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Re: Some thoughts about problems within Debian

On Fri, 2002-01-04 at 00:24, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> Most of us who work for Debian do this in our spare time. But I do
> personally disagree with the "you can't force a volunteer to do anything"
> argument I heard in several discussions. These were discussions about
> things where some work of the maintainer who is responsible for his
> package would save work for other people who do volunteer work for Debian
> or to improve the general quality of Debian for our users.

I agree. After all, it's voluntary to volunteer.
But it should be very clear what is expected of you, and what you are
willing to contribute. At the moment, much is expected, but the
willingness can only be observed afterwards, day by day.

Recent discussions on this and other lists are showing signs of the
debian (and possibly the free software) community wanting to change the
way development is done. Where before we had chaos and charismatic
people hacking away into the night, we now have people striving for
orderly development of mature systems. It is time not only to become
hackers of code, but also hackers of project management, hackers of
quality assurance and hackers of user interfaces.

But fresh ideas require new participants - only it has become so much
more difficult to get involved. Not only do you have to possess almost
cs major skills to keep up, the debian project is so large that it is
very difficult for a prospect maintainer to grasp the whole picture and
find her own place. I sense countless lurkers reading this list and
others, trying to get a glimpse of what debian is all about, and if it's
something to get involved in. I count myself as one of them.

Think of it as getting a job at a very large company. What if you knew
nothing of the people working around you, nothing of the internal
structure of the company, nothing of what you are expected to do? There
are many able programmers and would-be-maintainers that cannot find a
place to start.

What the people writing about this matter seem to be after is
- what is expected of a maintainer?
- how does the debian project fit together?
- what can I do?
- what must I know to be able to do this?
- where do I go to ask if I must know something?

I think the real "debian problem" is not about maintainers MIA, orphaned
packages or slow release cycles. The real problem is about lack of
smooth introduction of new participants, and a complicated, undocumented
internal structure. It is about unclear goals - what is the target
audience or audiences of debian?
If these matters were clear, more people would concentrate on writing
missing documentation (where is the "debian system administrators guide"
or the "debian desktop user's guide"?) finding MIA maintainers, fixing
RC bugs, figuring out what "roles" the debian system can play and see to
it that it does a good job on each.

I have no answers, and I have no suggestions at this moment for the
above - because I don't know what's expected, or where to start.


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