Platform for DPL election
While the platforms have been available on the web (see
http://www.debian.org/vote/2003/vote_0001) for some time, I think they
should also be posted here; hence, I'm starting with mine.
Platform for Martin Michlmayr
My name is Martin Michlmayr. I hope that you will elect me as the next
Debian Project Leader because I am the person best suited to
motivating and coordinating the Debian community.
I hold a Master degree in Philosophy and have recently completed a
Master of Science in Psychology. I'm currently looking into pursuing a
PhD in Software Engineering about Debian and Free Software. I have
already carried out some research in this regard and I'm currently
working on a paper about Debian together with the anthropologist
Biella Coleman and with my colleague Mako Hill.
I have participated in various Free Software projects for over 8
years. In 1994, I joined the GNUstep project which is working on a
free implementation of NeXT's (now Apple's) object-oriented
development environment OpenStep. My main task involved the
coordination of volunteers who were interested in GNUstep. Later, I
joined Linux International as its Publicity Director and Membership
Secretary. In this function, I worked together with Jon "maddog" Hall
and other important figures of the Linux community.
In addition to my involvement in various Free Software projects, I
have also held several jobs related to Free Software. I acted as the
editor of a German Linux magazine twice and managed to recruit famous
developers such as Stephen van den Berg (author of procmail) and
Matthias Ettrich (founder of KDE). Additionally, I have published
several articles about Free Software projects. Those who are
interested in the full story may check out my resume.
My Involvement in Debian
I joined Debian in October 2000. Considering the age of the project I
may be perceived as a fairly "new" developer; yet, due to my work, I'm
considered to be a "senior" developer by many.
After joining Debian, I decided to help out with the New Maintainer
(NM) process. I became an Application Manager (AM) and helped many
people interested in Debian join the project. I have been a very
successful AM, completing more than 100 and rejecting more than 50
applications. Later, I joined the Front Desk and since then have
helped to coordinate the NM process. I assign applicants to AMs, make
sure that their application process is going smoothly and act as a
bridge between applicants, AMs and the Debian Account Manager (DAM).
In addition to helping people to join Debian, I'm also trying to find
inactive developers. They are becoming a problem since they are often
responsible for a package but don't maintain it properly. I contact
developers who might be inactive periodically and store information
gathered during this process in a dedicated database so other
developers can follow and help with this work. When I have concluded
that a developer is in fact inactive, I usually take away their
packages so active developers can take over and actually maintain the
I'm also involved in Debian's Quality Assurance (QA) effort. For
example, I have created web sites that show the status of the base and
standard packages at a glance. These pages have been very helpful
during Bug Squashing Parties. Those pages have now been integrated
into our Bug Tracking System (BTS) properly by Colin Watson.
Finally, I created the GPG Key Signing Coordination page so
prospective developers can easily find a Debian Developer in their
Most importantly, I work hard to let work on separate aspects of the
project inform and integrate. I am able to be successful because each
of these projects is an essential and interconnected piece of a larger
whole and because I'm able to approach small tasks from this
perspective. Through the NM process, I gather information that is very
important while searching for inactive maintainers. Also, finding an
inactive developer is important for QA. Similarly, a buggy package
found during QA work prompts me to check whether the maintainer is
still active. It is interesting to note that the connections between
these tasks can often be seen in my work. For example, I found at
least one developer for whom I have acted as Application Manager and
who is inactive now. Also, there are several developers who were my
applicants who have in the meantime resigned from Debian. It is always
strange to see people come and go, but I suspect it's a natural
process in Free Software projects.
Furthermore, I try to integrate information from other projects, such
as GNU to which I have fairly good connections. Quite recently, I have
worked with GNU to locate an inactive maintainer who is working on
Debian as well as GNU.
As you can see, it is very important for my work to make connections
between different parts of the projects. While different tasks may
appear to be distinct on the surface, they are usually strongly
connected with each other. This is also the reason why I decided to
study Philosophy and Psychology instead of Computer Science. I want to
see how the different areas interact, and I usually profit in one area
from the others. Seeing these connections usually allows me to
coordinate tasks very well. I have done coordination tasks for various
projects and I think the way my memory works is part of the reason why
I'm fairly good with this -- I can keep many different pieces of
information in my memory at the same time.
The Role of the DPL
Unfortunately, the role that the DPL should play is not well defined.
Debian is a very large projects and different people have different
expectations of the DPL. I have found Branden's questionnaire very
stimulating and I hope there will be more discussions about the
expectations developers and users have from the DPL in the future.
Similarly, while everyone complains about the release cycles of
Debian, it is not clear at all how frequently we should release. For
example, SuSE and Red Hat have introduced offerings of their
distributions that have similar release cycles to that of Debian.
