Problems with NM Front Desk
I don't know if this is the proper place to speak about this, if so please
tell me where I should send this. I saw the recent email "Conflicts between
Developers: Let others mediate" in this mailing list so it gave me the idea
to explain the issues here, and it's more a "Debian project" than a "Debian
devel" thing, I think.
Another thing, I'm going out for the weekend plus monday, so don't expect
replies from me in about 3 days at least (unless I happen to have time later
There's a little conflict with NM Front Desk, especially Christoph Berg and
Joerg Jaspert. I'm not sure whether those emails can be considered private
or not (if they were forwarded to some public mailing list, etc) but I only
have the private copies sent to me; but being part of daily Debian
activities I think that they should be public anyway and they don't involve
personal details of anybody but me.
After being unofficial co-maintainer for months of OpenSceneGraph  and
while creating new packages for newer versions of Aqsis  and K3D 
before the freeze, which they were neglected by their maintainer for 3 years
, have legal problems in some cases lurking in Debian repositories for
years (I'm consulting them with debian-legal@), technical problems in other
cases (no SONAMES for libraries, defining RPATH, using in-source third party
software instead of the existing package in Debian, lacking man pages for
some binaries which I created and sent to them...), technical difficulties
in general (they both changed the building system from SCons and I think
that automake to CMake, roughly twice the size and depending on 10-30
libraries, which causes waiting a lot of time for compilations to finish and
failures or BD-uninstallable in some architectures, etc)... after all of
this, I decided to apply for Debian Developer, which I judged appropriate in
the case that any conflict arose with the maintainer for the ownership of
This started about 1 month ago.
Signature by "Debian Member"
Since I wanted to be DD, I needed the signature of a "Debian Member" (as
some web pages say, I won't spend time seeking it now), so I wrote to
newmaint@ asking for a clarification whether DMs were considered "Debian
Members" or not for this purpose. Christoph Berg replied telling me, among
other things, that "Debian Members" were only "Debian Developers" but also
that I was confused about applying to DM or DD. I explained him that I was
not, I wanted to apply for Debian Developer for the reasons stated above,
and because the webpages describing the process (which I'll cite later)
state clearly that it's not mandatory to be a DM before applying for DD
(though "highly recommended", but I was already --unofficially-- co-
maintainer of OpenSceneGraph anyway). He didn't tell me about "unoficcial
policies (more on this later)" by then, a few weeks ago.
Anyway I travelled to another city (Corunna, which I had to go near anyway)
and meet the DM that I knew more closely for many years, with signatures
himself of many DDs, and the DD that I didn't know personally, and exchanged
keys and signed them happily and so on and so forth, and everyone was merry,
and I submitted my application for NM.
(There are more official Debian Developers in that city but they didn't
reply to the calls, and they do not maintain packages at least in some
cases, so probably they should resign from Debian, by the way.)
Application to NM
So I sent my application, I got my advocate and everything was good (there
was a bit of delay with the DD sending his signature to my key because of
personal problems, but that's OK and I got it now).
Christop Berg sent me a questionnaire on behalf on Front Desk on June 27th,
asking me to explaining my accomplished tasks in Debian, if I was already
Debian Maintainer and a few other things, the usual template (emphasis
mine): "You are currently waiting to get an Application Manager assigned.
Before we do so, we would like to ask you a few questions about what you
have done in and for Debian so far. ***We want to make sure that New
Maintainers already have experience working in Debian***, so we would like
to know which areas you are actively contributing to. Additionally, this
will allow us to find you a matching AM."
I replied with the same answers that I said in the "Precedents" above
(though I was still preparing some packages for Aqsis and K3D, some of the
new Aqsis packages were submitted already one or two days before the
questionnaire came in, so it was a prove that I meant to do what I was
One of the questions was (*):
> Are you a 'Debian Maintainer' as described on
> http://wiki.debian.org/Maintainers or do you plan to become a DM?
