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Debian-Ubuntu relationship: poll summary

On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 10:32:09AM +0200, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
>   I've been invited to give a talk at the forthcoming Ubuntu Developer
> Summit, on May 13th in Brussels. I've accepted, since I'd like to take
> the chance of the talk to present to the Ubuntu (and Canonical) people
> how we feel about the state of the Debian-Ubuntu relationship. I'm
> therefore seeking your feedback on the topic, in order to present our
> views rather than mine only.

So, I'm now back and with some feedback to share. I'll first post (in
this mail) a summary of the replies I got to this "poll" and later on a
more general summary of what I did at UDS.


I got about 50 feedback mails in a bit less than 2 weeks, which I
consider a fair amount of feedback. In case people are interested in
giving more feedback, by all means go ahead and mail me. The more, the
better.  Obviously, the summary I report below is limited to the
feedback mails I got thus far.

Success stories

I got quite an amount of "submissions" for the success stories category
(frankly, more than I expected).

The most appreciated collaboration paradigm between Debian and Ubuntu
seems to be "mixed teams", where people from both distros work together
using some $VCS. I got report about a dozen such teams, of varying sizes
from a handful of packages to several hundreds.  An interesting and
appreciated trend is that such teams usually lead to a direct
involvement in Debian by Ubuntu people: first as DMs, then as DDs, and
in some cases also to greater involvement such as becoming members of
our core teams (e.g.: ftp-master).

Other reported success stories are in the development of some core tools
such as dpkg and d-i where, starting from Ubuntu-specific needs, generic
technical solutions have been developed, benefiting not only Debian and
Ubuntu, but all possible Debian derivatives.

People also appreciate bug filing from Ubuntu [1] (especially if with
patches [2]) in the context of large changes such as the default gcc

Interestingly enough, even for parts of the two distros that are
packaged independently (e.g. GNOME), some Debian people have now more
trust in Ubuntu patches than in the past and that entails a more
fruitful exchange or cherry pick of patches.

  [1] http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?tag=origin-ubuntu;users=ubuntu-devel@lists.ubuntu.com
  [2] http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?tag=ubuntu-patch;users=ubuntu-devel@lists.ubuntu.com


Now to what people don't currently like in the Debian-Ubuntu

I won't spare much mail space to discuss episodes that concern
individuals. In fact, one such episode (i.e. the "python affair", see
#573745) has been reported by several people, and details can be found
in the tech-ctte bug log.

Beside that, people don't like when Canonical does not behave as a good
upstream, e.g. when they are not reactive to Debian developers as their
downstream distributors. More generally, people would like to see
efforts in packaging Canonical software---when is not Ubuntu
specific---into Debian directly.

Similarly, people don't like when Ubuntu does not behave as a proper
downstream. In particular, there seems to be a desire to have more
triaging of Launchpad bug and then forwarding to the Debian BTW when
they apply to Debian too (no surprise here: it is the most "traditional"
complain Debian had wrt Ubuntu).

Several people do care about the status of their Debian packages in the
Ubuntu distribution. As a consequence, those people find annoying when
those packages degrade in quality due to reasons not under their control
(e.g. they are synced in bad moments, patched inappropriately, etc.);
that seems to mostly affect the Ubuntu universe.


The last category of feedback sought in the poll was "requests".

A recurrent request is to give more credit to Debian. Coming from the
tradition of free software, people have no problem with the fact that
Ubuntu benefits from Debian work, but they feel that the mantra "give
credit where credit is due" should be better respected. All in all,
people don't like the equation "GNU/Linux = Ubuntu" which is slowly
getting through.

Another recurrent request is to push the culture of "do changes in
Debian first". That would mean discussing changes in Debian first; then,
*if* an agreement can be reached (which is not necessarily the case, of
course), people would like to see those changes implemented in Debian
first; from there, they will naturally flow to Ubuntu.

Then, I've also collected tons of technical requests related to how
Debian people can more easily interact with the Ubuntu infrastructure
(most notably with Launchpad) in "their" way, i.e. via mail, via the
Debian BTS, etc. In that category---that I won't detail to avoid abusing
your patience---there is stuff like: an opt-in service to be notified of
Launchpad bugs, Ubuntu accepting uploads from our keyring, Ubuntu having
something like patch-tracker.d.o to better split patches, etc.

While on the above I've noticed no real convergence, it seems that in
general those Debian people which care about their packages in Ubuntu,
would like to have a contact point where to drop sync requests. It seems
that using the suggested way to do that (don't ask me what it is :))
does not really work, as they get lost in the noise or similar.

That's pretty much it, stay tuned for the UDS followup.

Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science \ PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Dietro un grande uomo c'è ..|  .  |. Et ne m'en veux pas si je te tutoie
sempre uno zaino ...........| ..: |.... Je dis tu à tous ceux que j'aime

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