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New-Maintainer



I've been spending some time reading carefully through numerous Debian
documents tonight and looking at the website.  I'm one of the many who
has been waiting patiently for new-developers to start up again, and
have voiced some displeasure from time to time on a couple of lists, but
I understand that doing that doesn't really accomplish anything.  

This e-mail may not accomplish anything either, and I'm worried about
the possible outcomes.  I'm soliciting FRIENDLY conversation and
discussion of the issue in a public forum.  Flames are certainly
allowed (free speech), but discouraged.  

~

Points to talk about: 

1) New-Maintainers is closed.

2) There is a sponsorship program going on, which while on the website
as "official" is listed nowhere in the Consitution.

3) Sponsored developers have ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHTS according to the
Consitution.

4) Sponsored packages are officially maintained by the sponsor, not the
original developer who packaged it, in the eyes of Debian.

5) There are 18 semi-official sponsored developers listed on the webpage
that's linked from the Debian "Development" page.  URL:
http://www.internatif.org/bortzmeyer/debian/sponsor/

6) There are numerous others uploading via "proxy" of the existing
developers that I've seen here in the mailing lists.

7) The Debian Developer's Reference makes NO comment about any of this.

~

Let's delve into these a little further:

As far as #1 goes, that was done by the Project Leader and he's well
within his Debian Constitutional rights to do it.

#2 is a little bit trickier, but still gives appearances of being "okay"
on the outside.  When tied to #3 however, it has grave implications.

#3 means that those of us either being sponsored, or as in my own case,
one who's already contacted a developer and asked to be sponsored, are
in a precarious state.  We can contribute, but we have no voting powers,
no say in what happens to the overall project, and (gasp!) NO FREEDOM
within the project.  Somehow this seems like the one thing that is being
glossed over in the setup of this pseudo-maintainers group via the
sponsorship program.  We do NOT have the right to have a say in the
project as a whole.  This is the NUMBER ONE reason I'm not going to
pursue my sponsorship any further.  I don't WANT to be involved in a
project that won't have me.  (Unlike Groucho Marx... :) )

#4 I could be wrong on this one, but I think it does mean that bug reports
go to the wrong person, and it's not very easy for the actual package
maintainer to work within the bounds of the BTS and other Quality
Assurance programs.  Instead, bugs go to the uploader (again, I think)
and the normal system isn't used.  This certainly can't lead to anything
good as far as package quality goes.  It sure is going to be strange for
people to get responses from the uploader who says, "Hey, let me get you
in touch with the right person to fix this."  If this is true, it's just
not smart to be doing these sponsorships.  Sure, people being the good
folks that they are in Debian, this one has a chance of working itself 
out, but why run the risk?  Sponsored maintainers also have no access
to the various machines owned by SPI or any of the tools or abilities
that access to those machines might allow.

#5 and #6 Folks, if you're being sponsored, you really should get on this
webpage.  Perhaps if the TRUE size of the list of sponsored packagers
were known, it would be more important to someone.  Whoever that may be.
You never know, there could end up a LARGE percentage of the developers
doing work for Debian doing it as sponsorships, and there'd be no
evidence of it anywhere.  SIGN UP!

#7 Probably the most controversial thing I'll say here, is that I feel
that if the Debian project is truly OPEN, then the developers reference
should reflect the TRUE state of the project.  Chapter 2.2 should have a
note in it about the current state of things, and the above URL
reference for those interested in being sponsored with a disclaimer that
the rest of Chapter 2.2 will again soon be valid.  Of course, coming
from me that's just an opinion, but any developer could make the
request to have it added and start the formal process.  Or the
maintainer might read this and just decide to do it himself?

~

These are just the thoughts I've had when thinking seriously about
Debian and my involvement in the project.  I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with
Ian's Manifesto, and have read all the appropriate documentation and
as much of the commentary as was held in public over the last few
months as I could.  

The analogy that comes to mind is that the Debian Castle has been built
and now all the builders are holed up inside with everyone else standing
at the moat with the drawbridge up.  Some brave folks put ladders up and
scaled the walls (it wasn't easy, and at least no one inside was
shooting at them, in fact they helped them make the ladders!) to get in
and help continue the ongoing construction inside the Castle.  Many of
the inhabitants of the Castle are showing signs of denial, others are
blaming the King, and still others are smuggling people in over the wall
as fast as they can.