b) Not specially, my main intention is to become Debian Developer. DM
doesn't allow to do what I'm doing with Aqsis and K3D when the official
maintainer doesn't cooperate, that's one of the main reasons why I want
to become DD instead of just DM (so I don't have to bother any sponsor,
(*) http://wiki.debian.org/Maintainers says: "Debian Maintainers:
official status of people, who are not (yet) Debian Developers, but that are
allowed to upload packages, that have a DM field set. See Debian Maintainer"
Replies to my Application to NM
1) First reply from Christoph Berg
The first and main paragraph of what Christoph replied after I sent this
"We welcome you very much to NMU unattended packages. However, your
involvement there is still very recent, so we would prefer very much
if you applied for DM first and then gained more experience there
before you apply for NM. ("DM before NM" is a rule we have been
inofficially enforcing for some time now and which will be
2) My reply
2.a) About technical merits
I replied telling that I didn't just NMU a couple of packages well attended,
I was in effect intending to ***become the maintainer from now on*** of
*quite complex* packages (all of them much bigger in size and dependencies,
and unfortunately legal problems etc, than the vast majority of packages in
Debian), and they were *completely unattended for years* (so I had to start
from scratch, it was more like creating new packages than just NMUing a well
maintained package not updated for two or three minor revisions); and most
importantly that I was co-maintaining OpenSceneGraph for half a year etc,
what I already explained above.
I pointed out, as example of the complexity of OpenSceneGraph, that
according to ohloh.net analysis for the software (deleted now, available on
google cache ), it had more than half a million LoCs.
I also pointed the case of recently approved applicant to NM, which maybe
they are DD by now. The AM report, on "Tasks and Skills" said something
along the lines of "he maintains that many packages, mostly modules of
[Python] and [Lolcode], all packages are in good shape, and [Scarlett
Jackson] provided patches for RC bugs and replied correctly to other Task
and Skills questions".
The intention of bringing that into topic was saying that the complexity of
the packaging effort that I was tackling was usually much bigger than those
packages, and state clearly that I was not finger-pointing the applicant
(emphasis here, not in the original mail), in the sense that I was not
saying "he doesn't deserve to be Debian Developer", which is the sense that
Merriam-Webster dictionary does (more on definitions later, in a thread of
"And I'm not at all against him being approved, ***in fact I think that he
more than worths it***. It's just that I feel that [just because I'm no
official DM yet] you don't even want to consider me, instead of looking at
the real merits, technical skills, teamwork, free software advocacy, etc."
2.b) About unofficial policies
I said in that reply also:
"4) I'm a bit fed up with your unofficial policies. Why is not documented
properly if it's a policy that you're enforcing (the same thing that
happened with the "photo ID" thing instead of GPG signature in the front
page of NM when I asked about that)?
Also, http://www.debian.org/devel/join/newmaint says:
"The first important point to make is that you do not need to be an official
Debian Developer in order to help improving Debian. In fact, ***you should
already have a track record of earlier contributions*** to Debian before you
apply for the New Maintainer process. It is ***highly recommended*** that
you become familiar with the role of Debian Maintainer and apply for this
role before applying to become a Debian Developer."
So if it's unofficial and not documented (just recommended, and I meet the
"earlier contributions" thing, even if it's debatable if they amount to
enough), you shouldn't forbid me to apply for that reason. That's like
policemen extending tickets to people for speeding because they travel at
100km/h when the limit is 120km/h in a particular road, just because they
think that it's a good idea and that they're going to change the limit to
90km/h in a couple of months."
3) Joerg Jaspert's reply to mine
[Regarding the statistics that I posted about code analysis of
OpenSceneGraph, in  ]
"So you have half a million lines of code written in 6 months? Err.
Also, the above sounds like 6 months work on a different project, not
He said many other things, in some he was right (about DM/DD permisions,
sponsorings et al., but in others he missed the point. Not important now.).
He also accused me of finger-pointing applicants for the example of above
about my packages being complex enough to guarantee a fairer comparison than
just counting the number of packages:
"Finger pointing is not really helpful and also doesn't win an
3) My reply to Joerg Jaspert's
3.a) Excerpt replying to his mockering of me writing OSG in 6 months:
"Don't be silly.
OSG has about half a million LoC written over 10 years (the graph is Jan
2000 to Jan 2010, for the whole project, actually I didn't contribute code
to OSG as far as I can remember). Just the sheer size of the project
implies that has different requirements and needs a lot more effort to get
packaged than a module for Perl or fetchmail, if only for the fact that
needs hours compiling in my own system checking that everything is OK (and
failing many times because I was a beginner at packaging, etc).
