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Re: Bits from the ftpmasters

On Sun, Feb 20, 2005 at 12:26:50PM +0100, Andreas Barth wrote:
> * Joel Aelwyn (fenton@debian.org) [050220 06:50]:
> > As was noted in another email, I have never worked with any other volunteer
> > organization where "the right to do no work" translated into "the right to
> > hold a position and not do the tasks associated with it", only that one
> > could not be required to accept a position with responsibilites beyond what
> > one wanted to do.
> This is somehow a ghost discussion currently. Anthony is definitly doing
> work as ftp-master, and he does good work. (This might be not so
> visibile, but hey - if you look in closer details, you might see it.)
> Can we perhaps stop this theoretical discussion, and work on solving
> real problems?

I'd love to. Can you tell me what the real problem is? 

One of my 'real problems' is a completely stalled NEW queue; secondhand
comments indicate that vorlon may have implied that it won't be processed
for a while (maybe until after Sarge releases) because "Do we really want
more packages in unstable while trying to freeze?" (this could be flat
wrong, of course, and simply misreported).

Since the entire point of having a 'testing' distribution, as I understand
it, was in part so that we did NOT have to freeze unstable for long periods
of time prior to a release, I'd say "Yes, we do want more packages, what is
the problem that causes this to be impractical so we can try to fix it?".

It also raises the question "Isn't that the RM team's call to make?" Since
they've been pretty good about status updates, and I don't recall seeing
it on the plan in their last update, I have to assume either they didn't
say that, didn't think to note it on the report (I find it unlikely given
the details there, but possible), they haven't issued an update yet (again,
possibly, but seems unlikely given their track record of communicating such
things), or that something else entirely is going on.

Now, if the reason is because everyone involved in ftp-master has more
crucial tasks to do with getting Sarge out the door, that would be one
thing; the answer would be "Wait" if we're expecting that to last a couple
of weeks at most, or "train an additional person" if we expect it to
persist (yes, I *know* training someone "costs", but it also pays off
fairly rapidly, thus the patience-if-it's-short).

Unfortunately, nobody involved with the role has seen fit to say publically
whether this is the case, or, if not, what *is* going on to cause the NEW
queue to be stalled.

Thus, any other 'real problem' is completely masked by what I consider
to be a real problem in its own right: a nearly-complete lack of useful
communication from anyone fufilling the ftpmaster role on what they're
doing, what priorities they have made things, and estimated times for
various things to be done. I think the lack of public villification for
our current Release Team (certainly, I haven't seen much if any aimed at
them, rather than people griping at the project as a whole over not being
able to get the release out the door), despite several schedule slips and
revised postings, should say something about how people react to reasonably
consistant update posts telling the project what's going on.

I know that much of the time that might be not terribly useful for roles
that have highly repetetive duties, or at least boring to write and not
very rewarding; while I'd love to see a weekly (monthly?) report of what
went in, what went out, and where the NEW queue stands, that's really more
suited to an automated script, and since I haven't written one, I'm not
going to gripe at anyone else for not having written it.

Status emails from the NM queue do happen periodically, and what people
complained about that *I* personally saw was stuff that was not, in fact,
covered in them ('why does the DAM stage take forever?'). There was a
(*very* useful, thanks again Joerg if you're reading this) status update
when an additional DAM was appointed, and since then I haven't seen anyone
posting complaints that there wasn't enough communication there, because,
well, the queue was flowing at a steady and reasonably rate, and seems
likely to be caught up in the near future.

As someone else said, we seem to see status emails from the ftpmasters only
when things break, *if* then. We now know what their basic duties are,
thanks to Matthew Garrett's write-up and their cooperation with getting it
written; this is a good start, but it's only a start. People may not *like*
your reasons for doing something, but they almost invariably react better
if you tell them what they are, and what is going to happen, rather than
just letting them get bitten by it happening and leaving them to speculate
as to why it's going on.

"We're going to freeze NEW queue processing once we reach <X> point on the
RM Team's plan" -> "Huh? Why? I thought that's why we *had* testing; do we
need to step back and discuss whether it's even helping us, or figure out
whether we can change the policies for next release so this doesn't bite
us? Guess I'll have to switch to putting new packages up on my people@d.o
page until after Sarge releases, and upload them to NEW once they can
actually get through. Blah."

*freeze the NEW queue, say nothing* -> "What the heck is going on over at
ftpmaster? Have they all been hit by a stealth bombs? Were they on a single
bus that crashed in a fiery spectacle of destruction? Have they all decided
to issue pocket vetos to every package starting with an alphanumeric? Maybe
space aliens abducted them and replaced them!"

I'm sure there are still folks who, in both cases, will write "Dude u
suXX0rs", but some of us do actually prefer to discuss the issues the
project appears to have. Those roles that appear to be running smoothly
certainly seem to get less public discussion of a heated nature, in my
experience. Nobody, from DPL to delegate to average DD, will manage to not
get *any* grouchy emails doing their work, which is perhaps unfortunate,
but a fact of human fallibility. But what I, at least, am grouchy with is
not "<ftpmaster DD> sucks". It's "The things that seem to be duties of the
ftpmaster role, at least according to the now-written documentation, don't
seem to be going smoothly, and there hasn't been any status from anyone
doing the role to explain why."

Maybe the reason is "It's a policy thing", in which case I may or may not
agree, but it belongs on debian-policy as a discussion of whether that
should be the project's policy. Maybe it's "We just don't have enough
manpower", in which case the answer is to try to help find more manpower
or a way to reduce what's necessary. Maybe it's something else, in which
case we can try to find some suitable answer. But without knowing what the
problem *is*, nobody outside ftpmaster can try to do anything about it
usefully, and if there's a problem, they're reduced to trying to figure out
what the problem is from external information, in the hopes that they can
get lucky and find a solution anyway. It's unlikely, and thus it's not a
very useful excercise, but nothing more effective is available.
Joel Aelwyn <fenton@debian.org>                                       ,''`.
                                                                     : :' :
                                                                     `. `'

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