Quoting Russ Allbery (email@example.com): > distribution that make it more popular. But, unlike commercial > distributions, we don't *have* to be popular to succeed. We have a much > broader range of successful outcomes than a business that has to make > money. I will take this last sentence from Russ' mail to give out my own feeling about these issues. I work on Debian for about the same reasons Russ gave in his mail and I agree with the way he says things. I indeed agree with most of what was said in this thread. Still, I see a "threat" against the project, somewhere. The majority of us works on Debian for these reasons, fine. We all mostly don't really care about Debian being "popular" or what. Fine. However, not being "popular" also means a declining number of contributors. If I look back to my Debian years (they start nearly to the days where Ian created the project, though I started contributing to it around 2000), during the late 90's and early 2000 years, Debian *was* a kind of a "hype" in the geek community. The reference, the clever thing people are *attracted* to contribute to. If I look around to my fellow French developers friends, several (not to say "many", not to say "most") of them originate from a generation that was in their university years in these late 90's, early 2000's. Even though I was not there, I can imagine that, among the geeky students at that time, Debian was an attractive project, something "people" talk about, something you want to be part of. And, imho, that perfectly explains why we were "powerful" enough to grow up as we did. The "new blood" was in some way constantly coming in. We even had problems dealing with that new blood if you remember (I think Cyril Brulebois, who is currently handling so many things in the project, including our beloved installer, remembers how much time it took for him to become a DD, around 2007 IIRC). Nowadays, would someone bet a coin that the same is happening? I would not. In my daily job, I see students coming for post-graduate or thesis work in scientific research departments (in optics, fluid mechanics, material science, etc.). I talk to them (this is my job to manage the needs of scientific departments wrt IT, in our institution), I talk about their needs for their research work, I talk to their staff. Definitely, the free software and Linux "culture" exists among people in our universities (or in our typically French "Grandes Écoles"). But Debian? Really? Not that much. I even heard (when people learn that I am involved in the project) questions like "oh, Debian? Does it still exist?". And, yes, here, Ubuntu comes up more often (I would bet that more than half of students laptops installed with a Linux brand nowadays are using it). For sure, this kind of "decline" is not that visible. We still have new contributors, we still manage to do releases, we still have an ever growing number of packages. But, we have less bug reports. We have partly abandoned packages, including in the "core" of the distribution. We have an installer that has just been "rescued" by nearly a "one-man" effort. And I probably forget many other examples. This is sometimes hidden by the incredible work and investment of several people in the project (yes, that's probably mean whoever is reading this). But, still, yes, I feel we are in danger in some way. That may sound alarming (death of Debian predicted, film at 11), but, really, getting new blood is important for us....if we don't want to shrink into a club of old chaps who are doing Debian "just for their needs" but can't manage to do it anymore because there is too much to do..:-). We *will* be old chaps anyway. Several of us already are (and are even happy with that). But we should worry about a possible start of decline and we should avoid denying it. That was indeed the exact purpose of my original blog post. The first reaction we can have is probably to start facing that reality. Hopefully such thread in one of our mailing list is kind of a way to do it.
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