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Re: contacting Debian is too easy to get wrong


On Tue, 2017-03-21 at 16:24 -0700, Russ Allbery wrote:
> Ian Jackson <ijackson@chiark.greenend.org.uk> writes:
> > Ritesh Raj Sarraf writes ("Re: contacting Debian is too easy to get wrong"):
> > > When a user asks for a question, most usually end up on a web
> > > forum. Developers mostly prefer monitoring hand-picked mailing lists
> > > only. That's where the disconnect is, in my opinion.
> > > What we need is to relate these interfaces to one another.
> > I think the problem with user questions is even worse than that.
> > Many developers don't actually want to spend much (or any) time
> > answering user questions.  Partly for bad reasons; but also for the
> > very good reason that it doesn't scale.
> I was about to follow up to make this point, but Ian beat me to it.
> When I had lots of time to spend on Debian, I would occasionally get some
> satisfaction out of helping a user debug some sort of general issue with
> Debian on their system, or thinking through an odd use case for a package
> to find some solution, but that sort of thing usually takes quite a lot of
> time and back and forth, and it's often not high-leverage in the sense
> that an equal amount of time put into packaging a new upstream release or
> fixing a known bug will improve more things for more people.  As I've had
> to cut back on the number of hours I spend on Debian, I gravitate towards
> higher-leverage activities.

Maybe it gave the impression that maintainers would be obligated to respond to
such questions (like bug reports). No, that is not what I meant.

Let's take some topic.

* systemd
* MACs (SELinux, AppArmor)

Some are complex and some are fairly new. I propose the assumption that
maintainers are some of the best contacts about a software's state, and its
integration in Debian. Hence, it is wiser to have a way to keep them informed of
users' questions, provided the maintainers have opted in.

Questions like:

* Is Debian's SELinux well integrated with (all) the packages provided in
* There's a new software that I recently picked up, chrome-gnome-shell. Is
Debian's chrome-gnome-shell supported with Google Chrome in Debian.

Then, there's the other use case that may appeal to DDs too. I have an interest
in systemd. But neither do I maintain it, nor do I want to follow its package
maintenance in Debian. I am only interested in its usage and bug reports.

So what we have today:

* pkg-systmed: More about maintenance of the package. Irrelevant to a user's
need and is high volume.
* per package BTS: This actually is good in Debian today. For many packages that
I care of, I go and manually subscribe to its BTS. This gives me a subset of the
information, on the kind of issues seen in real world.
* Join all relevant packaging teams: *This* does not scale either.

With a multi-directional "Question Tracking System", all interested individuals
could add themselves to topic of their interest.

Take above example.

1 I'd subscribe to QTS for packages systemd and selinux
2 A user files a question through the web.
3 I get the question in my mailbox

4a Boring question. Ignore it.
4b Interesting questions. Answer it.

5 Others respond back through debian-questions; a better answer. I receive that
6 Some others, who prefer the web (or mobile app), respond accordingly. I
receive that too.
7 Maintainer may acknowledge the same answer

In the above example, without the maintainer's involvement until step 7, the
answer was made by converging information from all channels. The above example
also assumes all platforms (Web Forum, Mailing List, QTS) are connected.

I am not aware of any such centralized and connected infrastructure in Debian.
> At this point, I just don't have time to read and understand most user
> questions, let alone help with them, so it's not so much that I prefer
> forums that use a different format than users prefer as it is that I
> prefer forums that don't have user questions.  :|

Yes. Agreed. As I mention above, this isn't about putting the obligation on
maintainers, to answer questions. Just about connecting fragmented user groups.

Ritesh Raj Sarraf | http://people.debian.org/~rrs
Debian - The Universal Operating System

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