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Re: Problems with NM Front Desk

"Manuel A. Fernandez Montecelo" <manuel.montezelo@gmail.com> writes:

> Precedents
> ==========

> After being unofficial co-maintainer for months of OpenSceneGraph [1]

The way that the maintenance of that package is noted in the package
control fields is strange.  Recent non-NMU uploads appear to have been
made by people who are not listed in Maintainer or Uploaders.  This is
probably just a matter of some confusion (although you say something below
that makes me wonder), but it would be nice to get the package control
file to accurately reflect who's working on it.

> 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],

What's going on with the status of these packages?  Maintaining them via
NMUs isn't something that we should be doing in Debian in the long run.
If the current maintainer isn't interested or doesn't have time to
maintain them, they should really be orphaned.  Have you (or someone)
already been in touch with MIA about that?  K3D in particular appears to
have been maintained solely by NMU for nearly three years.

> 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.

I have to say that's a disturbing reason to apply to be a Debian
Developer.  I'd like you (and anyone else who is interested) to apply to
become a Debian Developer because you want to work on Debian and have
direct upload rights, but not as a way of helping with conflicts with
other package maintainers.  Being a DD or not should not, at least in my
opinion, make any difference in such a conflict.  If the maintainer isn't
maintaining the package, it should be orphaned or put up for adoption,
regardless of whether the person who wants to take it over is a DD, a DM,
or has no formal affiliation with the project at all.

> 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"

Which is true, and it would probably be a good idea to clarify wording
that refers to Debian Members, since that's not the terminology that we
use in general and, with the existence of DMs, it can be confusing.  But
yes, to be a DD you need a key signature from another DD (or follow the
alternative procedure, but we try to avoid using that procedure if at all

> (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.)

There's no requirement to maintain packages or to help with key signings
to be a Debian Developer, just to mention.  If someone doesn't think
they're likely to do any Debian work in the future, then yes, resigning is
probably something they should consider, but Debian is a community and I
don't want to see people leave that community unless they want to.  If
they just don't have time but may have time in the future, I don't see a
need for them to stop being Debian Developers.

> 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."

Right, this is a normal and expected question.  People should not apply to
be DDs unless they already have a demonstrated track record of work with
the project in some area, and are ready to be a DD from both a technical
and a procedural direction.  You do, as you've mentioned, have some track
record of work with the project.  (I haven't personally reviewed it in
detail to see how extensive it is.)

> 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, 
> etc).
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------

I suspect that this is setting off the same warning flags for Front Desk
that it would for me, but it may just be a problem with wording.  Being a
DD also doesn't give you any special privileges to take over packages from
other maintainers, although it does make it easier to upload packages
(including NMUs) because you don't need a sponsor.  But the process for
handling a maintainer who appears to be neglecting their packages is the
same regardless of whether you're a DD or a DM, and in either case means
involving other people who can help query what's going on with the current

I'm not saying that you've done anything wrong by also preparing NMUs for
neglected packages.  Indeed, it's great for Debian to get updated
packages.  But from the overall Debian project perspective, it's important
to get the maintenance situation resolved in some ongoing way, not to just
patch around it with NMUs.

> 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.)"

This seems to me like a fairly reasonable response to someone who doesn't
have a long track record.  This of course may well not apply to you (as I
say, I haven't looked in any depth), but it's not uncommon for people tho
have a surge of interest in a particular set of packages but then
disappear shortly afterwards.  Part of the New Maintainer process is
vetting people for being long-term members of the Debian community; it's
not solely a technical competency hurdle for allowing people to upload
packages.  The latter is much more like what the DM status is for.

I suspect Christoph was wondering whether those packages should be put up
for adoption so that you could adopt them as a DM and maintain them for a

> 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.

The concern that the project has here is that you haven't, at least so
far, taken over maintenance of the package in a formal way, and we'd
really like to see that happen.  Have you already started the process to
see what's happening with the maintainer and whether the packages should
be orphaned?  To me, that should be the next step before you become the
official maintainer of those packages, regardless of your status in

> "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."

Given what was written to this point, this does seem like a bit of an
overreaction to me.  I don't know if there was other communication or
other subtext in what you heard, but Christoph wasn't saying he didn't
even want to consider you, but rather that being a DM first is a good part
of that process of considering you.  It lets you do work on Debian in a
somewhat more official way on packages where you're listed as the
co-maintainer (which presumably will include OpenSceneGraph in the near

> 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.

Maybe there's some language confusion here?  This is as official and
documented as it gets for our New Maintainer process.  "Highly
recommended" generally means that this is something you need to do unless
you have some situation that justifies not following that path (such as,
for instance, wanting to become a Debian Developer to work on things other
than packaging).

It looks, from your message, that from this point forward the conversation
escalated in unfortunate ways, partly due to misunderstandings and partly
due to uncharitable readings of what other people were saying.  I wish
that had not happened.

> 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:
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-newmaint/2010/07/msg00003.html

> 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:
> https://nm.debian.org/nmstatus.php?email=manuel.montezelo%40gmail.com

> And I'm not on any of the list, not even as rejected, on hold or anything:
> https://nm.debian.org/nmlist.php

I haven't looked at what your previous status is and have no idea why the
database would be in this state.  I found that confusing as well when I
was trying to look at the status of your application, but I'd want to know
what happened from the Front Desk perspective before reaching any
conclusions there.  It may, so far as I know, for applicants without prior
demonstrated work to be removed from the database in that fashion; the New
Maintainer system has undergone an overhaul since I went through the

> 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.

Well, on that front, I can assure you that you don't need to go through
the Debian Developer application process to request that packages that
aren't being maintained be orphaned.  The MIA process is spelled out in
the Developer's Reference, and except for one step that you'll need to ask
a DD to help you with, you can follow all of that process without any
affiliation with Debian.  The MIA team is also often willing to help with
that.  K3D certainly appears to be in a bad state and not being actively
maintained by the listed maintainer, although I've not been in touch with
him and don't know if there's other information that I'm not aware of.

If you want to continue forward with your Debian work, and I certainly
hope you will, I think the best step forward for you would be to follow
the normal procedure for investigating whether these packages should be
orphaned, fixing the maintainer record for OpenSceneGraph so that it's
clear that you're a co-maintainer if you are, adopting the other packages
you're interested in or joining a maintainer team for them, and applying
for DM status so that you can upload those three packages more easily.
With demonstrated competence in maintaining large, complex packages for
some period of time and several uploads, I believe that would be taken as
compelling evidence that you're technically ready to be a Debian Developer
if you moved forward with your application a while after taking those

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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