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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 

Let's go... 

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 [1] and 
while creating new packages for newer versions of Aqsis [2] and K3D [3] 
before the freeze, which they were neglected by their maintainer for 3 years 
[4], 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 
the package.

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?

a) No
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 
questionnaire was:

"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
officialised soon.)"

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 [5]), 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 [5] ]

"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 
binutils-gold, etc.

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 ender@debian.org 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 
policy requires":

">> 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."

Final result

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 
Front Desk:

(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.

[1] http://packages.qa.debian.org/o/openscenegraph.html (you might want to 
read the changelog to know what I really did)

[2] http://packages.qa.debian.org/a/aqsis.html (idem)

[3] http://packages.qa.debian.org/k/k3d.html (idem)

[4] 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 <manuel.montezelo@gmail.com>

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