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Re: On cadence and collaboration


this is kind of a personal reply; I am therefore writing this to you
directly and only Cc'ing debian-project, and I do not know whether you
read that mailing list.

On Wed, Aug 05, 2009 at 10:21:38AM +0100, Mark Shuttleworth wrote:
> I've stayed quiet in this discussion, though several folks have invoked
> my name and ascribed motivations to me that were a little upsetting. I'm
> not responding to that here,

A pity. I bet many people would like to hear that response.

> I hear this story all the time from upstreams. "We'd like to help
> distributions, but WHICH distribution should we pick?"

I have never heard that story from an upstream, neither have I heard
that other maintainers have heard that. Especially not from the
upstream who consider themselves big and powerful.

> Adopting a broad pattern of cadence and collaboration between many
> distributions won't be a silver bullet for ALL of those problems, but it
> will go a very long way to simplifying the life of both upstreams and
> distribution maintainers.

It will also cost the free software ecosystem a lot of what's one of
its most major properties: diversity.

>  If upstream knows, for example, that MANY distributions will be
>  shipping a particular version of their code and supporting it for
>  several years (in fact, if they can sit down with those distributions
>  and make suggestions as to which version would be best!) then they
>  are more likely to be able to justify doing point releases with
>  security fixes for that version... which in turn makes it easier for
>  the security teams and maintainers in the distribution.

In practice, most upstreams adopt a "you're using a version that's two
weeks old, go update to our current development snapshot and see
yourself whether the bug is still there" attitude.

> Well, the first thing is to agree on the idea of a predictable cadence.
> Although the big threads on this list are a little heartbreaking for me
> to watch, I'm glad that there hasn't been a lot of upset at the idea of
> a cadence in Debian so much as *which* cadence. We can solve the latter,
> we couldn't solve the former. So I'm happy at least at that :-)

Most upset that happened on the lists and in real life was about that
Debian learned about your collaboration from a Debian press release.

> As pointed out on this list, Debian and Ubuntu share a great deal.

I wouldn't call that "share".

>  We have largely common package names (imagine what a difference that
>  will make to practical discussions over IRC ;-))

Right, this makes it much easier for Ubuntu users to pester Debian
people with the problems that the Ubuntu community wasn't able to
solve by itself.

>  (most of the strongest Ubuntu
>  contributors are or have been very strong Debian contributors too,

yes, and have usually stopped doing their debian duties without
properly stepping down upon their engagement with Ubuntu. This has
greatly harmed Debian a few years ago when Ubuntu was still hatching,
and has obviously also helped Ubuntu in getting more momentum than
Debian since Ubuntu took privileges from Debian which slowed down
Debian a great deal.

>  and many new Debian maintainers have come to the project through
>  Ubuntu)

Yes. Ubuntu should think about the reason for Ubuntu people changing
over to Debian.

> . When I look over the commentary on debian-devel and in debbugs and
> on #debian-devel, I see a lot of familiar names from Ubuntu,
> especially on the deep, hard problems that need solving at the core.

>From new people that weren't hired over to Ubuntu from Debian?

> So, practically, we would be in a good position to collaborate.

Of course. Ubuntu _is_ Debian in a very big part.

> I see mails
> on this list saying it would be easier and better for Debian to
> coordinate with distributions that I think would be almost *impossible*
> to work with practically,

It is almost impossible to work with Ubuntu as soon as one doesn't agree.

> How do I think it could work in practice? Well, if Debian and Ubuntu
> went ahead with the summit in December, where we reviewed plans for 2010
> and identified opportunities to collaborate, I think we would get (a)
> several other smaller distributions to participate, and (b) several
> upstreams to participate.

You're a true visionary.

> A December summit is not about tying anybody's hands. It's about looking
> for opportunities, where they exist naturally, and communicating those
> more widely.

At least Debian has epically failed in "wide communication" of this
decision by first putting out a press release before informing the
community itself.

> First, there has been no secret cabal or skunkworks effort to influence
> Debian.


>  As best I can tell, folks from both Debian and Ubuntu who have deep
>  insight into release management established a shared interest in
>  working together better, at many levels, and this was one idea that
>  came forward. The fact that those discussions were open and ongoing
>  was no secret

It surely was. The Debian world outside of the Release Team didn't
know zilch.

