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Bug#544981: debian-policy: Discourage native packages that are not tightly specific to Debian

On Fri, Sep 04, 2009 at 10:56:43AM +0200, Emilio Pozuelo Monfort wrote:
> Package: debian-policy
> Version:
> Severity: wishlist
> Hi,
> Given the recent thread in debian-devel[1], I think we should document in
> policy that packages that are not tightly related to Debian shouldn't be
> native.


So I spent a whole subthread trying to explain that I think this is
*not* true, and seemed to get consensus on that, and now you want to get
this into policy?


Whether or not a native package makes sense should be the maintainer's
prerogative, not decided by policy. As I said in the thread on -devel,
there can be good reasons for making a package native. E.g., the
maintainer doesn't have to deal with two releases (one upstream and one
for debian) for every code change, but can just do one; there is
immediate use of a translation team; releases are at least tested on
Debian's architectures when they are released; etc.

There are also obvious downsides to doing so, and it's probably a good
idea to document these somewhere (though I doubt policy is the place for
that; this is more something for the devref). However, outright claiming
that it should not be done, will a) make a bunch of packages
insta-buggy (which is bad, as far as policy is concerned), and b) is not
the right thing to do, IMO.

> The motivations for discouraging native packages not Debian specific are
> that it makes it harder for other parties to make advantage of it.

While I agree that there are downsides to non-debian specific native
packages, I disagree that this is a correct example:

> For example, they would find new "upstream" releases that fixed Debian
> packaging bugs, or that were NMUs.

They can perfectly well ignore those.

> Also, where should they report bugs?  In bugs.debian.org?

Yes, why not?

> Native packages make sense when the package is pretty much only useful
> for Debian (and Debian derivatives), e.g. dpkg or apt, but not for unrelated
> packages.

They can make sense, and it should be the maintainer's prerogative to
make that decision. Having a package be a native package when it is not
Debian specific does not harm either Debian or the Free Software
community at large; it only influences the workflow of the Debian
maintainer, and that of non-Debian packagers of the software, if any.

It is okay to point out what the effect will be of making a package
native, so that a maintainer knows what he's getting him- or herself
into. It is not okay to force a particular workflow on a maintainer just
because *you* think it's not a good workflow.

The biometric identification system at the gates of the CIA headquarters
works because there's a guard with a large gun making sure no one is
trying to fool the system.

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