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Re: Nitpicking: you are doing it wrong

Hi Jakub, hi all,

[...] (whether or not to request bumping debhelper compat; I do agree with the
technical arguments put forward by Jakub, but that's not the focus of my reply)

The obvious provocative answer is: Nitpicking is the way to go. As always,
however, there's more than black and white out there.

> Dear reviewers, next time if you are going to complain about:
> - debian/compat being "too low";
> - debian/rules not using dh (or not using cdbs);
> - debian/copyright not in DEP-5 format;
> - source format not 3.0 (quilt) when there are no patches whatsoever;
> please think twice. Most likely, you are doing it wrong.
> Don't get me wrong, in my opinion (some of) these things are "good".
> But making a big fuss about them is not helping anybody. It only
> distracts attention from things that are important, and creates
> false impression that they are somehow crucial for high quality
> packages. I can assure, they are not.

I tend to agree that mentioning such potential-but-not-required improvements may
distract from major problems. Yet, speaking for myself, I try to only put those
points forward whenever they could also help to fix more serious issues. I'm
trying to use these rules (in the order of the above list):

- If debian/rules is overly complicated, and thus either known to be broken or
  at least likely to contain errors, I'll suggest going for dh 7 simplified
- If debian/copyright is clearly missing information, or does not state
  sufficiently clearly the copyright holders and license information, I'll
  suggest DEP-5. This is almost always true whenever the code uses more than one
  license or copyright holder.
- Source format 3.0 if quilt is manually invoked.

All of the above points are about maintaining minimal packaging standards. If
that's called nitpicking then, well, so be it. To me, however, package
sponsorship and nitpicking do go well together:

1. Likely there won't be any review as detailed as the one before sponsoring a
package for the first time. Nitpicking: now or never.
2. Consistent nitpicking yields consistent minimal package quality (yes, it's
not necessarily good quality, but it's consistent).
3. Unwillingness to sponsor a package that only fails those non-essential tests
(nitpicking) does not mean a package would be rejected. It's just about finding
another sponsor. Especially the comments about debian/rules not using dh or
cdbs: if a sponsor feels uncomfortable with the packager's debian/rules it's
clearly preferable that the package not be sponsored by this particular

In summary: there are technical arguments against increasing dh compat level -
agreed. debian/rules: to be left to the reviewer's discretion. debian/copyright:
I'm in favour of DEP-5 for added clarity, which is particularly important when
it comes to licensing and copyright issues. 


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