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Re: Why is help so hard to find?

On Fri, 14 Jan 2011 23:46:53 -0800
Mike Bird <mgb-debian@yosemite.net> wrote:

> On Fri January 14 2011 22:06:21 Christian PERRIER wrote:
> > You're right. No Debian developer is involved in large institutions
> > or corporations where hundreds of such servers are in use. All
> > Debian developers are kids playing on their parents' computer to
> > build a distro, during hacking nights, instead of doing their home
> > work and learn at school.
> You're mistaken Christian. 

Mike, you missed the sarcasm completely and just went on another
rant about two (unrelated) bugs which affect you directly. Guess what
- I don't give two flying figs about those two specific issues because
they don't affect me. I care about the underlying problem.

You also changed the topic of this part of the thread to something
much more interesting and important - lack of responses to RFH bugs -
and then put nothing in the body of the reply to actually relate to the
new subject. Please don't waste time on specifics - there is a much
wider, much more important, systemic problem here which you have
identified in the subject and then abandoned.

Can the rest of us now actually ask if there is anything we can do to
get more people involved in helping packaging teams which are openly
asking for help?

If Debian isn't doing the right things to attract helpers, then there
is no solution for the users in this thread who are basically
complaining about packages with lots of bugs and not enough manpower.
Debian cannot afford to have multiple versions of big package sets -
especially where the current options already have lots of bugs. There
is not the manpower to have two complete boot systems or two versions
of a complete desktop environment, no matter what the upstream support.

People are complaining about lack of bug fixes (dressing that up as
accusations of poor maintenance in Debian) and DD's are replying with
examples of where there is simply not enough manpower to deal with the
bugs - we all know which packages and package sets are struggling to
handle the bug load. Making it specific / explicit doesn't help.

Replies often become sarcastic or humorous to try and deflect the guilt
that maintainers are not able to find enough people to work in their
teams. It's not that a particular maintainer or team of maintainers are
bad maintainers necessarily, there's no point making sweeping
statements that maintainers should step down. Who's going to volunteer

It's obvious from the QA pages and the RFH bug lists that nobody is
stepping up to take on the work.

Criticising those who are struggling to do the work - but at least are
still engaged with it and trying hard to fight the negativity of such a
workload - is not helpful! Even when a team is fatally under-resourced,
who would blame the remaining team from not wanting to work with
someone who is only ever criticising the team without doing the work

Instead, what actually does happen is that overworked teams look for
help using the current systems, rants start on lists like this and
people in the overworked teams get individually picked on and bullied
by people who don't have time to help with the work themselves.

Result? People get even more negative about working in such overworked
teams and find something more enjoyable to do. Teams lose the few
contributors who did actually get things done and it all gets worse.

Criticising does not help an overworked team. Unless there are people
willing to join up and do the work, there is no point crying out for
ways to identify maintainers who should be replaced or forced to step

The problem is a lack of manpower in critical teams. That's not new.

The symptom is an impossible number of bugs and a lack of time to
support multiple variants to satisfy different requirements.

The result is that Debian as a whole gravitates to one particular
solution which suits the needs of those willing to do the work. That is
inevitable. If nobody is willing to do the grunt work of maintaining
the alternative, the alternative does not get maintained. That's
obvious, isn't it?

Fix the problem not the symptom.

Stop moaning about the results of the problem and let's try again to
fix the problem. Moaning about it just makes it harder to actually get
things done! (Including wasting my time writing this long response when
all the problems in it are well known already.)

None of this is new, it's been a problem in Debian ever since I got
involved and from talking to others in Debian, for as long as they can
remember too.

Ignore the specifics, this is not about specific packages, specific
teams, specific sub-systems. This is and always has been a completely
general problem, not just to Debian but for all free software.

There are people out there willing to help but mostly they don't want
to work on the same areas as those which are providing the largest
source of complaints and that is often because of rants and criticisms
of those teams by people not actually trying to help directly.

Teams have to work together, the people involved have to be able to get
along. It's not good enough to just throw random people at a problem -
the team has to enjoy working together.

Ranting about the problems in overworked teams does NOT help attract
people to those teams!

We're all here as volunteers and to enjoy what we do for Debian. Those
who want to criticise must step up to the mark and put in the work.
File bugs, by all means, but respond to your bugs, help the
maintainers and don't just whine. Otherwise, such non-helpers deserve to
be ignored in favour of working with those people who are at least
willing to help the team deal with the workload.

Now I've ended up with a rambling, repetitive mess instead of a
re-edited, cohesive argument because I've run out of time and won't be
able to do what I wanted to do for Debian this morning because I've been
writing this instead.



Neil Williams

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