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Re: Debian as a social group and how to develop it better

Andreas Schuldei wrote:
> I have been reading books about group development and would like
> to share the thoughts about appling this to debian.
> The book identified several different, interconnected "state
> variables" for groups:
> empowering leadership
> gift-oriented cooperation and work
> enthusiasm for the group's goal
> functional structures
> holistic small groups
> need-oriented advocacy
> loving relationships
> inspiring meetings
> groups that rate high in all of these areas have been found to be
> growing and thriving. They are much fitter then groups where one

I believe that you missed a very important item in your list, probably
because a group of volunteers is very different from a group of

Rules and regulations

This is the most important thing in Debian that keeps the project from
falling apart.  We, fortunately, have very precise rules about our
business (social contract, DFSG, developers reference etc.) and a very
good technical infrastructure (machines, katie, bts etc.).  Without
these rules and our infrastructure, we would probably not be able to
work with other 900 developers cooperatively.

Also, anybody who wants to join as a Debian developer and contribute
to the distribution needs to obey to these rules.  People mostly join
because they believe in Free Software or they believe that Debian
creates the best distribution of Free Software that they want to use
and they want to support its development.  However, without our rules
and infrastructure, things won't be clearly ordered and won't work in
an automated and fast manner.

> or more of these areas are underdeveloped. This approach can also
> be used to identify and remove the bottleneck for further growth.

It would've been helpful if you would have added in which areas Debian
needs to improve and where our bottlenecks are in order to become
"fitter".  (I've seen two issues in your mail.  If they are the only
one, we're pretty good according to your books.)

> the most effective way to grow (both in quality and quantity) is
> usally to remove this bottleneck by finding ways/strategies to
> develop this minimum factor.

Another question would be whether unlimited growth is sane.

> Empowering leadership
> It is obviously more important that leaders are good planners,
> communicators and people persons then that they are excellent
> technicans. The most distinct difference between good and less
> good leaders is their ability to enable the others to do their
> job well and give them authority in their area of responsibility.
> They coach and councel the few who they are leading directly, not
> micro-managing each and every one. It is important to notice
> that there are several leaders in big groups on different levels,
> not just one, above all others.

I'd like to emphasize that leading and coaching are two different
things and that Debian rather needs a coach than a leader.

Remember Bruce Perens who once lead Debian and failed since the Debian
people didn't want to follow his path, and finally he even quit the

> Debian seemed to have elected mostly technical persons as their

That's probably because Debian consists of mostly technically oriented

The above probably refers to technicians in a company being lead by a
manager who doesn't understand the technicians work.  This may be
healthy for a company that needs to reach market saturation or
something similar.  However, this cannot be applied to a volunteer
group of techs.

> DPL, with the result that their success to innovate and
> reach their goals was limited. In other areas delegates of the

I wonder if you understood how innovations happen in Free Software
projects such as Debian.  It's not like within a company where the
leader says "We are doing foo" and the staff has to follow (or won't
be happy about their next paycheck.

If our leader announces that "we do foo" and the developers disagree
and even want to do bar, he's in a lost position since he cannot
enforce foo.  All he can do is get something like consensous for foo
and persuade those who still would like to do bar and if he's
successful, announce that we do foo.

> DPL try to let no one interfere with their area of competence,
> while they, as leaders themself, would be wise to find others
> interested in their center of competence and in turn educate,
> train and empower them. (here the keyring management comes to my
> mind)

It is not always wise to split the work among more people.  More
people imply more coordination, better tools, stricter rules and
perhaps a high level of trust (here the keyring management comes to
my mind).

> During the NM process the understanding of the social contract
> and the GNU part of Debian is checked for. it is hard, but not
> impossible to check for the actual enthusiasm of people. What
> debian has not managed well in my point of view is keep
> enthusiasm alive or newly create it. You can see that in the

So what's the path Debian should go?

We encourage people to report bugs.
We encourage people to send patches.
We encourage people to integrate (more) software.
We encourage people to help with documentation.
We encourage people to develop software.

What's missing?

> large number of people who became Debain developers and dropped
> out over time. some Debian longtimers are beginning to show signs
> of burn-out. the technical commitee is one example. If someone
> quits and says: "i have not enough time for debian anymore" he
> actually is stating that the priority which he gives debian is no
> longer high enough and that he is not excited about it anymore.

I don't have the feeling that most people who are in the CTTE are
burnt out but they can't afford as much time as they could five years

> Debian has great tools, a great infrastucture, the policy, which
> structures the packages, the constitution, which determines the
> democratic processes, and the cabal, which determines what
> happens. (c: Recent discussions about gentoo seem to indicate
> that younger distros with less restictions are more attractive to
> some people then debian is. to me it appears to be really

I believe that Gentoo and Rocklinux are for people who have different
goals than Debian.  For those, Debian is simply the wrong distribution
and they only used it because there was nothing suited better.  Now
there is and they're happy. 

I'm stopping now.



Ten years and still binary compatible.  -- XFree86

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