There are many reasons why you can upgrade your system only every two
years. Yet, there are also users who want the newest software and like
to upgrade twice a year. Finding a balance between the different
requirements will not be easy. We really have to actually identify the
requirements our users have. The poll by Joey about security updates
for potato has been a first step which I applaud.
One of the DPL's responsibilities is to represent Debian to the
outside world. As such, he should give talks and work on collaborating
with other projects.
I am a fairly experienced speaker, having given several talks about
Debian. For example, I have given presentations about Debian QA at the
Debian Conference in Bordeaux, LinuxTag in Stuttgart and at the Free
Software Symposium in Tokyo. I have also given a talk about our
archive maintenance tools at LinuxTag in Karlsruhe and have recently
talked about adapting Debian to embedded use at FOSDEM in Brussels.
I intend to give more talks in the future. In particular, I plan to
attend LinuxTag in Karlsruhe and DebCamp and DebConf in Oslo. I'm also
interested in speaking at other conferences. However, I can certainly
not attend all conferences because, as a student, I have classes to
attend and have a limited budget. In the latter case, I have done
fairly well up to now since I travel quite cheaply. I tend to stay at
other people's places and have therefore low expenses. I have traveled
through five countries in the last week and this would certainly not
have been possible without the community. Also, I would like to thank
the organizers of the Free Software Symposium in Tokyo for inviting me
and paying my expenses as well as Linux International for a grant to
attend the Debian Conference in Bordeaux.
Still, I imagine that I will receive more offers for talks than I can
fulfill. It would be a shame to waste those opportunities. Thus, I
intend to coordinate with other developers who are capable of giving
talks. For example, if Bdale's employer is willing to continue
sponsoring his travel to give talks, I might make him an official
representative of Debian and coordinate with him. Furthermore, I will
work with the Debian Events people to get a listing of experienced
speakers on our web site. This will help organizers of conferences
find people who are can give talks about Debian.
Also, I will try to set up more partnerships. For example, I think
that Debian should work together more closely with hardware vendors
and get a certification program set up. Many argue that a volunteer
project cannot do that, but I see no reason why it should not be
possible. Furthermore, Debian could apply for funding as part of EU's
6th Framework Programme. In fact, I spoke to Peter Vandenabeele of
Mind.be and he would be willing to coordinate this.
We should also try to cooperate more with projects who use Debian and
enhance it. These efforts and results should be integrated into
Debian. A good example where this works is Melbourne University's
Trinity College. They are working on packages for the new XFree86
release and are working together with the XFree86 maintainer. However,
there are many efforts where the results are never given back to
Debian, which is a waste of effort. I'd also love to see those users
who need security updates become more active and get involved by
Finally, as DPL I will represent the Debian Project to Software in
the Public Interest (SPI). I have been an advisor of SPI for over 1.5
years and I'm part of its Membership Committee. Hence, I know how SPI
works. There is one major endeavor I intend to pursue together with
SPI and its treasurer. There are many individual Debian Developers in
different countries who posses money that is dedicated for Debian.
This money comes from selling t-shirts at conferences and similar
activities. I would like to see a listing created of who keeps how
much money for Debian. This list will be very useful. For example,
when a Debian Developer in a specific country needs money to organize
an event we can check whether there is any money in that country. I
think it does not make sense to have local SPI branches in every
country. Instead, we should try to work together with the FSF who is
creating non-profit organizations in many countries.
While the external functions are very important, I think the internal
functions should be the DPL's first priority. There are several
endeavors I would like to pursue. First, I think there are several
problems with the sponsorship system. There is no listing of sponsored
people and hence it is quite hard to keep track of them. A recent
posting to the debian-qa group showed that there are about 200
sponsored people. I wonder how many of those 200 people are not active
anymore. Unfortunately, we don't have the same tracking system we have
for Debian Developers (echelon) for sponsored people. However, a
listing of sponsored people would allow us to change this. I will
therefore propose to have sponsorship integrated with the NM database
as a pre-stage of NM. People will be able to sign up for sponsorship
and then transfer to NM. Another feature of this is that we have a
listing of people who are still looking for a sponsor.
Second, I will re-introduce the New Maintainer postings. There are so
many Debian Developers that you don't know all of them. In the past, a
short description of a developer was posted when they joined the
project. I will post such summaries to debian-project and archive them
on a web site. Of course, in order to have such postings, we actually
need to have applicants approved by the Debian Account Manager (DAM).
This has been problematic in recent months. However, since I have
worked on New Maintainer for such a long time, I'm certainly in a good
position to help getting this fixed. In fact, I spent last weekend in
Cambridge with James Troup going through pending applications. You
should see results from this soon.