Alberto Luaces (another co-maintainer) spent 3 days building it in a version
of qemu for arm just to debug a problem that we were having, and that was
with language bindings (osgIntrospection) disabled, otherwise it could take
weeks. It caused ICEs in GCC that I forwarded to them in mipsel or armel
(can't remember), we provided patches to upstream so they can now link with
And I never claimed what you're saying (writing half a million lines of code
in 6 months in OpenSceneGraph upstream), I said that I've been co-
maintaining OSG in Debian for more than 6 months (read the changelog if you
don't believe me). If you cared to read the information that I provided in
the application e-mail, maybe you'll understand that I'm not just uploading
a couple of NMUs and deciding to apply for Debian Developer overnight, or
that I'm claiming the things that you say.
[More explanations of the Aqsis license problems, K3D technical problems
etc, with no inflammatory word at all]
If you say "that's not enough technical effort to apply to NM" that's
fine, but just don't treat me like I did a couple of NMUs of trivial
packages, or adding a simple "include" to fix a FTBFS, or package a new
x.x.2 release of "vacation" or any other simple and quite well maintained
package: OSG was well maintained but it's very complex, Aqsis and K3D were
abandoned for years by the official Debian maintainer email@example.com and
didn't reply to my offers to help (sent 2/3 months ago), Aqsis have serious
licensing problems, and K3D didn't make packaging easy or elegant with their
building practices as of late."
3.b) Excerpt replying to his accusation of finger-pointing, here I meant
"finger pointing" as in "comparing results of different people", or telling
that they have bad packaging practices, or are not good at teamwork, or
"The whole process is about finger-pointing: "you do or do not deserve to
become a Debian Developer because you did this or that". I woudln't think
that Debian is worth joining if I was convinced that people gets into or not
without passing comparably difficult set of tests.
The point though is that if "[ZZZZ] is maintainer of more than XX packages,
mostly [lolcode] and [GNU R] modules", he didn't (apparently) touched half
of them for months of years and that's a point in his favor, I'd like people
to acknowledge that OSG, Aqsis and K3D are very complex pieces of software
equaling to a handful of [lolcode]/[GNU R] modules each, at least.
That's why I brought [ZZZZ] to the topic, and I feel that Chistoph's reply
"we welcome you very much to NMU unattended packages" is a bit of an
understatement, apart from ignoring months of co-maintaining
3.b) Excerpt putting the example of another applicant:
"[Explaining the packages this person maintains, not many in total, half of
them with apparently no contributions or at least uploads made by this
Now... do I think that [Joe Hacker] doesn't deserve to be Debian Developer?
Of course not, I think that he's an excellent fellow to have in Debian [...]
Do I think that, given that the NM process is long, I would have put more
effort into Debian than [person] by then, should I eventually finished?
Honestly I think so, and maybe I had already put more effort than [person]
just before starting. [Explaining why, given the number of packages of him
and me, the complexity of the packages, etc. But this was at this day, not
counting the contributions that he had made *only before applying*, which is
my status now.].
How many contributions had he made when we applied, on "2008-XX-XX"?
Only several uploads to [package] since 2008-XX-XX [5-6 months ago]. Less
time since first upload to application than me with OpenSceneGraph uploads
and application, not to talk about Aqsis and K3D. Hmmm... :)"
3.c) Excerpt about "unnoficial policies", again:
"The point is that it's absurd that you don't clearly state the requirements
in the public web pages and apply unofficial rules at your whim which are
contrary to what those pages asy."
3.d) Informing them that I had finally applied as DM too, as the "unofficial
">> I'll ask [my advocate] if he things that would alleviate some sponsorin"
">> overhead of reviewing and uploading my packages, otherwise I won't "
">> bother, I already spent too much energy in these matters."
"> The simple benefit is that he doesnt need to sponsor your regular"
"> package uploads."
"He also prefers that I do that, so I already did."
