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Improving our response to "duplicate" packages in Debian


I believe our current way of responding to ITPs for software that duplicates
the functionality other software that is already in Debian is wrong. We have a
very lengthy discussion everytime such an ITP happen, but usually they change
nothing (the submitter just goes ahead with packaging it) or worse, they scare
away the maintainer along with his/her ITP.

The worst part is that when we say "but we already have N frobnicators in
Debian, we don't need an N+1th", we imply that the N pre-existing packages are
OK but that this new package is Very Bad just because it came late to the game. 

In fact, the fact that there is an ITP usually means that there is interest in
the software, that there is an active downstream maintainer, and usually both
these things would not be without an active upstream. The same may not be true
for some similar software package that has been in Debian for several years.

So, I propose our code of conduct when responding to "duplicate software" ITPs
should be:

- Don't immediately start complaining to the submitter of the ITP. Just let
  the submitter devote his/her energy to packaging.

  Some valid reasons to do complain immediately:

  - The software is very immature (version 0.1-alpha or something like that).
  - It's a simple script or very small program, and should be merged (either
    upstream or downstream) with another package.
  - It really is an exact duplicate or a fork of another package with almost no
    changes to the original.

- Research how many similar software packages are there actually in Debian, in
  what shape they are, whether they have active upstream and downstream
  maintainers. Complain about the worst package in that selection instead.

- Go to the root of the problem: find out why upstream thinks they need to
  write their software. Maybe they can be convinced to combine their efforts
  with that of upstreams of similar packages. The ITP submitter should try that
  himself, I think.

So, keep the friction low for maintainers who are actually doing something, and
if you really feel strongly about duplicate software polluting Debian,
concentrate your efforts at the existing packages.

Met vriendelijke groet / with kind regards,
      Guus Sliepen <guus@debian.org>

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