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Final Bits from the Outgoing DPL

TL;DR: It was fun.  I hope to do this again some day.  Thank you all.

I't like to start by congratulating Jonathan Carter, who will be taking
over as project leader from me when my term ends on April 21.
It was a pleasure campaigning with you last year, and I look forward to
seeing what you do this year.

Jonathan and I already had a great first transition conversation.
I'm looking forward to taking a bit of a break, but I'll be around both
to help out Jonathan, and probably finding some other area of the
project to get involved in.

I'd like to thank Sruthi Chandran for standing for DPL this
year. Sruthi, I hope you take this as a beginning, not an ending.  I
hope you continue getting more involved in Debian and hope to see you
running for DPL in a future year.

I'd like to thank Brian Gupta for bringing forward Debian's needs around
administrative, financial and legal matters.  As I said on debian-vote,
I'm not sure that being DPL is the best place to launch that effort, so
I do hope that you continue to look into how you can improve Debian's
resources there, and explore your foundation idea further.

Gratitude Practice

TL;DR: Remember the good stuff.  The bad stuff will stick without your
help, but it's too easy for the positive to get lost.

This is something that came to me through my spiritual practice, but
it's an all around good idea, and so I wanted to share it.  I only
explicitly started thinking about this in the context of Debian in a
conversation with Andy Simpkins back in January about how to reduce burn
out in the Community Team.

You can influence how you feel about the world, which aspects of it
stick with you, which aspects of it fall away.
We have a natural tendency to focus on unsolved issues; things that are
still open.  Things that poke us.  So, to some extent if we don't do
something, it's easy for the things that hurt to be the things we

Gratitude practice is about explicitly emphasizing the things we're
grateful for.  It's about going and finding them, and focusing on them
so they stick around.  Sometimes it's about sharing them with others;
sometimes writing them down; sometimes meditating.

Subconsciously I've done that with my bits mails throughout the term.  I
started  them off with something cool/amazing/neat I'd found in our
community to share with everyone.

I'd like to be a bit more explicit about that.
If you want Debian to be a positive, happy place, you can take
significant steps to make that happen.  My advice is to explicitly
dedicate time to finding and noticing the things in Debian that you
think are going well.  Let others know if you like, but the biggest
thing for me has been to notice it myself.

You can apply this on the large scale.  But you can also apply this on
the small scale.
So imagine there's a discussion on -project that frustrates you.  Take
some time to figure out if there are positive take aways from that
discussion too.  Did you get any helpful advice?  Was the ultimate
outcome positive for the project?
Did people propose useful ideas about how to think about your issue or
about communication in general?
For even the most frustrating discussions I've witnessed in Debian there
are some significant positive elements.

Often times just going back and writing notes of a summary makes our
more frustrating discussions better for me.  I can keep all the
constructive parts in my notes, and let other things drift on past.

I'm not saying ignore the frustrating issues.  We have real needs to
improve in communication.  Sometimes problems come up that do need to be
addressed.  I'm just saying remember the things that went well too; they
won't do it on their own.

Delegation Advisory Group

TL;DR: Thanks very much; it worked well for me.  Other DPLs may not need
so much formality.

One of the biggest struggles of my term was a struggle that emerged
surrounding a delegation.  I sought help beforehand, but the resources I
had weren't familiar enough with organizations as distributed as Debian.
Eventually, I found myself backed into a corner with no good options.
The people who I could turn to were not available or didn't have the
necessary details to give useful advice.  I felt like I could not share
the details with other parties because of confidentiality issues.
The decisions I made hurt the project and weren't good for me either.

And so I decided to improve.
I put together a delegation advisory group to help me figure out what
issues were worth fighting for and when I just needed to step back.
They could also help and  see where communication was breaking down and
give advice.

They really delivered.  I'd like to thank all the members of that team
for helping me out.  There were definitely times where they helped me
focus on the important stuff.  And there's one time where having another
party involved allowed us to all take a step back and find a solution
everyone was happy with.

My take away for future DPLs is that you need people you can talk to
about delegations.  You need people that you're comfortable sharing all
the private details about people's strengths/weaknesses, and talk it
For me it helped for that to be formal.
If you aren't going to need that , then you don't need something formal.
Just be sure that you're not going to feel trapped by confidentiality
obligations from getting the advice you need.

My delegation advisory group was set up with a time limited delegation;
they go poof at the end of my term.
I think time limited delegations are great and we should use them more.

Thanks to all of you for a job well done!

Technical Accomplishments

On the gratitude note, I want to remind us all of cool things that
happened over the last year.
I'm not saying these are my accomplishments; as an example I had no
special part at all in our release other than maintaining some packages.
I'm saying these are our accomplishments as a community, and we kind of

* We released Buster, which is bigger and better than ever.  Users I've
  talked to have been really happy with Buster.

