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0th Debian Conference Summary

Debian Project News
0th Debian Conference Summary
July 11, 2000

[ This article was written by Marcelo Magallon <mmagallo@debian.org> ]

The Zeroth Debian Conference which was organized and sponsored by the 
Bourdeaux Linux User Group[1] (ABUL, in French), took place last week from 
July 5-9 2000 in Bourdeaux, France, in parallel with the Libre Software 

During the conference many topics[3] were presented including:

 * two introductory talks about the GNU/Hurd given by Neal Walfield[4] and 
    Richard M. Stallman
 * an overview of Debian past and present[5]
 * a brief discussion about the new package format given by Wichert Akkerman
 * PingOO[6], a project to provide schools with communication servers 
    administered remotely by a distributed team based on Debian GNU/Linux
 * Package Pools overview presented by Anthony Towns
 * Telemetry Software[7] (remote management and diagnostics of networks and 
    servers) provided by SiteRock[8] also based on Debian GNU/Linux
 * presentations and discussion about new maintainers and Debian organization

Two presentations about Debian's Internal Organization (presented by Nils 
Lohner) and the New Maintainer process (presented by Dale Scheetz) were 
presented together in one session.  A lot of discussion was encouraged in 
this session to get feedback from both Debian developers and users to see 
how these issues are regarded and how to improve the problems that are being 
faced in these areas.

Dale pointed out that if Debian keeps growing at the same rate as during the 
past five years there could be 1600 developers maintaining 40000 packages by 
the year 2005.  This makes clear that Debian needs to present a clear 
organizational structure to developers, would-be developers and users to 
allow people to become familiar with Debian more quickly and allow them to 
help if they so desire.

Nils suggested putting up Project Pages to present tasks that need doing in 
Debian both for developers and non developers.  Several people at the 
conference manifested interest in the idea and discussion will be taking 
place on the debian-qa mailing list.  The idea is to keep track of on-going 
projects within Debian in terms of their existance and their current status, 
as well as listing tasks that can be picked up by people.

To enable people to better understand Debian's oganization Nils also 
suggested that people in Debian explain (one or two paragraphs would 
suffice) what they are doing, so this information can be collected and 
placed on the website[9].  This would allow people who have concerns or 
suggestions to immediately find the correct person in Debian to talk to.

He also pointed that long term goals of Debian need to be both as a project 
and as a distribution to ensure that Debian continues to be a good 
distribution and continues its leadership in the free software community.

Another point discussed was the need for getting people into Debian for 
tasks other than maintaining packages such as writing documentation and 
doing administrative work.  One of the questions left open was how to 
attract people to do that.  A possible solution to this would be to add 
these tasks to the proposed
Project Pages.  It was mentioned that the name "Debian developer" and the 
fact that Debian appears to be a "show me the code" organization scares 
these potential
helpers away.

The suggestion was made to package things such as documentation and website 
source to enable more people to submit patches against it.  This would lower 
the amount of work put on the shoulders of the webmasters and people in 
charge of the different sections.

Another solution proposed was to find sponsors to pay people to work on 
Debian related tasks.  This could help the project, but first the work to be 
done must be clearly identified.  The Project Pages again could help in this 

At the end of this session everyone agreed that many of the resource 
problems stem from not passing information around and/or not having this 
information readly available to people both inside and outside of the 
project.  Debian needs to increase the level of its internal organization to 
allow non developers to be able to comment and contribute more easily and to 
enable new maintainers to more quickly understand the current organization.

All in all the meetings were very interesting for everyone attending the 
conference.  Many of the developers had a chance to meet face to face for 
the first time and exchange ideas regarding many aspects of the project.

This conference will likely be held again next year.  Bordeaux will 
be the site to host it again as there was an excellent infrastructure 
(accomodations, meals, conference rooms, net access, etc.) and this year's 
conference was a success even though the organization was done in three 
months.  With more time to organize next year's conference more developers 
should be able to attend and a more diverse program of presentations and 
round table discussions should be possible.

Debian would like to thank Thierry Laronde <thierry.laronde@polynum.com> for 
organizing this event.  Great work!

[1] http://www.abul.org/
[2] http://lsm.abul.org/
[3] http://lsm.abul.org/program/topic18_en.html
[4] http://www.walfield.org/
[5] http://www.wi.leidenuniv.nl/~wichert/talks/
[6] http://www.pingoo.org/
[7] http://www.openrock.net/
[8] http://www.siterock.com/
[9] http://www.debian.org/intro/organization

Nils Lohner                             E-Mail: lohner@debian.org
Debian Press Team                       Press:  press@debian.org

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