Third, I intend to put more focus on inactive developers. They are
becoming an increasing problem and the DAM has also shown interest in
doing something about them. In contrast to previous DPL candidates who
were running for DPL partly to gain the authority to do something
about inactive maintainers, I have actually done significant work in
this area already. I have tracked down many inactive developers and
have orphaned almost 300 packages. Due to this work, I am now
perceived as the authority in this area.
The last point is very important. No one has given me the power to
orphan packages. I have simply done it. And since I was very careful
about it, I have received almost no complaints and most people see my
work as very valuable. As DPL, I will encourage similar efforts. You
don't have to be DPL to get things done. Anyone can do Good Stuff!
So why am I running for Project Leader anyway? All of the three
intended projects can be done without being DPL (and as an added
bonus, I will do them regardless of whether I am elected or not). This
leads me back to the question of the role and power of the DPL.
I think one of the main tasks of the Project Leader is to coordinate
and motivate people - to lead. This is why I said that while the
external functions of the DPL are important, the internal functions
are even more important. While it is quite hard to lead a project
consisting of so many people with so diverse expectations and
personalities, I think that it can actually be done. Thus, my main aim
as Debian Project Leader is to lead, motivate and coordinate.
The most important thing of Debian is its community. We would be
nowhere without our great community and with the Free Software
community at large. I will therefore pursue actions to increase the
feeling of a community. For example, I think that meetings in real
life such as Debian Conference are very important, and I will help
getting sponsors so many Debian Developers can attend. Future
interactions are just different once you have gotten drunk with
someone... Furthermore, I will try to create the infrastructure so
people can put pictures and short biographies of themselves online
(only if they want to). This should help give a less impersonal feel
to the names we see on mailing lists. It is a shame that three
different DPLs have done nothing about #76187 and that I actually
have to run for DPL myself to get this fixed...
Another factor to consider is that we are part of a larger community.
I think it's very important to have good contacts to upstream
maintainers. As such, you should try to encourage your upstream to
attend DebCamp, and I hope we can get some funding for this.
It is often claimed that Free Software projects are not managed. And
while it is true that they are not managed in a traditional way, there
is a great deal of coordination going on. There are companies who pay
much money to understand how the Free Software community works. I
intend to lead and coordinate. However, I will not do any
Bruce-Perens-style management since this is not the way Debian works
these days. I am aware that Debian is a very diverse project and that
every developer has to be treated individually. For some people, it's
best if they are just left alone to do their stuff. Others, on the
other side, might need someone to tell them what to do. It's crucial
for the Project Leader to find out who has to be treated in which way
and act accordingly. As a result of the traveling I have done
recently, I have met many other developers. Knowing people in real
life certainly helps when it comes to leading the project.
Also, I encourage other people to help with coordination tasks. While
it's good to have one Project Leader and one Release Manger (RM),
everyone who prompts someone to get work done is acting as a mini-DPL
or mini-RM and we should encourage it. When you see that there is a RC
bug and you know someone who might be able to fix it, then ask them
nicely. It's no use dictating anything in Debian since we are a
volunteer project. However, asking people nicely in private mail
usually helps a lot. Hence, if you see an opportunity to coordinate,
then go ahead and do it.
While I intend to represent Debian to the outside world, my main focus
will be on Debian internally. We need a leader. Someone who motivates
people and who coordinates. Furthermore, the Project Leader has to be
visible inside the project.
We are part of a great movement. We are actually changing the world
with the Free Software movement and with Debian. I will do anything
that helps to make this movement an even greater success. I think I
can best employ my abilities by coordinating, motivating and leading
the members of Debian.
Moshe's intention is to do nothing at all since the project manages
itself. Unfortunately, with this attitude, we would not go anywhere.
If everyone thought they would not have to do a specific task because
someone else might do it, then things will never get done. There is a
lot of coordination going on in the project. This coordination is
crucial for the project, and it's the job of the Project Leader to
coordinate these coordination efforts.
I found it interesting that Bdale speaks of communication in his
platform because lack of communication and visibility in the project
is the reason of my disappointment. While I have heard that Bdale has
done a huge amount of communication behind the scenes which was very
important in getting things (such as keyring) fixed, I personally felt
that the community at large was not well informed at all of what was
I didn't see many new thoughts in Branden's platform that were not
discussed in previous years. In general, I doubt that Branden would
actually be able to lead the project. This is partly due to the fact
that he has had (pointless) arguments with virtually anyone in the
project who is doing important stuff (with Anthony Towns on the RCness
of a bug, with the FTP masters on replacing .orig.tar files, etc).
While these arguments of the past do not mean that he cannot work
together with those people now, I think that it might make it more
difficult. Also, this should not be an ad hominem attack, but one may
not forget that the DPL is a social position. I respect Branden for
his work on the XFree86 packages and for PGI, but I doubt he would be
an effective leader.