>  - I wouldn't have talked about it in the media if it were!
>  (Ironically, someone suggested that the fact that I was talking
>  publicly about something in Debian implied there was a secret cabal.

You were talking publicly about things that were happening inside
Debian that Debian didn't know of.

> I have always tried to make sure that I speak regularly with the DPL -
> some DPL's have not responded to that at all, others have been happy to
> speak. Steve and I have spoken about every quarter, which is great, and
> we focus those conversations on ways we can make collaboration better.

So you have better contact to the DPL than Debian itself has. A
disturbing thought. Are you going to run as DPL next term?

> Finding teams we can introduce to one another. Finding ways to
> communicate better.

I don't think that Debian needs to find ways to communicate with
Ubuntu. It needs to find ways to communicate with Debian.

> In both cases, the individuals and teams concerned have a mandate from
> their organisations to think problems through and speak for the project.

They have the mandate, but I consider it a courtesy to not exercise
that mandate without prior discussion for a decision _this_ important.
Debian failed to have this courtesy.

> Large organisations can't work any other way. I was stunned when I saw
> the announcement of a "decision" because I know that Debian works by
> building steady consensus

That's what I thought before July this year.

> Second, this is not about Debian changing to meet the needs of Ubuntu.

It isn't?

> As I've said elsewhere, Ubuntu would be happy to reach a compromise if
> needed to work with Debian and others.

Not necessary, Debian submitted to Ubuntu's demands immediately. Lucky

>  Alternatively, with Debian specifically, we can contribute
>  resources to help Debian meet a stretch (or squeeze ;-)) goal.

As you did in the past, for examply by hiring away half of the already
understaffed ftp team and not enouraging them to step back from their
Debian posts after reducing their time spent on Debian even more?

> But most importantly, this whole thing will have it's best and biggest
> impact if it goes beyond Ubuntu and Debian.

I don't think it will.

>  The debate on this list has mostly been about "Ubuntu vs Debian",
>  which misses the real goal: let's send a signal to upstreams that
>  they can participate and help shape the way end users will experience
>  their software.

KDE will most probably not shift their release schedules for two
distributions that ship GNOME as their default.

> I see many mails on this list from people who are clearly absolutely
> certain in their minds that "Ubuntu is an evil thief of Debian's work".

I am not one of these. I just think that Ubuntu doesn't give a lot of
the praise it gets for distributing "foolproof Linux" back to Debian.
And I am disturbed that Canonical/Ubuntu actually manages to get the
impression of a commericially supported Linux distribution along to
the commercial world, a discipline which Debian has epically failed in
the last ten years. But, again, not your fault.

> I'm saddened that the loudest voices
> seem to be those who are vociferous in their opposition to Ubuntu,
> rather than those who are finding ways to make things better.

Do you have an idea why this is so?

>  I'm saddened that a good idea - a sounder basis for collaboration,
>  backed by real investment and effort - gets crushed on the rocks of
>  hate from folks who do not make the bulk of the contribution.

Do you propose that one can only voice his opinion if one maintains a
lot of important packages?

> There are very good people, with long histories in Debian, who have
> pointed out the positive things that have come from Ubuntu. Listen to
> them

And why not to the others?

> Ubuntu is in a great position to help with big and deep changes that
> need to be made.

Why doesn't Ubuntu simply do that? Why didn't Ubuntu do these things
in the past?

> I stayed away from DebConf this year - the
> first time in six years - because I didn't want to be a flashpoint for
> division

... or because you knew there was a bombshell going to be placed?

> To achieve anything together, we'll both need to work together, we'll
> need to make compromises or we'll need to contribute effort to the other
> side.

Debian has always contributed effort to the other side, even before
before deciding to have freezes in a way that would allow Ubuntu to
always have more recent software in their LTS release than Debian has
in stable.

>  If the Debian community is willing to consider a December freeze,
>  then Ubuntu (and Canonical) will commit resources to help Debian meet
>  that goal.

I will only believe this happening if I saw it.


Marc Haber         | "I don't trust Computers. They | Mailadresse im Header
Mannheim, Germany  |  lose things."    Winona Ryder | Fon: *49 621 72739834
Nordisch by Nature |  How to make an American Quilt | Fax: *49 3221 2323190

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