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Proposal for reform of the Debian membership process

Hi all,

I have now finally become a full Debian Developer, much thanks goes to TBM,
Ganneff, Rob, Myon and anyone else who was involved with that.

I took the opportunity to keep a log of everything which happened during my NM
process with the hope of find where the problems are and at least starting some
discussion about the suggestions I have for solving it.

There have been a number of proposals[1,2] to try and fix some of the problems
with the NM process, and I know that Ganneff has said he has some ideas about
how to improve the DAM workflow, which I would be very interested in

From my experience of NM (for which I kept a log[3]) and from looking at other
people's comments I have identified a number of problems which may need
addressing (in no particular order):

   - it takes too long
   - there is too much waiting in queues (AM assignment, DAM) when the
     applicant is not the bottleneck
   - not everyone wants to be a full DD
      - don't need all the package management stuff
      - don't want the political side
      - etc
   - some people don't need any upload privs at all, but should still
     be recognised as project members.
   - reviewing just a small set of questions and work doesn't really
     give a good impression of the applicant
   - people apply when they aren't ready, and hold up people who are, and should
     be fast-tracked through

The two proposals at the moment try and solve some of these by creating
different 'classes' of member, but I don't think they go far enough. The DM
proposal (aside from the other problems in the idea, how it was proposed and
the implementation so far) just addresses package uploads, and I don't think it
has a clear enough set of requirements for membership. buxy's reformed
membership proposal I feel is focussing too much on coming up with specific
classes of work which we want to address: what happens when we think of another
class of work later.

What I think is needed is a more general framework, which lets people do
whatever work they want to do, and gives them the rights and access privileges
they need to do that work, after going through appropriate checks to be granted
those privileges.

At the time buxy made his proposal I wrote up an alternative proposal on the
wiki. I have held up discussing this until I was a DD as I felt until then it
wasn't my place, and to make a bit of a point. My proposal is at [4].

I won't repeat all the rationale and description of the proposal which you can
read on the wiki, but I will hilight some bits of the approach.

I have tried to identify what rights and privileges there are in Debian which
we may wish to grant people. I have then tried to come up with a useful
categorization ranging from a status with no additional rights, which I think
is useful, through to a full project member and developer. For each right i
have also listed some of the things I think a prospective member should
demonstrate before being given each right. Note that the categorization is by
what you need to do you job (it is not a status thing, other than Project
Member), and not what type of contribution you are making.

I also firmly believe that all types of membership of Debian should be
integrated with the New Maintainer process. I feel that the current Debian
Maintainer process is very ad-hoc and doesn't sufficiently test their skills
before being allowed upload rights. This has already been seen in practice.
However, the fact that many people will go through reduced checks should free up
the time of AMs to be able to process people more quickly.

I would welcome comments about this, particularly from those involved with the
current NM process: the DAMs, members of front desk, etc. Specifically, could
you say whether you like the overall idea and then whether there are any
suggestions for improving the categorization, pre-requisites or rights to be

In addition to this proposal, I'm interested in other ways to remove the
blocking in the NM process. I'd be interested to hear from Ganneff about his
ideas on DAM (both the DAM are very busy people, would it be possible to add
anyone else to the team? I'd volunteer, but I understand such a trusted
position needs someone established). I am hoping that adopting a proposal such
as mine will enable more people to be involved in the DAM process.  Since
access control is fine grained much of it can be delegated without the delegate
needing to be trusted with giving out all accounts. Only the full-archive
upload right would need to be reserved for the most trusted DAM(s).

I'd also like to see some improvement on the entry to NM. I don't know what
guidelines are given to DDs about advocacy, but I have the impression many
people are advocated before they are actually ready. Are there any automatic
tests we can have to see what people have done before entering NM.

I know that many of my suggestions will require technical changes to our
scripts and helper programs. I'm willing to do at least some of that work in
order for this to happen. Certainly none of the technical problems are hard

I anticipate a lively and constructive debate.


1. http://www.debian.org/vote/2007/vote_003 
2. http://wiki.debian.org/Projects/ReformedMembershipProcess 
3. http://mjj29.matthew.ath.cx/nm_log.txt
4. http://wiki.debian.org/Projects/AltReformedMembershipProcess 

Matthew Johnson

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