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MIA, Incompetent and holiday-loving maintainers (was: Request for NMUs.)

On Tue, Dec 30, 2003 at 10:23:45PM -0500, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> The following RC bugs on packages in sarge appear to have good, simple 
> fixes, and have had them for a while, but their maintainers seem to be 
> on vacation, busy, or something.  They deserve NMUs.  :-)

Thanks for making the list.

... but why are we in this mess?
Good simple fixes for RC bugs should not be waiting in the bts, they
should be either checked and uploaded or checked and have a note added
saying they are not in fact good patches (and be replaced by better
In general, as our release manager stated, RC bugs should also not be in
the bts for a long time without activity - but this seems to be
happening all the time. 

Are a lot of maintainers MIA? incompetent? 

Seriously, from what I've seen, Debian testing scripts are working
great, apart from a few badly maintained packages. These maintainers are
giving testing a bad reputation for being out of date and Debian in
general a bad reputation for not fixing serious bugs quickly. A few bad
maintainers are hindering the good work of everyone else. 

Could somebody please explain what is being done about this? Is anybody
looking at lists such as this (and bug lists in general) to see if any
of the maintainers are truly mia; or even looking for maintainers who
are clearly overloaded and suggesting they ask for more help, or perhaps
saving them the hassle and asking for them - send a list of their
packages to -devel asking for co-maintainers.

The developers reference suggests that individual developers should do
checks for mia maintainers when they think a package is unmaintained. I
think we need to do more - actively look for mia maintainers. RC bug
listings a a good place to start. I'm sure there are lots of others
(e.g. looking at numbers of non-rc bugs that are old, not forwarded, not
pending, not fixed-anything, not wontfix, not moreinfo, not
unreproducible, not help).
There is also the question of maintainers who are not MIA, but are doing
a bad job maintaining one of their many packages but won't let go or ask
for help - there seems to be no advice about what to do about this. Any
attempts I've seen always just lead to flame wars and loss of
productivity even more. 

Individual developers do not want to be branded as trouble makers by
looking into these things off their own backs. We fear being added to
blacklists and so not having our NEW packages dealt with, etc (see many
recent threads on -devel). If the people sending "are you mia?"
messages and doing the checks are appointed people, they are less likely
to be branded so and are also more likely to be able to find the best
way of doing this - having a well-worded template to send out perhaps. 

If these are in fact just cases of maintainers on vacation, then perhaps
we can help with this too. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Print the vacation message on all bug reports and lists for
  maintainers on vacation. This way other developers will know to lend a hand. 
- Have a special bug listing for RC bugs of maintainers on vacation.
  Again, other developers would know that they should fix and NMU these bugs.

Any thoughts?

  .''`. Mark Howard
 : :' :
 `. `'  http://www.tildemh.com 
   `-   mh@debian.org | mh@tildemh.com | mh344@cam.ac.uk 

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