This morning without further notice since that final mail (***not even an
automatic mail from NM application webpage***), I found this mail from
Christoph on debian-main@ mailing list:
I also found that he (or somebody else) removed my application altogether
from the DB, I'm not even considered rejected for any particular reason:
And I'm not on any of the list, not even as rejected, on hold or anything:
I don't think that this behaviour is fair nor healthy for the Debian project
as a whole, alienating prospective Debian Developers and behaving like
private club doormen letting people go in or not at whim with "unofficial
policies", so I wrote this reply:
The main conclusions being:
"3.c) If I'm finger-pointing at somebody, "the act of making *explicit*
accusations", is to you (you as in Front Desk, in the case that you also
misunderstand that 'you'); on the basis that you (Front Desk or some of its
members, I don't know) are:
3.c.1) being *silly* (this time as in "exhibiting or indicative of a lack of
common sense or sound judgment") when mocking applicants' work;
3.c.2) *unfair* when judging applicants with different --and apparently
whimsical-- criteria (which is one of the worst things that a judge can do,
and you are the judges telling who can come in and who can not);
3.c.3) *defamatory* / *slenderers* (telling that "someone in the choir" is
finger-pointing other NM applicants, when I didn't).
3.c.4) *evading with wiles* the real issue (whether I'm a valid applicant to
NM or not), "preaching to the choir" and not addressing me directly, with
the excuses that you (Cristoph) mentioned in your mail, which are partly
false and partly bad excuses.
4) Therefore I claim that your behaviour ("your" as in Christoph Berg's, and
eventually other people participating in the decision regarding the
publication of this e-mail on the basis of our communication regarding the
application to NM) is unacceptable, and that you (Christoph Berg and the
rest of people participating) are not worthy of being trusted with the
important task of judging NM applicants."
After my e-mail, there's already one guy (girl?) which thanks me for
expressing my opinion because this person had a similar problem with the
(I don't know this person, his accomplishments, the packages that maintains
or the reasons why he was or was not rejected, I'm subscribed to debian-
newmaint@ mailing list since a few weeks ago, when I decided to apply. So
I'm not saying that this is another case pointing in the same direction,
from what I know it might be a valid support as well as a random troll --
sorry chap, I hope that you don't find it offensive, but I just don't know
you or whether your claims are valid or not :) ).
What do I really want with this?
I got my main goal done, which is to get Aqsis and K3D packages ready and up
(and without much more than minor lintian warnings, except the RPATH problem
of Aqsis that I'm working to fix) before the freeze, hopefully they can get
into the next stable. But that's thanks to the effort, support and patience
of the sponsor and nothing else in Debian, except those who signed my key.
Nobody else seems to care whether packages are well-maintained or not, if
the sources are 3 years old, if the maintainer doesn't close a single bug or
if there are developers with no activity nor packages assigned to them, but
they are still "Debian Members" with all the privileges; while many people
who does real work is not, and they have to prove a lot of things
(especially patience, accept whimsical decisions and abuse by Fron Desk) if
they try make a more official commitment to Debian, as if they were trying
to assault the Debian fortress with all its treasures.
I don't I want to be a Debian Developer anymore if the project as a
whole tolerates (or encourages, by inaction on reports like this) such
behaviours from people who are supposed to be the welcoming face of Debian,
the Front Desk of new members.
In particular, I do not find acceptable whimsical rules contrary to what's
published in the website and obviously not a typographical error, mockering
applicants and then being offended by using the word "silly" (even more when
the word is perfectly applicable to to his behaviour, the mockering itself
is "lack of seriousness"), accusing them of finger-pointing other applicants
when that's false and the only thing that I was pointing was their
partiality and unfairness, and in general behaving as if they were doormen
of a private (should I say night?) club, deciding who enters or not based on
the shoes and appearance of the clients.
Also, I hope that at least nobody rejects my application to DM because of
this, so my sponsor don't continue to have the continuous overhead of my
Regards, and thanks to anybody who got to read to this part of this boring
and tedious mail.
 http://packages.qa.debian.org/o/openscenegraph.html (you might want to
read the changelog to know what I really did)
 http://packages.qa.debian.org/a/aqsis.html (idem)
 http://packages.qa.debian.org/k/k3d.html (idem)
 Including not acknowledging NMUs (many of them FTBFS), not replying to
most (any?) bug reports, not replying when people asked to update the
software or orphan it if he was not interested anymore, not replying to my
(private) offering to co-maintain them as I am doing unofficially with
OpenSceneGraph that I sent more than 2 months ago, and a previous warning
about the intention to NMU the packages... all this while he did attend
other packages in the past weeks, so he's not "Missing in Action".
Manuel A. Fernandez Montecelo <firstname.lastname@example.org>