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Re: Taking care of exising packages

If anyone is interested, I'd like to offer my perspective here as
someone who was, and still is, really quite enthusiastic about helping
Debian, but hasn't really found a way to do so yet.

Sorry, but it turned into a bit of an essay when I wasn't looking.

Let me just disclaim, too: I'm trying to outline what I see as things
that might discourage a newcomer, something which is by its nature is
going to come off as sounding negative. They haven't put *me* off, so
don't take this as a whinge. I can still make these observations, and
maybe people will find them useful.

(Yes, some of them have been answered on this thread already. Some of
them have answers buried in the wiki. But they're what I saw as the
biggest sticking points.)


1. If you want new contributors to join a team, you should tell them
to join a team when they're most eager. There is an extra level of
indirection underneath the Debian Mentors' list, but it's implicit and
invisible — I'm talking about the fact that the acceptance of a new
package depends on what team your new package will fall under. The
acceptance or ignorance of RFSs might seem very arbitrary to a
newcomer, not at all related to quality of work, and this can be more
discouraging than people might think. It's human nature to be put off
when someone doesn't tell you all the rules, and people do just give

This could be fixed without any infrastructure changes whatsoever,
just by making this layer more visible. In other words, if someone
posts a good looking RFS, and it falls within the domain of an
understaffed team, reply with a stock-standard email along the lines
of: "Hi, thanks for your RFS, it looks like your contribution would be
within the area of the [whatever] team. We'd really rather have more
help with many packages already in the archives, please consider
joining the team and helping out."

Also: make it the *first sentence* in every document pitched at
newcomers, rather than the harsh response given when they ask why
their RFS was ignored after several weeks ;)

2. You have the NM guide saying that new users should post an RFS on
the list and wait patiently, but then you have DDs saying "I never
take an RFS off the list, I always go via IRC." You have the
mentors.d.n which seems quite useful, but some DDs say no-one really
uses it, so why have it? Except that other DDs say they only sponsor
packages uploaded to mentors.d.n. This conflates #1. Your potential
new helpers just get ignored instead of directed into more useful

3. So say I still want to help out. I love the neurotic pedantry of
packaging, so I found a smallish package that is a release or two
behind upstream. This takes more than a patch to fix, so I get in
touch with the maintainer (there are no signs it is O or UFA). No
response. I go to the trouble of packaging the new upstream while I
wait, which incidentally fixes some bugs. I put the results up
somewhere and contact the maintainer again. No response. Is he on
holiday? Would an email to the Debian GNOME team be overzealous or
inflammatory? Do I wait two or three weeks? There's an MIA
procedure... somewhere... but is that for this kind of thing? Yet?

I bring this up because it's a bit of a circle: you want people to
help out with existing packages, but just like making a new package,
they're liable to be ignored under certain all-too-common
circumstances; in fact, under the very circumstances you're talking
about being a problem. It's a paradox. Chaos wins again.

4. What exactly, do you mean by "join a team"?


Anyway, just my $20.50.

Jason Heeris

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