As with any analogy, I'm sure it will fall apart under scrutiny.  :)
(By the way, to continue the analogy: The King has announced the
lowering of the drawbridge in January, if I'm not mistaken, but the
Knights are worried that the drawbridge won't stand up to the weight of
the people coming in!  hee hee...)

A few more points then I'll shut-up.

~
From Debian's Free Software Guidelines: 

"5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups"

Are people who'd like to join and can't being discriminated against?  I
don't know the answer, but I'll leave it up to you all to decide.  I
officially have no rights in this forum other than to speak, which I do
appreciate.

~
From Debian's Social Contract

"4. Our Priorities are Our Users and Free Software"

Are the needs of the Debian user base being served by the closing of
new-maintainers?  (Yes, I think this one's already been discussed.
Perhaps not in public?  Again, I have no answer.)

~
And From the Debian Linux Manifesto, perhaps Ian's words can put it best:

"Debian Linux is a brand-new kind of Linux distribution.  Rather than
being developed by one isolated individual or group, as other
distributions of Linux have been developed in the past, Debian is being
developed openly in the spirit of Linux and GNU."

"The Debian design process is open to ensure that the system is of the
highest quality and that it reflects the needs of the user community.
By INVOLVING OTHERS [my emphasis] with a wide range of abilities and
backgrounds, Debian is able to be developed in a modular fashion."...

"INVOLVING OTHERS [again, my emphasis] also ensures that valuable
suggestions for improvement can be incorporated into the distribution
during its development; thus, a distribution is created based on the
needs and wants of the users rather than the needs and wants of the
constructor."

~

I'm a user of Debian.  I WANT (see above) to be involved in its
development.  I can not OFFICIALLY be involved right now.  Doesn't that
somehow go against the documented ideals of the Debian project?

Apologies all around to those who were quoted, and hopefully not
misquoted.  

~

Here's one more interesting point:

Why have Debian's developers allowed new-maintainers to be closed for 
so long.  Many are willing to blame the leadership, but in my
reading of the Constitution, it would appear that ANY developer with a
good idea on how to fix new-maintainers could have proposed it at ANY
time and if passed by a large enough margin, it would have been done.
Of course, here in the real world, you'd need to work with the
new-maintainers crew to keep them somewhat happy or you'd be finding a
new crew to take up your newly proposed "fix", but that's just normal
politics.  Welcome to dealing with people!

Somehow I have a feeling that the closed-door discussions amongst the
leadership didn't help the situation any.  From what I've gleaned as an
outsider, the general population of Debian developers was never
approached or asked to participate in fixing the issue.  Maybe
indirectly, I don't know.  The Constitution very clearly states that the
Project Leader is NOT to push a personal agenda either, and whether or
not that was done, I can't say.

Of course, I have no idea if and/or how any of the developers have been
involved in discussions on debian private mailing lists, so what I
believe to be true may be GROSSLY inaccurate or flat-out untrue.  If so,
take it as a sign that communication with those who are waiting probably
hasn't been what it should have.

Perhaps down the road, the developers should consider a Constitutional
amendment that all communication between officers and delegates (which I
assume the new-maintainers team is, since it's not directly referenced
in the Constitution) be put in a read-only-for-official-developers
repository so the possibility of abuse or simple miscommunication is
not there.  Then if the leadership is miscommunicating, the general
membership can step in and make resolutions and get them passed by 
majority vote.  

Hard to enforce, and possibly hellish on the guys in the various
offices, however.  Not sure that's the best idea, but someone should
think about it.

I've done my best to not make any PERSONAL statements regarding anyone
in this e-mail.  I'm strictly asking questions and starting what I hope
will not degenerate into a flame-war.  They're unproductive.

My one desire from this e-mail: Make Debian as OPEN as the source code again!

p.s. If there's anything I can personally do to help, ASK!  Like any
other volunteer, I can still say no, but I'm pretty motivated to say
yes right now, and I'm sure there are others out there who would agree.

-- 
Nate Duehr <nate@natetech.com>

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