* The release team is making a number of improvements to bring up the
  bar for our next release: things like requiring binaries be built on
  buildds, making sure testing and unstable don't diverge too much.

* They are also trying to minimize the impact of the freeze by allowing
  the final freeze to be much shorter.

* Debhelper continues to improve and to help make packaging more uniform
  and easier.

* Janitor is a new service designed to help automate updating packages
  to comply with best practices where automated changes can effectively
  be proposed.  (Janitor is built on top of a cool technology called
  silver-platter which hopes to automate proposing changes to a large
  number of packages.)

* We decided to move towards Debhelper as the recommended packaging tool
  in most cases, increasing uniformity and  making contributing easier.

* We finally  came to a decision about how we will  balance using
  systemd facilities in Debian and how we will think about init
  systems.  This has already unblocked policy discussions that were
  stalled for years.

* Our cloud team has significantly refined how they produce cloud
  images, and we have officially listed cloud images available on
  several platforms.  We also have better tooling around finding our

* Salsa, salsa-ci, and various other parts of infrastructure are

* We are working to make it easier to join the NM process by moving away
  from the certificate based Debian SSO mechanism.

Community Accomplishments

I'm going back further than a year, say to January 2019.
At that point, we were having a raging debate about whether kill-filing
content that was potentially harassing was the appropriate response to
things some might not like in our community.  We were struggling to
understand whether deadnaming really was a big deal.
In the last year and a half:

* We've reached a point where we have the teams of people necessary to
  moderate our lists when we are facing harassment, and we have
  agreement  that to protect our community sometimes we do need to
  moderate our lists.

* We are seriously considering experiments with different technologies
  that might create better community.

* When in December of 2019  someone popped up and said that they refused
  to use the right pronouns for trans or non-binary members of our
  community, there was strong and consistent pushback against this until
  the person left.  Yes, other aspects of that conversation could have
  gone better, but that core part of the message was delivered by many
  people including listmasters and the community team.

* we have an appeals process for account manager decisions that balances
  the need for review against the needs for confidentiality.

* There is a much stronger understanding of the impact of harassment and
  of hostility in our community:

  * Conversations in the first part of this year on debian-private
    demonstrated much better support for protecting our community than
    last year.

  * Russ's excellent mail to debian-vote talking about leaving room for
    disagreement rather than stating positions as incontrovertible
    fact.  I know that others have made the argument before, but Russ
    seemed to get more reception--we were ready to hear him this time

  * Russ's mail to debian-project about hostility and about helping
    people proposing new ideas feel supported rather than failing to
    respect them.
  * Yes, there is far to go, but we have made strides.

* There's better understanding among people in Debian who deal with
  conduct issues about how to support each other, including the
  Community Team, DPL, account managers.  There's been work to pull
  listmaster and owner@bugs into that, but that is still ongoing.

* Ongoing efforts on how to use help from other volunteers in response
  to organized harassment.

* Better experience in how to coordinate with other organizations.

* Our Community Team has more active members than it has had in a long
  time, and there are additional members in the recruiting pipeline.

They Aren't Out to Hate You

When we write emails, it is very easy to hear strongly worded
statements.  There are a number of times where someone's disagreement
with something I said was strong enough that I took it as an attack
against me.  If they disagreed that strongly and had no room to talk to
me about why I thought that--no room too listen to my side--they were
rejecting me.  And then I'd run into the person at an event, and they
would show concern, sometimes even offer a hug.

My advice for a new DPL, or anyone who find-s themselves in a leadership
role is to realize that these disagreements come off much stronger than
is sometimes intended.
Even when it seems implausible, some people really can separate one
issue from another and work with you in one way even while disagreeing
in terms that you might think preclude that on another issue.  It's way
to easy to feel isolated when you do something people disagree with.

It really is disconcerting to be listening to how some decision you've
made is the worst thing that has happened to the project since we
decided to move away from dselect and go to apt one minute, and get a
note of support from the same person the next minute.  We really do get
passionate and yet we also care about each other.  If someone is the
right person to deal with, reach out to them even if you've had some
disagreements.  Yeah, sure, there are one or two who probably will end
up disagreeing with you rather than your decision, but it's a lot fewer
than you'd think from the email you get.

My advice for all of us: that extra 10 minutes on an email to come
across as compassionate and to try and express empathy?
Yeah, it's always worth it when we can find it in ourselves.
Every time you express disagreement and still manage to find empathy,
you make a stronger community.


In conclusion, thank you all for a wonderful year.
It was a real whirlwind.  On top of being DPL, I managed to finish off
the first version of my DJ software, learn to play in front of a crowd,
write 150,000 words of fiction, and hold down a day job.
I'm going to try and slow down for a bit, but I haven't had much luck
the last few times I said that either.
debian is great; I'm glad to be part of it.

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