, I attended the FSF's Libreplanet 2019
conference [13].

There I met a number of Debian users and others who were following the
community.  I found myself talking about two topics repeatedly.

The first was the Systemd transition.  People were still confused about
the difference between Systemd being the default for Linux-based Debian
architectures and it being the only init system.  The second was the
confusion about why this issue was so emotionally intense for us.  For
the second I tried to paraphrase Russ and others who have spoken on the

I split my explanation into two parts.  I pointed out  that we care a
lot about issues like freedom of choice but also improving security,
performance and the system administrator experience.  Debian is a
community of people who passionately care about their work, and when we
disagree about a tradeoff we put our hearts into the disagreement.

However, there's another side to that discussion: influences from
outside the project some of them set on being disruptive for no gain.
We were caught in some of the darker aspects of the Internet growing up
and realizing that they have real power.  Unfortunately it's a power to
harm and disrupt.  In some ways I think we may have been an experiment
for techniques that we've seen repeated all too effectively in other
social contexts since then.

The second question I got asked was whether Debian had a role in a world
where each programming language has its own packaging solution.  As I
said during my campaign, I think we do.  We curate packages (especially
licensing).  You know when you install or build a Debian package there
will be no unexpected external dependencies.  You know someone has
audited the licensing and made sure than when we say there is source, we
mean complete source.

If you're actively developing in a particular ecosystem, it's likely
that following the latest code will have more value to you in your
corner of the world than Debian's curation.
However you probably don't want that everywhere across all
technologies.  You probably want a base set of things that is stable on
which you can build.  When you are unfamiliar with some application, you
probably just want a version that works with security support than to
have to track the latest thing.

Debian lets you mix and match across these requirements.  The people I
talked to found that answer compelling.


Since taking office, I've given one interview.  I talked to 
iTWire for their traditional interview of the new DPL [14].  I think
that's a good compliment to Raphael Hertzog's much earlier story on me
as a Debian developer [15].

  [13]: https://www.libreplanet.org/

In Case you Missed It

* The Call for Proposals for DebConf 19 has been extended [16]
* Debian 9.9 was released [17]
* Mini DebConf Marseille May 25-26 [19]
* Mini DebConf Hamburg June 5-9 [18]
* Mini-DebConf Vaumarcus October 25-27[20]

As  a reminder, Debian can reimburse up to $100 US (or equivalent) for
  developers attending a bug squashing party (BSP).
  [16]: https://debconf19.debconf.org/
  [17]: https://www.debian.org/News/2019/20190427
  [19]: https://minidebconf-mrs.debian.net/
  [20]: https://wiki.debian.org/DebianEvents/ch/2019/Vaumarcus


Debian has a WebRTC portal that allows members of our community to use
voice and video chat for higher bandwidth communication as we do our
work.  Unfortunately we don't have any active maintainers of the
If we do not find new maintainers by mid May, I will recommend that DSA
retire the service.  See the call for new maintainers for details [21].

  [21]: https://lists.debian.org/tsltvelx3r1.fsf@suchdamage.org

Feedback Requested

As always, your feedback is welcome on thes points or any aspect of the
DPL's work.  Similarly, if you would like to ask the DPL for help, you
can write to leader@debian.org.

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